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Judge calls Apple and Samsung 'ridiculous' over patent tiff

An Australian judge has mocked Apple and Samsung for their absurd and petty patent disputes, threatening to throw them out of court.

The legal profession has elevated itself in CNET's estimation in the past week, with judges here in the UK and now in Australia mocking Apple and Samsung for their absurd and petty patent disputes.

Australia's Federal Court Justice Annabelle Bennett reportedly called the two companies "ridiculous" and threatened to order them to settle their dispute over a coffee and a lamington.

"Why on Earth are these proceedings going ahead?" Bloomberg reported her saying. It wasn't recorded whether the Sydney judge was looking over the rims of her glasses and pointing a finger at the recalcitrant manufacturers, but I'm going to imagine she was. "Why shouldn't I order the parties to mediation?"

The dispute in question was over patents held by Samsung, which cover things like using your data transmission for more than one thing at once, like taking a call and downloading an app. The Korean giant claims Apple won't pay a reasonable price for licensing these patents. The Californian company, for its part, claims it offered a fair fee.

Judges around the world, faced with a tide of acrimonious legal waffle from both Apple and Samsung's lawyers, are getting increasingly impatient. Earlier this month British Judge Colin Birss slapped them both around with a masterful ruling that said Samsung hadn't infringed on Apple's patents... because Apple products were way cooler.

Even better, His Judgeness then ordered Apple to prominently apologise to Samsung, in print ads and on its website, for accusing it of "slavishly copying" the iPad. Burn!

Neither company (or any of the other phone giants involved in courtroom donnybrooks) has come out of this with any credit. The patent system is so complex and intertwined that it's impossible to tell who owns what. Did Apple invent the smart phone? Of course not. It just made it much better, and its reward for doing that was selling tens of millions of iPhones.

Did Steve Jobs have a right to feel aggrieved that Android was offering something very similar? Maybe, but when your innovation is largely a matter of user experience and marketing -- or in the learned word of Judge Birss, "cool" -- then you're on shaky ground litigating around that.

Tim Cook has signalled a desire to settle more of these cases, but they just seem to be multiplying -- there are 50 such cases in 10 countries now, according to AllThingsD -- and they're resulting in a torrent of bad publicity, ill feeling and well deserved judicial scorn. Feel free to add yours in the comments below, or over on our harmonious Facebook page.