Beauty is subjective: Samsung questions Apple patents

Beauty is subjective: Samsung questions Apple patents

Summary: The touchscreen gesture patents that Apple has accused Samsung of infringing on are not eligible to be patented in the first place, according to Samsung's Australian barrister Richard Cobden.

TOPICS: Apple, Samsung

In the ongoing patent dispute between Apple and Samsung in the Australian Federal Court, Samsung counsel Richard Cobden has questioned the validity of the Apple gesture patents that Samsung is alleged to have infringed, stating that a "beautiful or elegant" gesture is not something that can be patented.

The long-running case kicked off in July 2011, when Apple sued Samsung over alleged patent infringement in the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Apple alleges that its patents over the "slide to unlock" gesture to gain access, as well as the pinch-to-zoom and edge-bounce features when viewing images and reading documents on devices, have been infringed by Samsung.

But in the Federal Court today, when making the argument that Samsung has not infringed on Apple's patents, Cobden said that Apple's patents describe human-computer interaction — and this is a design principle that is not patentable. He said that Apple inferring that functionality is gained through gestures because the movements are "elegant or beautiful", and therefore people will want to use those gestures more, is not a valid argument for the patent to have been granted.

"Patents are not granted for the reason that something is beautiful or elegant," he said. "The attractiveness of a feature is subjective.

"We dispute functionality can be derived from the attractiveness of a feature. What is subjectively beautiful to one may not be beautiful to another."

The gestures are better defined as fine art, and therefore not able to be patented, Cobden said.

At the same time, Samsung is seeking to invalidate the patents with the Australian Commissioner of Patents, arguing that Apple can't hold innovation patents and be granted standard patents for the same patents.

The standard patents expire in 2028, but the innovation patents expire sooner, in 2016. Cobdern said that Samsung is seeking to have the patents declared invalid to "clear the deck to prevent Apple from threatening the market" with more patent suits.

In an unusual step, the case now has two judges: Justice Annabelle Bennett and Justice David Yates. The two judges are hearing the case at the same time. Bennett suggested the two-judge system back in July last year.

Hearings for the case are scheduled to run until the end of this year.

Topics: Apple, Samsung


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • that is ok

    that is good.i think.
    IPadint UC
  • Well...

    I find it difficult to believe that an attorney who's billing somewhere past 1,000 USD per hour has to bother to make a common sense argument like this one in the first place.

    I'm not even cheering for Samsung on this one. I'm just appalled that a concept that's so obvious and pre-exists Apple's patent was even allowed to be granted in the first place. HTC already fended off a similar patent suit by Apple involving slide-to-unlock. I sure hope we see the same outcome here.
    • on beauty

      If I was the judge, I would rule in Apple's favor in this case, especially after an speech like this.

      Apparently, Samsung do not consider it valuable that the "slide to unlock" gesture is any beautiful or better. Then why not just chose some other, "just as beautiful" gesture for the same functionality, which by the way happens to be "unlock" and their users will be happy. No?

      It seems all the time, Samsung wants a free pass. For example, all of today's cars use about the same controls. What people don't know is that someone holds the patent to these no matter how "obvious"' "ugly" or "beautiful" they are. Each and every car manufacturer pay the numerous patent holders to use their innovation. This seems to be the case here and Samsung obviously refuses to participate. They want a free ride, with all the cash for themselves. Not going to fly.
      • the problem is

        the slide gesture is a basic functionality of a tough OS. just like click in an non-touch OS, what if microsoft patent "click to unlock' or 'click to open' . slide to unlock is so obvious because slide functionality has been use even in FLASH web apps.
        Ryan Mams
        • Obvious - because of Apple

          Slide to unlock was created by Apple, that's why this is so obviously to all of us. It wasn't - before Apple
          Maria Davidenko
          • Wow, homerun Mariya

            Do you intentionally lie to prop up apple's reputation or do you simply know nothing about the subjects you comment on? You seem to be the epitome of the fanboy.

            "The first documented phone to have "slide to unlock" is... the NeoNode N1 / N1m"

            The patent has also been invalidated here in the UK leading to the rest of europe. But you keep telling people it's valid and apple invented it.
            Little Old Man
          • Hm...

