Apple Sues Samsung Because Galaxy Tab Looks Too Much Like An iPad

from the oh-come-on dept

We've noticed that Apple's been getting a lot more aggressive when it comes to proactive patent infringement lawsuits lately, so it's not all that surprising to see that it's now suing Samsung for patent and trade dress infringement over the design and packaging of the Samsung Galaxy phone and tablet. I haven't seen the full filing yet (for reasons unexplained AllThingsD mentions the filing, and has a screen shot, but didn't post the full filing), so perhaps there's more to this than what's described in the existing coverage. However, from the screenshot, it looks like Apple is asserting design patents, instead of utility patents. Design patents are pretty limited and a lot more like a trademark than a traditional patent. I'd be interested to see if there were utility patents included as well, and will post an update once I've seen the filing.

That said, this complaint seems pretty silly. Yes, lots of smartphones mimic the basic look and feel of the iPhone these days. But, Apple itself copied many of the design features of the iPhone from others as well... and, let's face it, Apple owes much of its history to copying the look and feel of a graphical user interface that Steve Jobs saw while touring Xerox PARC. Why can't Apple just focus on competing in the market place, rather than worrying about what competitors are doing? And, to be honest, this lawsuit actually makes me more interested in checking out those Samsung devices, because it signals to me that it may actually be getting "close" to the design quality associated with Apple's devices...


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    MrWilson, Apr 18th, 2011 @ 7:14pm

    Looking at the images, it seems like Apple is asserting that they own the rights to thin devices with rounded corners. Just because you're the first doesn't mean your design wasn't derivative.

    "This kind of blatant copying is wrong, and we need to protect Apple’s intellectual property when companies steal our ideas."

    Rounded corners are "ideas?" That's a basic design aesthetic. Please pay royalties to the first caveman who rounded off the corners of his stone tablet and then we can talk about protecting your "ideas."

    Or if you want a more recent example, clipboards have had rounded corners for a while and tablet computers are pretty much computers in the shape of a clipboard.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    el_segfaulto (profile), Apr 18th, 2011 @ 7:21pm

    I have to agree with Apple on this one. How many decades of research and development did we have to go through to go from square corners to rounded? It was a quantum leap and Apple needs to be rewarded for that kind farsighted thinking. And how many of you armchair quarterbacks would have thought to line up your icons in a grid pattern? Personally, I had been doing it in ley lines on a Cartesian plane using the birthdate of the girl I'm dating at the time as a seed for a complex algorithm involving the closing Dow Jones average, the phase of the moon, and the number of times I have to unlock a user's account because of sheer stupidity throughout the day. I don't mind telling you that it was difficult, so huzzah Apple, huzzah.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Mel, Apr 18th, 2011 @ 7:22pm

    "Apple owes much of its history to copying the look and feel of a graphical user interface that Steve Jobs saw while touring Xerox PARC"

    For which Apple paid for in pre-IPO stock and a commitment to take the Parc technology to the market

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Apr 18th, 2011 @ 7:25pm

    Re:

    Yeah, not justifying Apple in this case, but everyone leaves that last bit off.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Pete, Apr 18th, 2011 @ 7:32pm

    Lol

    What happened to competition? Samsung's Tablet must be better, making Apple shiver in their boots, cant get away with ridiculously high prices now can you Apple?

    Plus yeah my screen has rounded corners, so does my drawing tablet and well everything >_

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    bigpicture, Apr 18th, 2011 @ 8:08pm

    Re:

    You forgot to mention the old B&W TV picture tubes, these had rounded corners because they did not have the technology to make them square back then.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Transbot9, Apr 18th, 2011 @ 8:12pm

    Hrm..

    Apple makes decent products, and I have to give them props for being able to invent entire new markets, but...

    I am not a fan of the general attitude the company gives off. This lawsuit only reinforces it. Paramount has a strong case against Apple ripping off their Star Trek props.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Apr 18th, 2011 @ 8:12pm

    Re: Re:

    Not too mention all those years of driving I've done. I've rounded more corners than I care to mention.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    fogbugzd (profile), Apr 18th, 2011 @ 8:51pm

    The also claim rights to the color white and all words starting with a lower case i.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2011 @ 8:54pm

    Re: Lol

    A quick look around my office and I see very few corners that aren't rounded by design to some degree.

    'Cause those sharp corners...they will cut a bitch.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2011 @ 8:55pm

    Re:

    That's incredibly inaccurate yet somehow intuitive, isn't it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    Atkray (profile), Apr 18th, 2011 @ 9:24pm

    Possible explanation

    "Why can't Apple just focus on competing in the market place, rather than worrying about what competitors are doing?"

    I watch exactly 1 hour of TV a week and listen to about 40 minutes of radio a day while driving.

    In the last few weeks I have been subjected to advertisements for the iPad 2 enough to annoy me. The thing is I don't remember ever seeing an ad for the first iPad.

