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

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.
Written by Jason D. O'Grady, Contributor

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."

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