Smartphone and Tablet Lawsuit Shapes Up

If you want to create a tablet computer or smartphone that’s a pointy green pyramid, Apple has no objection.

That’s the only logical conclusion from a curious court filing the company has made in an ongoing legal battle with Samsung. Long story short, Apple is suing Samsung for copying the design of its products with the Galaxy S phone and Galaxy Tab tablet. Samsung has countered with the simple argument that it’s pretty difficult to design a decent tablet or phone that isn’t of a similar shape and style.

Apple’s is arguing that the design points it wants to protect are not vital to the functionality of a smartphone or tablet. It’s come up with a long list of suggested design features that Samsung could have used, with examples of how other companies have used them. This seems a particularly odd form of logic, akin to a car company suing any other firm that uses four wheels by noting that there are a few three-wheeled vehicles on the road. The argument also completely misses the point that while each of the example handsets differs in at least one way from an iPhone or iPad, they generally have many of the similarities Apple is objecting to with the Samsung case.

Apparently if you don’t want to risk a lawsuit from Apple your smartphone needs to have a front surface that is a color other than black or clear, isn’t rectangular, isn’t flat, and doesn’t have rounded corners. Meanwhile your display screen must be “more square than rectangular” (which makes little geometric sense) or not rectangular at all, and must not be centered on the front of the phone. Speaker openings that are horizontal slots with rounded openings are out, and you musn’t center them above the display screen. As for the front surface, you’ll be needing thick uneven bezels with “substantial adornment.”

Apple also maintains you have plenty of options if you want to avoid apeing the iPad. For example, just choose a shape other than a rectangle, and if that’s not possible, use pointed corners. Make sure your front surface isn’t flat and again has “substantial adornment”, keep the frame thick, and whatever you do make sure your tablet is much thicker than the iPad and looks cluttered.

What Apple is effectively arguing is that it’s created devices with a simple, effective (and most people would say logical) design; that some other companies have created some crappy looking devices; and that this somehow proves that unless you also use a crappy design, you are copying them.

Samsung will no doubt now respond by paying a design expert to compare all the leading handsets and tablets on the market to Apple’s checklist and revealing that the vast majority “copy” most of Apple’s listed features.

Unfortunately the legal system likely doesn’t allow Samsung to make a simple offer that if Apple can find anyone who bought a Samsung phone or tablet thinking it was an iPhone or iPad, they’ll happily give a refund.


27 Responses to Smartphone and Tablet Lawsuit Shapes Up

  1. That's ridiculous. That's like car companies suing each other because one company's cars has four wheels, a steering wheel and a windshield…"YOU CAN'T HAVE THAT DESIGN, OUR CARS HAVE THAT DESIGN!" Wow….people are idiots. Apple needs to grow up. Yes, it's a multi-million dollar company that has good products, and they've been innovative in the electronics fields, but COME ON! Stop being a bunch of brats! Be nice and share. What are you afraid of? Sounds to me like they're afraid someone's going to one up them…and "GASP!" we can't have that, now can we? Sheesh.

    • Yep, they've picked the company that has the most chance of damaging their sales to have a fight with. To be honest it is not surprising, Steve Jobs was a ruthless man and his company is no different….and just as misguided. At least he can smile from his grave!

    • Apple is a billon dollar company. Apple has stolen many designs in the past, the biggest one being the iPod design which they basically stole from Creative Labs. I dislike Apple and have only had issues with their products so ill stick with my Android phone and tablet….

  2. Lol. Apple should not win their "design" lawsuits. They can't patent a rectangle, which by the way is an elongated square. After all, touchscreen monitors have been around for a long time and rounded corners isn't a patent design. After all, the circle doesn't have any sharp corners and it came first.

  3. I would like to point out the hilarity of Samsung Galaxy Tablets being advertised within this article, on top, right and below?

  4. Crazy – the iPad is more square than rectangular when compared to the shape of the Galaxy. Did Apple somehow violate their own rights by not making the iPad rectangular enough?