    I have a feeling that Apple's focus on competing is an ugly image of failure in what is an increasingly competitive market.

    Consequently the lashing out.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    fogbugzd (profile), Apr 18th, 2011 @ 9:31pm

    Re: Re:

    Hyperbole means you never have to say you're sorry.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    Allen (profile), Apr 18th, 2011 @ 9:56pm

    Apple could continue to focus on inovation to keep their competitive edge but sustained inovation is hard and litigation is easy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    el_segfaulto (profile), Apr 18th, 2011 @ 9:58pm

    Re: Possible explanation

    My TV watching has gone up lately (March Madness and the NBA playoffs) normally I just watch Mythbusters and Big Bang Theory. There have been a plethora of iPad commercials to the point where I'm sick of seeing it and hearing it called "magic". I know Apple sells this mystique, but the fact that they're even bothering to show commercials tells me that they're nervous.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2011 @ 10:15pm

    If all your competition can ever do is copy what you already have on the market then you never have to worry about them getting ahead of you so long as you keep pushing forward with innovation they will always be one step behind.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    el_segfaulto (profile), Apr 18th, 2011 @ 10:34pm

    Re:

    Using rounded corners and paginating icons isn't exactly new in the computer world. In some ways Android is a few steps ahead of iOS.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2011 @ 10:36pm

    Apple itself copied many of the design features of the iPhone from others as well... and, let's face it, Apple owes much of its history to copying the look and feel of a graphical user interface that Steve Jobs saw while touring Xerox PARC. Why can't Apple just focus on competing in the market place, rather than worrying about what competitors are doing?

    He's suing because he's got nothing to lose, (unless he gets a new one) and with others making copies, they (apple) will lose in the market.

    If you recall Windows lost to Lindows a few years back and paid them off to basically go away.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    z, Apr 18th, 2011 @ 11:36pm

    A lot of people mistakenly believe that interfaces are mere decoration... right up until they have to come up with one. I'd be willing to bet that if Samsung or Google had any original interface designs good enough to duplicate, they'd sue the hell out of their copycats.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Cowman Mau, Apr 18th, 2011 @ 11:42pm

    Laughable

    Oh Apple sues Samsung, thats hilarious.
    Those naughty thieves ...... oh but wait.
    What about when Apple needed Samsung for the components to make their all so original designs?

    Hmm, I too would like to see them bring a Technology Patent suit to court claiming infringement, via utility or otherwise.
    Given that they've been pretty much in bed with one another for some time.

    The only thing this signals, is a distancing in the relationship. Because Samsung is now a REAL COMPETITOR, were no longer friends.

    Oh booo hoo.
    Grow up! I thought you were classed fruit, not a vegetable.
    Innovate or die!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Adrian Lopez, Apr 19th, 2011 @ 12:04am

    Trade dress is such a messed up concept. Nobody who buys a Galaxy thinks they're getting an iPhone. In a sane world that would be enough to get Samsung off the hook for trademark infringement. It's really very simple: If it doesn't say Apple then it's not an Apple product.

    In Apple's hands, "trade dress" is just an anti-competitive tool meant to prevent competitors from having interfaces with similar functionality to their own.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Adrian Lopez, Apr 19th, 2011 @ 12:08am

    Re:

    "A lot of people mistakenly believe that interfaces are mere decoration... right up until they have to come up with one."

    I agree. Interfaces like the iPhone's are more than mere decoration, being in fact primarily functional in nature. Trade dress isn't supposed to cover functional elements, so Apple really shouldn't win its case against Samsung.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    joe, Apr 19th, 2011 @ 12:32am

    Re:

    iDoubt it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    C., Apr 19th, 2011 @ 12:42am

    16 claims against Samsung, including unjust enrichment, trademark infringement and 10 patent claims.

    It's the "unjust enrichment" claim I find interesting given the potentially broad application and vague interpretation of this legal remedy. Just how strong could a claim like this be?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    NotMyRealName (profile), Apr 19th, 2011 @ 1:56am

    As a side note, in an attempt to cash in, I'm developing a pair of white pants with enormous cargo pockets, so people have a reasonable place to put their ipads and accessories. I'm gonna call them iPants. Feel free to steal my idea, just be aware that in 10 years I'll sue you so I can be rewarded for my lack of execution.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Apr 19th, 2011 @ 5:10am

    Gosh I love these

    I'd be interested to see if there's anything more to this, but from what's there:
    Samsung’s Galaxy Tab computer tablet also slavishly copies a combination of several elements of the Apple Product Configuration Trade Dress,” Apple says in its suit, noting that Samsung’s tablet, like Apple’s, uses a similar rectangular design with rounded corners, similar black border and array of icons.

