At last. A judge rules on what is - and will remain - cool

Samsung v Apple on legal notes

If a judge says your product is "cool", it is. For ever. With a judicial stamp on. Which must instantly confer hip outsider status upon its "not cool enough for a judge" rival.

Their official reaction was predictable enough: "Samsung welcomes today's ruling by the High Court, which affirms Samsung's commitment to protect its own intellectual property rights…" etc.

But I'm willing to bet that on Monday in the patents court of the chancery division of the UK High Court, there was an unofficial reaction. "Wait a minute, my lord - NOT AS COOL?! C'MON!"

Followed by a practical barrister edging their client out the door saying, "Just keep walking buddy, we won."

It was a day where another London courtroom saw such a blizzard of other c-words, stockpiles of asterisks were running dangerously low. Meanwhile in Apple v Samsung UK, despite being only point 190 of a 191-point judgement, Judge Colin Birss' assertion that Samsung's tablet PC was "not as cool" as Apple's could be a watershed in jurisprudence.

iPad v Galaxy Tab 10

Apple iPad, left, and Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10
  • Apple alleged that Samsung's tablet computer infringed design of its iPad
  • But Judge Birss disagreed
  • "They do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design," he said
  • The same battle is being played out in different countries as Apple tries to block its rival's sales

For decades, mankind has debated the nature of cool and now we have an official ruling.

In a 1997 article for The New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the group of people he called coolhunters - a spoonerism waiting to happen if ever there was one - who scoured big American cities to find out what the cool kids thought about sneakers.

According to Gladwell the first rule of cool is: "The act of discovering what's cool is what causes cool to move on."

However Gladwell didn't reckon with the coolhunting ability of High Court judges. If they say a thing is cool, then cool it remains. There'll be no moving on, otherwise cool is in contempt of court. And that's not cool.

It also leads one to wonder what other intangibles could a judge be asked to decide on?

"A High Court judge has found against Simon Cowell and ordered him to reinstate the boyband Similar Shirts to the show X-Factor UK after they were evicted at the bootcamp stage. Although the judge agreed with Cowell that the band billed as a 'Enrique Iglesias meets Jedward' had no discernible talent, he nevertheless felt they had 'a certain something'. Instead, the judge ruled that another group Banal should go as they 'didn't seem to have what it takes'."

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Apple is now officially cool, which should help their appeal with the older generations”

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I had my own near-miss with conjecturing what a judge would think about something indescribable a few years ago. A throwaway remark at a comedy gig resulted in the receipt of a solicitor's letter from an irate audience member.

I sat down with my solicitor - I didn't have one prior to that moment, I do now. As we went through the options, we first of all looked at what would happen if "this thing" went to court. According to my solicitor, the outcome in court would at least in part be determined by whether the judge thought what I said was "funny". So she said: "If you could just go through what you said at the show so that we can build up a picture of a comedy performance where anything that was said should be taken in the context of it being meant to be funny."

Whatever the first rule of cool, the first rule of funny is that if you try to dissect why a joke is funny in a solicitor's office, not only does funny move on, it doesn't leave a forwarding address and gets a restraining order taken out preventing you from ever contacting it again.

There followed an excruciating 20 minutes sitting at a desk in the office against the backdrop of an impassive solicitor, an occasionally chortling legal secretary, after which we concluded a carefully worded apology was the best way to proceed. (And I resolved never to use those jokes again.)

Lawyers in the Apple v Samsung legal battle Apple v Samsung has been a global legal battle

It was a pity. I had pictured myself making a stirring A Few Good Men-like speech culminating in "YOU CAN'T HANDLE A JOKE."

All of this is conjecture of course. Back in the real world, Samsung and Apple must move on from this round of their tussle. But how can they turn it to their advantage?

Apple is now officially cool, which should help their appeal with the older generations. On the other hand, Samsung can now become the renegade brand. "Not As Cool? You be the judge" could become an advertising tagline for a generation that thinks that cool itself is no longer hip.

There are of course many other less frivolous implications from Monday's rulings, so the two technology giants will take their time and... you know... chill.

You can hear Colm O'Regan every Saturday on In The Balance, on the BBC World Service, at 11:00 GMT

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