Samsung's case against Apple is bogus, here's why

Samsung's case against Apple is bogus, here's why

Summary: Two of the biggest names in technology (Apple and Samsung) have locked horns in an ugly legal battle with each claiming the other stole its IP. The judge should rule in favor of Apple because simply saying that you had a similar design "in the labs" doesn't cut it.


Apple and Samsung are embroiled in a firece legal battle over the design of each companies smartphones and tablets with each claiming that the other copied their design. The fight began in 2011 when Apple took Samsung to federal court claiming that it copied the designs of the iPhone and iPad. Then Samsung counter-sued.

Apple is seeking $2.5 billion in financial damages in the Northern District Court of California claiming that Samsung knowingly took its intellectual property. Samsung argues that Apple is using litigation to stifle competition and maintain exorbitant profit margins.

Check out sister site CNET's live coverage of the trial.

I take issue with one of the pillars of the Samsung case: that it had design concepts similar to the iPhone "in the labs" before the iPhone was released.

When Samsung was denied the opportunity to argue that the original iPhone design was derived from Sony concepts, Samsung took the unorthodox (and dangerous) step of taking its case to the court of public opinion and released the information to the media.

Samsung's banned evidence includes a batch of smartphone design concepts (with names like "Vessel," "Q-Bowl," "Slide," "Bowl" and "iReen") that it claims were in progress before the iPhone was released in 2007.

Samsung smartphone design concepts, Circa 2006 - Jason O'Grady

My problem with it is that even if Samsung had a batch of designs in the labs, a one-off design concept doesn't cut -- actual products that are released to the public are what counts. I know for a fact that Apple has dozens of working tablet prototypes in its labs in every screen size that you can think of. Does that mean that it should sue Amazon or Google/ASUS for the Fire and Nexus 7-inch tablets? Or course not.

I don't doubt that Samsung had some touchscreen smartphone concepts in its labs (just like I'm sure that Apple's probably built iPhone protoypes with physical keyboards) but if Samsung doesn't release a slate phone into the market -- it's not a realy product. Samsung didn't have the faith in its designs to take the huge risk necessary to manufacture millions of units and sell them in the marketplace. It waited until after Apple released the iPhone -- and it became a commercial success.

It's almost like Samsung had an epiphany after Apple released the iPhone, because it switched almost exclusively to iPhone-like slabs for its entire smartphone lineup. Quite a coincidink, don't you think? 

The following Apple slides comparing Samsung's products before and after the iPhone (and iPad) tell the whole story:

Samsung smartphones before after the iPhone - Jason O'Grady
Samsung tablets before after the iPad - Jason O'Grady

There's no denying that fact that there was a tectonic shift in device design after the iPhone and iPad were released. Almost every successive product after Apple's groundbreaking iOS devices was so similar in design that it was difficult to tell them apart from a distance. Let's not kid ourselves. 

While it's true that some recent designs have stated to show some genuine innovation (The Lumia 900 and Windows Phone come to mind) almost everything else seems like a clone of iOS -- and Samsung is worst offender.

Samsung should just throw itself at the mercy of the court and play this video of Steve Jobs quoting Picasso "Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal."

Topics: Apple, iPhone, Legal, Samsung, Smartphones

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  • That's not the point

    Jason, you're missing the point of this evidence in particular. It is not necessarily to show that Samsung doesn't infringe Apple's design patents--that's done through separate evidence and testimony--it's to rebut Apple's allegation that Samsung *copied* Apple. If Samsung already had the claimed design, it could not have copied Apple's.

    Plus, the Apple slides far from "tell the whole story." Those slides fail to show the plethora of other phones that Samsung offers after the iPhone that look nothing like it. Further, those slides do not show Samsung's F700 phone, which it made *before* the iPhone (but did not sell until after the iPhone came up--but the evidence that the F700 was made prior to the iPhone is not challenged by Apple).

