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British Judges Tell Apple: "Once More, With Feeling"

By Anders Bylund - Nov 2, 2012 at 6:32PM

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Apple thinks it can adjust English court orders to suit its own agenda. Judges disagree. Your move, Cupertino!

When a British court told Apple (AAPL 4.08%) that it had overreached in legal claims against Samsung, Cupertino was also ordered to post public apologies for the incident in a few places, including a formal apology on Apple's U.K. Web page, followed by similar notices in major British newspapers -- with a minimum font size, no less.

Apple did its level best to follow the letter of the order while twisting the spirit of it all beyond recognition. The online apology read more like an Apple ad than an apology to Samsung. English judges didn't like that attempt at all.

"I'm at a loss that a company such as Apple would do this," said the honorable Robin Jacob. The published notice was "a plain breach of the order."

Try, try again
Sir Jacob ordered Apple to remove the unapologetic mea culpa in short order. The original notice embellished the required apology with notices that other courts have ruled differently on similar issues, and also mocked Samsung's tablets for being "not as cool" as an iPad.

Sure, the uncool quote came straight from presiding judge Colin Birrs in an earlier stage of the proceedings, but the whole idea was to put some salve on Samsung's wounded sales. Tablet sales were halted for several months while the court case went on, and the Korean company was found not guilty in the end.

Apple said it would need 14 days to put up a revised apology note, but that request was denied. Instead, there's no notice at all on Apple's English web portal right now. A corrected version should be published within 48 hours, focusing on the simple facts of the court order -- no embellishment from Apple's lawyers or marketing experts allowed. And the extremely simple four-word link on Apple's home page must now come alongside three sentences acknowledging "the incorrect statement."

Does Apple's smugness spell long-term trouble?
So Apple's new apology will come with less spin and more visibility. We're getting closer to the intent of the original court order, though Apple is kicking and screaming every step of the way.

Nigam Arora at Forbes compares Apple's arrogant handling of the British court order to the hubris that led to the downfalls of Research In Motion (BB 8.24%) and Nokia (NOK 0.98%).

RIM's leaders "refused to even acknowledge the company was facing a problem" while Apple and Android were decimating the BlackBerry's once-dominant market share. At Nokia, it took a new CEO and a dramatic mission statement that would have done Jerry Maguire proud before the company even considered changing direction.

And Arora sees the seeds of a similar stiff-necked arrogance in Apple's cheeky response to English courts. "Will Apple learn some humility or should shareholders worry?" Arora wonders. It's a fair question. Tell me what you think in the comments below.

Cupertino's legal campaign against Samsung and other Android vendors is a crucial linchpin in the company's long-term strategy. But it's not the only thing that matters.


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