    So... not at all like the predates-the-iPhone HTC in my pocket which has a rectangular design touch screen with rounded corners a black border and a grid-array of square-ish application icons on the OS.... oh, wait a minute....
    And, to be honest, this lawsuit actually makes me more interested in checking out those Samsung devices, because it signals to me that it may actually be getting "close" to the design quality associated with Apple's devices...

    Yep that was the first thing that occurred to me too. "Pay no attention to that infringing man behind the curtain....."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Matthew, Apr 19th, 2011 @ 5:55am

    Re:

    "...and all words starting with a lower case i."

    If only that were a joke!

    I think the sentence "...it signals to me that it may actually be getting "close" to the design quality associated with Apple's devices."

    Should read "...have surpassed the design quality associated with Apple's devices."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Donald Moore, Apr 19th, 2011 @ 6:15am

    maybe it's just a tactic

    to get samsung to lock up more components for apple's use only?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2011 @ 6:29am

    Re: maybe it's just a tactic

    This is my thought as well. iPad 3 is due out sometime next year if the rumors are to be believed, so this could just be a bargaining tactic.

    "Give us your widgets at a 10% discount and these lawsuits will go away..."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Steve, Apr 19th, 2011 @ 7:12am

    Re:

    That was after they lost the lawsuit. Jobs didn't offer Xerox stock and ask if he could take the technology" to market.

    Now I'm not too good with dates, but I'm pretty sure the Xerox suit came after Apple sued Microsoft for copying the look and feel that they had previously copied from Xerox.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Dodo, Apr 19th, 2011 @ 7:25am

    Except Apple wasn't the first to market a thin device with rounded corners

    Take a look to the Crunchpad/JooJoo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JooJoo Who's copying who?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    jhn, Apr 19th, 2011 @ 7:51am

    How much of this is defensive, or at least preemptive? Lawsuits have been flying left and right involving Apple as plaintiff and defendant. Most of them, probably, are trivial. Any one of them is probably part of some larger fight.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    icon
    Sean T Henry (profile), Apr 19th, 2011 @ 8:30am

    Re:

    "Looking at the images, it seems like Apple is asserting that they own the rights to thin devices with rounded corners."

    That sounds exactly like what Nintendo did with the second version of the Gameboy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Apr 19th, 2011 @ 8:40am

    Re:

    Rounded corners are "ideas?" That's a basic design aesthetic.

    Yes! They should have had chamfered edges instead of fillet edges.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2011 @ 9:01am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yes, indubitably and indeed!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    harbingerofdoom (profile), Apr 19th, 2011 @ 9:14am

    Re:

    "rounded off the corners of his stone tablet..."

    thats called a wheel which means cavemen should sue apple for violating their intellectual property involving items without acute angles.

    now just need to find some cavemen...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Apr 19th, 2011 @ 9:47am

    Re: Re:

    The stock was exchanged for the right of Apple to tour (and use) tech in Xerox PARC labs. That was pretty cut and dry.

    The suits happened later, while Apple was suing Microsoft for copying its GUI. Xerox sued Apple a defensive move to prevent a (potentially) victorious Apple making similar claims on Xerox.

    Xerox's suit was dismissed, and Apple (largely) lost.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Cowardly Anon, Apr 19th, 2011 @ 11:01am

    Re:

    I feel that a picture is worth a thousand words in this case: http://i.imgur.com/aLGOQ.jpg

    I'm not sure what IP Apple is whining about when obviously they didn't even come up with the rounded corners idea on their own.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    icon
    David Liu (profile), Apr 19th, 2011 @ 12:45pm

    To be fair:
    http://mobilized.allthingsd.com/files/2011/04/apple-v.-samsung-2-380x392.png

    I'd say that the GUI looks almost exactly the same.

    And for a big company like Apple, their developers have little interest in this lawsuit; more like their legal department saw some similarities and found yet another way to justify their existance.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Gil, Apr 19th, 2011 @ 4:19pm

    I think it is mainly an emotional issue

    Apple has gotten used to being the clear leader in a race. Now having competitors reach that neck-to-neck point, they are angry and troubled. History has made Apple learn that this point is the beginning of the end, as far as their dominance is concerned, due to their elitist business model.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Johnny5k, May 5th, 2011 @ 8:07pm

    Here's some informative eye candy:

    I made a big chart/graphic, comparing the iPhone with the Galaxy S and the F700, to show just how much Samsung's design has changed in a way that approaches that of the iPhone. Also compared are the iPad/Tab, and all of their packaging, as in the lawsuit.
    Check it out:

    http://peanutbuttereggdirt.com/e/?p=218

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Eric, Aug 15th, 2011 @ 7:13pm

    We have every right to copy you and make a buck.

    Seriously, there is a difference between competitors and blood sucking leeches. It’s not competition to clone somebody else’s product and sell it as your own. Either Samsung violated patents or it didn’t and if it did it should pay, regardless of who’s suing. You can talk all you want about ancient history and XEROX PARC, but the Mac looked nothing like what XEROX had.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This