    Samsung's non-infringement argument is entirely separate. I imagine you'll see it if you stay tuned.
    Dirk Hardpeck
    • Nullify the patents that hurt competition.

      The only good result that we can hope for is that most of these patents get nullified. as much as some people are picking their favorite team to root for, of ANYONE owns the patent on such fundamental parts of the current phone/tablet market then it will only result in hurting the consumer.

      Competition should be rooted in making better products, not forcing competitors out of a market.
      • Baloney!

        This is the heart of Chinese and Korean arguments. They want the right to copy. They lack the guts to risk starting disruptive products.

        No guts, no glory. So zero Asian innovation.

        We have IPhones and iPads only because of american guts. Name just one startup in Korea or China - or for that matter, any Japanese company that raised domestic capital and developed an innovative product. The USA and Israel (and historically, Finland and Canada...period.
        • Asia innovators

          Would you not put Germany in the list of innovators?

          In what way does the Sony Walkman not count?

          The Toyoda Motor Company product was disruptive.

          Yes, Asian cultures tend in the direction of conformity. It may not be on the same scale, but Asia is not without innovators.
          • Toyota not disruptive

            Toyota's products have rarely been innovative and I doubt they've ever been "disruptive". They're exceptionally-well engineered autos, to be sure, but they're essentially little different from other autos on the market, aside from their build quality and solid engineering that makes them run well and last long.
          • Gee ...

            I don't know about others, but I would consider "exceptionally-well engineered", substantially better build quality, and use of automation to construct better quality, longer lasting vehicles to be quite innovative in a world where slipshod engineering, poor-quality control, and artificially inflated repeat sales to maintain profits resulting in poor engineering, short-lived products, and slow advancements in technology and standards rule the day. Just where would the US auto industry be today without Toyota or Honda? Hint: At one time FORD used to laughingly be thought to stand for "Fix Or Repair Daily".

            Trying to assert that the US (or the West) is the source of creative work and the soul of innovation is like saying the world is flat - which is one of the innovative and creative ideas of western thinking ...
          • History

            I guess you forgot the part about how the US went to Japan at the end of WWIi and taught their auto industry about quality manufacturing. The student exceeded the teacher in the late 70s. But I am old enough to remember the time when "made in Japan" meant shoddy, cheap good.

            And it isn't because they were Asian. It was just the way it was. Anyone who casts aspersians about any race being better at anything in some kind of innate way are racist. There are plent of innovators in Japan. But culture can either hurt or help anyone when it comes to innovation. It has nothing to do with race (i.e. genetics).
          • So it is but it isn't

            Circular arguments much?
          • What? Toyota changed the world market

            And that's why the American car companies were hammered because they refused to believe that Toyota's design philosophy of well designed and built small cars at competitive prices would work. American car companies got caught with their pants down, and they are still trying to catch up.

            Let's not forget the whole electric hybrid car thingy. You know that one, right? Something called the Prius? That's another game changer in the car market and again the American car companies are playing catch up.
          • What? America Automotive created the Hybird.

            In the Sixties American know lay patents for what is no the Hybird. 20 years passed when Toyota recreated with modern advancements, placed patents, and the Prius was born. If you goback further electric and front wheel drives dominated the early 20 century. Until practical rear drives become the norm. The British in the 60's created the CV joint that modern front wheel drives practical and GM made the McPherson Stut that allow front wheel drives to be simple and compact. Fuel injection on the early corvettes and the unibody cronstruction was used and made by General Motors. Do not for get the airbag by GM. Also, the first car Toyota made to sell in the US was based on a truck chassis and the US car companies sent engineers over to show them how to setup production lines and change their product to meet US standards. Do not forget Charles Demming from the US that showed Japan how to improve their products. US products in automotive are now exceeding Toyota own reliability. Also, you may want to check on how defects in Toyota products was hidden by Toyota by telling the customer they need to replace the parts with there own money. Then Toyota bragged from corporate Japan how they save millions by passing the defect cost on to the customer. Oh, also the Prius has increased strip mining in Canada for material to produce large automotive batteries. Shipping from Canada to Aisa by ship and returned back with the car. Thus, producing more carbon to the atmosphere than an H1 Hummer. Which is designed for 100 thousand mile life which is 50 thousand miles than a standard car. Really, Toyota?! Come on.
          • Correction