            "Slide to unlock" feature is the symbol of iDevices. This is its face. If Samsung wants - why just not to create something more beautiful (they positioning themselves as the only company knows to produce smartphones ) and not to use Apple's approach? But now Samsung has to pay. Not so many - for this company, but not a few dollars too. And they use every reason that possible - everything- just not to pay. Even such an absurd thing - "it's naturally, therefore it can not be patented." But wait - this is already patented. Should it be or not - this is the last question, the first question is who did the patent infringing. In the court.
            Maria Davidenko
          • OMG

            I can't believe you said that. Lets also ban people from painting portraits and force them to find something else beautiful to paint because Joe Blow has the patent on landscapes. As for Samsung having to pay, I do believe that Apple would prefer to see an outright ban vs get paid royalties since Samsung is defeating them in the fair and open market. But, please, don't let me stop you from addressing Little Old Man's point. I assume you are taking a break to compose part 2 of your response where you actually address the issue of how one can take credit for inventing something that already existed......
          • @ hmmm

            First of all, to force anyone to find beautiful decisions is always a good idea. The winner is a customer,don't you think so?
            Second - I took a break, because I have some work to do and not only to comment here or "to compose part 2" .
            Samsung tries to ban Apple's products the same way than Apple tries to ban Samsung's products. And now Samsung is really in danger of banning some products. So they start to scream, that this patent is illegal. This could be so, if it wasn't granted to Apple. Why Apple can't patent something they started to use first? Apple has created the smartphone industry - as we know it now. So, absolutely logical that they want to patent something they started to use it first. "Created the industry" and "started to use first" are a base for patent - in the current case. I don't understand why are you so outraged of this????
            Maria Davidenko
          • You neeed to read more carefully, Maria Davidenko

            Apple was NOT the first to use the slide to unlock gesture. That's the entire point of Little Old Man's post. Need further explanation?

          • Oooookay

            but you still haven't addressed any of the points made, like the fact that beauty cannot be patented, and the fact that the slide to unlock gesture already existed (ducking the issue entirely and making inaccurate statements do not count as a response). If you needed a longer break, you shouldn't have interrupted your work with this irrelevant drivel. So bring on part 3...
          • "Part 3"

            No , there will not be part 3. And I don't need a break to answer you. Actually,you right, I shouldn't have interrupted my work with this irrelevant drive, but it was so funny - I could not resist. Funny, do you understand? Funny to read how so large and powerfull company like Samsung tries to defend itself using so SILLY arguments. Funny to see how people excuse Samsung , that use Apple's patent. O,poor little Samsung, don't cry,greedy Apple tries to punish the innocents :-) Once granted, this patent belongs to Apple. Maybe, to patent the beautifull gesture wasn't the best idea in the world, but those, who accepted it got not the best decision in the world too. And to defend of its intelectual property is the right of every company. That's my point. What is realy outrages here is that Samsung uses so silly argument to invalidate the patent, that it may succeed.
            Anyway, it was a really interesting and pleasant discussion. Have a nice day!
            Maria Davidenko
          • I saw it on a microsoft phone...

            Before Apple were even making iPhones. If you want, I'll go see if it still works. Battery is likely dead.
          • Patents Tend Not To Be Allowed For Just One Class

            Since many things use a "slide to unlock" process, several countries refuse to recognize this patent. The luggage industry has used this process for many years. Yes, someone might have had a patent at one time, but taking something from the public domain and using it on a new product class does not make it patentable.
          • slide to unlock

            is an obvious copy of sliding elecrical switches in the real world, which in turn are a copy of sliding bolts which have been in use for thousands of years.
      • youre bad person too

        greedy Apple wants just to overwhelm the mobile industry by stupid patents...only stupid person would ban because of side to unlock patent which is very stupid and I personally use gesture lock which is 1000x better ;)
        dont forget Apple has got many many sins, facts:
      • So prior art/use is invalidated because apple patented it?

        "The first documented phone to have "slide to unlock" is... the NeoNode N1 / N1m" - 2005

        So apple made it a bit prettier and now it should be allowed to stand? Yes, the same way they should be allowed to patent a row of numbers 1-9 in a 3x3 grid. Not only do apple want a free ride but they also want to take patent revenue away from the first users. Apple got the patent 5yrs AFTER it was already used by another company and you think this is acceptable?
        You do know this stupid patent has been invalidated in the UK and it should therefore follow through the rest of europe. I wonder who will be more annoyed, apple or the inventors?
        Little Old Man
      • Beauty is not a legal principle

        You can't patent beauty or elegance in and of itself - samsung's argument is that beauty is a subjective phenomena and so can't be patented.

        Additionally slde to unlock was not an apple original. That patent should be invalidated for prior art infringement (unless apple have also built a time machine).
      • no. they weren't patented.

        There was too much prior art from the horse and buggy era.

        Just as there is too much prior art in the "slide to unlock". Hint - slide to unlock goes back thousands of years. As does "lift to unlock".

        And page turning goes back some 3,000 years (original folded papyrus).

        As does using fingers to move tiles around.
      • No

        No, you'd rule in Apple's favor because you're a fanboy, not because of the convincing weight of the arguments.

        Nonobviousness is one of the elements of genuine patent. Your decision to ignore this shows me (1) you're not a law student let alone an attorney and (2) you're full of it.