For nearly a month now, we've been following Samsung's request for access to Apple's next-generation iPhone and iPad hardware, a move obviously made in retaliation for Apple having demanded (and received) access to unreleased, albeit publicly-shown, Samsung hardware as part of the legal battle between the two companies.
As noted by FOSS Patents, a federal judge has now ruled that Apple does not have to turn its plans for the next-generation iOS hardware over to Samsung's lawyers.
The judge also ruled, however, that there is some merit to Samsung's claims that its own forthcoming devices claimed to be infringing on Apple's designs should be compared to Apple's next-generation hardware as opposed to the current-generation hardware, particularly in the case of the iPhone. With Apple expected to be releasing the next-generation iPhone within the next few months, the judge notes that the potential for customer confusion should be gauged against products on the market at the same time.
Samsung is free to argue, for instance, that there is little likelihood of confusion because consumers will not encounter its products side-by-side with the iPhone 4 or iPad 2, but rather with Apple's next generation iPhone and iPad. Similarly, as to proximity, Samsung is free to argue that because the iPhone 4 and [iPad] 2 will soon be outmoded and reduced in price, they are not being sold (or very soon will not be sold) to the same class of purchasers who are likely to buy new Samsung products. By choosing to allege infringement only of its current products, Apple opens itself up to these arguments.
But while the judge admits that aspect of Samsung's argument, her ruling also reveals that she is unconvinced of an imminent release of new hardware from Apple, particularly in the case of the next-generation iPad. And regardless of Apple's timeline for a hardware release, Samsung's case does not hinge upon receiving early access to Apple's unannounced devices.