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Did Apple's Claims Over Rectangles And Corners Lead To 'The First Smartphone Designed Entirely By Lawyers'?

from the seems-that-way dept

Android blogger Ron Amadeo has a great post over at Android Police where he tries to explain the design of the new Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone, which many people have deemed pretty hideous. In his opinion, it all comes down to legal tiptoeing.

As you may recall, last year Apple sued Samsung over earlier products in the Galaxy line, claiming infringement of all sorts of different rights, among them some broad trade dress registrations involving basic design choices like black borders and rectangles with rounded corners. Amadeo walks through the many notable aesthetic elements of the S3 (including the stark changes from previous Galaxy phones) and compares them to Apple’s list of trade dress claims, noting how several aspects of the phone seem designed to counter specific complaints—and the case he makes is pretty compelling. These are just a few examples (bolded portions are quotes from the Apple trade dress complaint):

A rectangular product shape…
… A rectangle needs to have parallel sides; the GSIII sides aren’t straight at all. The outmost part is about 1/3rd of the way down, with serious curves leading to the top and bottom. So it’s very much not a rectangle, or a rounded rectangle, or even horizontally symmetrical. It’s more of an amorphous blob.

…with all four corners uniformly rounded;
Nope. The top and bottom corners are not the same shape. Observe the outlines of the top-left and bottom-left corners. Note how they are different.

The front surface of the product dominated by a screen surface with black borders
Having a giant screen on the front is kind of unavoidable. The only colors available though, are white and dark blue. Neither of those colors are black. The lawyers can sleep easy.

Substantial black borders above and below the screen having roughly equal width
Apple’s use of “roughly” is really obnoxious, but just in case they get into minutia (lawyers love minutia!), the top and bottom borders are not the same size. These to-scale measurements show the top bezel is about 16% smaller than the bottom. Also, they’re not black!

In the past, some people have argued that this sort of thing is an example of intellectual property doing its job and encouraging innovation, because competitors come up with new and different ways of doing things—but, as we have pointed out, the innovation being encouraged is the wrong kind. