Apple, Microsoft have smartphone design gentleman's agreement

Apple, Microsoft have smartphone design gentleman's agreement

Summary: Apple and Microsoft have a long-running patent deal that acknowledges there's no cloning of the iPhone. Indeed, Windows Phone's approach veers hard away from Apple's iOS and Google's Android.


Microsoft has access to all the patents at the center of Apple's lawsuit with Samsung, but there are provisions in place so Windows Phones don't suddenly start looking like iPhones.

As noted in CNET's story on the Apple vs. Samsung patent trial, Microsoft has a long-running patent cross licensing act with the iPhone maker. Josh Lowensohn quoted Boris Teksler, Apple's director of patent licensing and strategy, at the trial on Monday.

Teksler said that Apple's long-running cross-licensing deal with Microsoft allowed the Windows maker access to all the patents in this case, including the design patents. With that said, there are specific rules in place with that deal to keep the two sides in check so that they don't make what Teksler referred to as a "clone" product. "There's a clear acknowledgment that there's no cloning," he said.

Now Apple's Teksler said that the company tried to forge a pact with Samsung, but certain design approaches and user interfaces were untouchable.

On the surface, the Apple-Microsoft deal reflects those untouchables. The tiles in Windows Phone are completely different than what the iPhone and Android have. Now that lack of cloning---or even resemblance---hasn't paid off with huge market share for Windows Phone devices, but Microsoft has come up with a different approach. Overall, the smartphone market is better for it.

Topics: Mobility, Apple, iPhone, Mobile OS, Windows

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  • Huh, Another Apple Media Blitz

    Who cares about what goes on between the two biggest bullies around? The fact is, Apple did not invent rounded rectangles.
    • Did Apple claim to have "invented" such?

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
      • They patented it so they claim it!

        The problem is that the patent office granted it. I'm sure I can find millions of examples of previous art for round rectangles (cards in a deck of cards have rounded corners, hetch-a-sketch, Star Trek PADDs, etc.), therefore the patent should not have been granted!
        • So let it be written, so let it be done.

          So sayeth the troll lepoete73. Sheeeesh.
          Johnny Vegas
        • The rectangle shape is a small part of that patent

          NOT the entire patent. A rectangle shaped tablet BY ITSELF is not infringing. Nice attempt with the FUD but it makes you look uninformed at best.
          • You mean this?

            -> "A rectangle shaped tablet BY ITSELF is not infringing."

            Perhaps you should look up this patent: D504889
          • Touchdown

            Well, if people just get all vindictive against Apple trying to protect their civil rights, then those people are just being stupid.

            Good job looking this patent up.
          • And?

            One can look up any tablet or tablet like patent and therein lies a illustration of a rectangular shape with - wait for it - rounded corners. Does this mean that THOSE companies are patenting a rectangle with rounded corners too?

            Nice try.
        • Apple invented what???

          Even more directly search for "pocket PC" and find many examples, some phones, that preceded the iPhone by many years. Even the huge list icons was directly copied by apple...
          The Webologist
          • @The Webologist

            "Even more directly search for "pocket PC" and find many examples"

            More directly, such for Apple Newton which predates Pocket PC. Pocket PC was an answer to Palm. And Palm was an answer to Apple's Newton which came before both PDA's.
          • all there before

            Maybe these pocket PC s which are small, can nearly everything that could do a big PC, can be found since the 80s - sharp PC 1403 - 1986 for example. So, can it be, that put a coulor display, witch touch, on one of those devices is just logical and no new idea? I think that these logical development steps are nothing worth for a patent . My opinion :-)
        • Keep in mind that Apple lost copyright lawsuits concerning "look and feel".

          So Apple had no recourse but to patent that "look and feel" and quite honestly, that's entirely what this lawsuit with Samsung is all about.
          • WTH are you talking about?!?

            This is a trade dress patent. All major manufacturers of products have them. It has nothing to do with recourse.
            Also, what copyright case are you talking about?
          • It's not just a trade dress patent

            Apple is actually trying to charge Samsung with copying the look of the iPad itself. Which is dumb, I gave my daughter a Compaq tablet that predated the iPad and sort of looked like an iPad as well but Apple isn't after Compaq because the Compaq tablet ran Windows I guess. The 'Trade Dress' lawsuit is about packaging and has to do with the fact that Samsung didn't include a manual with their tablet. Which Apple did first as a means to force the consumer to use the tablet as soon as they opened the box. They are claiming that they invented this idea and Samsung stole it from them in spite of the fact that I can't remember buying any computer tech in the past 20 years that actually came with a full manual. The Barnes and Noble Nook doesn't come with a manual, it's on the device. But Apple isn't after them, again assuming it has something to do with all the money Microsoft has given them this year ($300 million)? I don't know, it all seems really dumb.
      • Yes they claim to "own" the "design" of a functional rectangle.