            Prius- 100k design life. Standard gasoline 150k design life. Hummer 300k design life.
          • @NCG598

            Your "facts" are interesting. They sound like you picked one sentence off this page and one sentence off that page, but actually didn't read the whole book. Seems like we're missing some pieces to make up the whole picture--a lot of pieces for several whole pictures, in fact.
          • Like what?

            I have seen the article, have you? Care to point out what is missing other than what I already pointed out?
          • Pointless arguments and arbitrary lines in the sand....

            Walter Linderer, from Germany, filed the first airbag patent on October 6, 1951. Not GM. The technology on which current airbags are based was invented in Japan by Yasuzaburou Kobori (小堀保三郎) in 1963, for which he was awarded patents in 14 countries.

            How RELEVANT do you think are '60s patents to today's Prius? Why not the invention of the car itself? Oh wait, that was a German invention...

            Anyway, the original argument started as "[the Asians] want the right to copy. They lack the guts to risk starting disruptive products. ... We have [xyz] only because of american guts.", which was countered with "Prius was a disruptive product" -- and it was, as the first widely commercialized hybrid vehicle (the US makers killed their own.) Yet here we go with you turning in circles about '60s patents and automotive history...
          • let's see

            you claim "Americans" innovated production...that's an ignorant statement...Canada and Mexico had nothing to do with it. It's the U.S...but like all of history, it only takes one moron to "invent" something, but it takes a genius to refine it...which the Asians, have done several times...the TV? innovated by Sony, improved by Samsung. the LCD, and now LED screen invented in Germany, now industry standard created by Samsung. the automobile, is it a suprise that the #1 most reliable, and best selling cars are Asian? And the most unreliable are German (Mercedes), and U.S. made (Chrysler, Ford, GM)?
            Alvin Lee
          • Correct but wrong Hummer

            Over it's life including manufacturing and dismantling the Prius has more negative impact on the planet than a Hummer but it was the H3 rather than the H1 that the study was based on. As basic as an H1 is and the longevity of it's diesel I wouldn't be surprised if the Prius was worse than it though.
          • pleaes re-evaluate your statement

            FWD dominated the market? Automobiles were originally invented as RWD as the shift of weight, handling characteristics, and mother nature herself demanded that cars should be rear-wheeled drive. FWD cars were prototypes to say the least until the mid 1900's, and predominant in the 90's and beyond because it takes a much wider degree of skill to be able to drive a RWD, as opposed to a FWD. Then, you set Toyota as the automotive standard of quality...that's false, with exception of their over-priced Camry's that they pass off as Lexus, Honda is #1 in quality, according to JD Powers. Next, you forget that U.S. made cars are still considered the most unreliabe...Chrysler/Dodge being ahead of the pack...while U.S. automakers are "catching up" they are still about 30 years behind...
            Alvin Lee
          • Not really that complicated...

            FWD is cheaper to make, weighs less. That's the only reason.
          • The problem with absolutes. There are always exceptions.

            Let your doubts be cleared.. I think you can agree that the Prius changed everything and would be considered disruptive. :D
          • true

   tricked people into thinkin Hybrids actually saved you money...take away the tax credit (which they've already done), add the laughable sized gas tank, the ridiculous sticker, the technology that even Toyota technicians have a hard time explaining, combine that with the fact that if one or the other fails, the car is a rolling boulder...and you have the Prius...not disruptive...just ingenius...the automotive industry found a way to make billions off the ignorance of people assuming Hybrids are actually a good thing
            Alvin Lee