  5. Oh! I accidently bought my samsung galaxy s2 instead of an Iphone! What a terrible mistake….NOT!!! Stupid apple people, why don't you go and make good products instead of acting like idiots.

  6. Dear GAS writer: I understand you're a blogger and not a journalist, but I have to tell you anyway… reading an article that gives a clearly biased point of view is annoying as hell even if you agree with the writer. Now, the real point is: Apple invests lots and lots of money in the design, and generally what it does is received by audience as the archetype of its category. Movie makers often get paid by brands like Dell to show electronic devices in their movies; they however most of the time choose to pay Apple to be able to put _their_ devices in the film. So everyone wants to be Apple, and every company tries to copy them a little bit: you have to be blind not to notice. Maybe it's a little design detail that makes you sound stupid and pedantic if you try to talk about it, but – remember – devil is inside the details. So, why Samsung? Because they crossed the line: i remember i was actually fooled by one of their producs, and even if you sound an idiot trying to geometrically describe where they crossed the line, it's clear they did. Obviously Apple plays upward, and obviously will win some battle and lose the war. I don't understand why this is so noticeable/annoying to you… it's something that's happening ALL the time with thousands of companies, and the reason why we're here talking only about Apple is because of the same old fanboys/detractors war.

  7. Carl: If this were a case of someone copying a proprietary feature that is distinctly unique to Apple products, you wouldn't have the folks on this forum ripping on it. I'm pretty sure there are plenty of people who frequent this site who are fans of the iProducts.

    That said, this is exactly as idiotic as a television manufacturer suing another TV company because their sets happen to be flat and rectangular.

    As for your being fooled by a Samsung product, I'd be interested as to exactly how.

    The logo on the bottom that said SAMSUNG instead of a half eaten fruit should have been a clue.

    • I understand that you feel this behavior of sueing a company because of minor issues like a bunch of design choices seems not to be "fair" to the man of the street, but in the end they're not sabotig Samsung. They're exerciting a right, and someone will judge this, and will probably (and hopefully) judge not in their favour. But Samsung at that point will have spent some money, so next time will think twice. Again: this is happening all the time, for details even smaller than in this case, with other companies; it's not that if you don't know they don't happen. As for how i got fooled, despite your silly advice to look at the logo (and if you _have_ to look at the logo then some similarities are in place) it's obvious that i recognized the proper vendor as i got nearer to the device. But the whole assembly of a lot of small design choices (not that is square OR round-cornered, but square AND round-cornered…) makes evident that samsung got an "inspiration".

      • It's interesting to see the Apple fanboys here making excuses for the very behavior they'd be howling about if Microsoft did it.

  8. Apple and their iTard fans that defend this kind of bullcrap need to get bent. (Note that is NOT 100%. There are sane Apple users out there.)

    The fraking form factor isn't even the same!!! One is 4:3 the other is what? 16:9? And everything else they mentioned. I want to dig up Steve jobs and drop kick his head across a football field. Bastard's company is responsible for stifling innovation, NOT creating it.

  9. The legal criteria is if the design will confuse potential customers…Did you know…
    • When the judge held the two up side-by-side the Samsung lead lawyer paused to study before trying to pick.
    • The Samsung packaging is almost identical
    • Samsung even used some of the iOS app logos in their booth
    Yes, copy they did
    Did you also know that Apple offered Samsung a license on some of their tech patents but Samsung refused to take them up on the offer?
    These are multi-billion dollar markets, these companies are going to fight tooth and nail to either protect their investment or try to get a little market share.
    The precedent for customer confusion was set back when Crocks (the sandals) sued all the cheap knockoffs and won injunctions.

  10. Poor Apple, now they need to try to suffocate the competition using insane and perhaps desperate arguments, instead of offering the best product and let people choose. I believe their next argument probably will be "you can't use colorful content on the screen" but we will allow you using black-and-white (but not gray shades) content.
    I hope (really hope) that the courts all around the world, have judges that denies cases like this, of ANY companies, about ANY generic allegation like having a color, form, size, thickness, being touchable, having sounds, etc. This is stupidity.

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