        Seems to me to be like claiming to own the design of a aluminum beverage can. They actually have a design from the patent office. Go figure.
        • Guessing...

          that at one point in time, the design of the aluminum beverage can was far from obvious. It may seem so now, but to the folks at the time, who had never seen a carbonated beverage stored in a metal can (that retained carbonation) and could be opened simply by the pull of a tab, it probably was pretty impressive.
          • You have to be kidding me. Thats idiot talk.

            I cannot believe I just read:

            "that at one point in time, the design of the aluminum beverage can was far from obvious. It may seem so now, but to the folks at the time, who had never seen a carbonated beverage stored in a metal can (that retained carbonation) and could be opened simply by the pull of a tab, it probably was pretty impressive."

            No. I wasnt. If you can stretch your mind so far as to think what would have went through the mind of the first observation of a cylindrical pop can and you think it would have been impressive, you sir are...lets just say less then smart.

            Cans had been around for a lot longer than the pop can for starters. They had almost always been cylindrical. The only thing different with a pop can was it was made narrower than most food cans. The reasoning came from the 'oh so bloody obvious fact' that most people use their hands to hold an object they are drinking from and it was obviously reasoned a pop can should be a little narrower than the typical food can due to the fact people would be quite often holding it for extended periods of time while DRINKING FROM IT!!!

            Are you some kind of over the top massive Apple apologist or something???

            I simply cannot believe that people seem to now be quite prepared to relegate themselves to the status of mentally retarded in order to make excuses about the originality and impressive inventiveness of the common pop can in order to justify Apples similarly ludicrous claim to the rounded rectangle.

            How does one do such a thing without losing a big part of their self esteem?

            I own an iPhone. I really like it and I think it’s a great device. But, the basics of its layout ARE intuitive. Its practically impossible to build anything intuitive and particularly inventive at the same time. Apples claim to fame is building intuitive devices and as such what they have capitalized on is sitting down and simply seeing what seems to work best. It comes from not trying to be tricky, but instead trying to simplify things down to the most common denominator and making it thus. Its been very successful for Apple, but by much of that same thinking its impossible at the same time to say the basic layout, design and function of the phone are somehow an inventive new way of approaching a device of the kind that is expected to be used in a particular way that depends on human interaction, with humans all being built in a similar way with two arms, a head and two ears located on opposing sides of the head.

            There is NOTHING, I repeat “NOTHING” particularly inventive about the basic design or layout. A teenager without any real design skill could have come up with the basic shape and layout. Its not inventive, its intuitive and OBVIOUS.

            Like a pop can.
          • And yet ...

            ... no phones looked or worked like an iPhone until he iPhone came along.

            Sure, one had something sorta similar to the slide-lock gesture. And one had a big screen with only a few buttons. And another had a kinda rectangular shape with rounded corners (but not the thin bezel accenting the screen). And most used icons (that you had to select with buttons built into the keypad). But none combined all these elements and looked anything like the iPhone.

            Now, almost all the smartphones look and work like an iPhone.

            Obviousness is always so, after the fact.

            Same goes for beverage cans, which actually underwent numerous design changes before one was reached that actually caught on with the public. Even then, the design continued to change to make the can even more intuitive and user-friendly (e.g., to eliminate cutting your fingers if you opened a Coors "push-tab" can) and even environmentally friendly (to eliminate pull-tabs ending up on the ground as litter).

            It took roughly 50 years for beverage producers to come up with a can design that the buying public would accept widely. Sure, the current design seems obvious. But it took a lot of work and redesigning to get it there - and a lot of companies trying different - sometimes bizarre - designs.
          • Actually

            While not a phone, Palm had a whole bunch of PDAs that, at worst, are direct inspirations. Ok, they used resistive rather than capacitive touchscreens. But a very similar rows of icons, which you selected on-screen to launch. The T|X, for example, had an identical 320x480 screen, super thin metal bezel and case, etc. It was flared slightly at the bottom (an aid against dropping it -- it's been suggested Apple designs iOS devices to maximize droppage) and had row of buttons, not just one. But hey, Apple had made the same revisions before, changing the 3-6+ buttons on earlier mice and pucks to the single one on the Mac.

            This is not to suggest the iPhone "ripped off" Palm, since there's really nothing wrong with taking a design idea and changing it your way. That is, in fact ow progress usually works.

            But those claiming that Apple designs just emerged and changed everything, with no precedent, no warning, you are simply uneducated.
          • Newton predates palm

            Enough said.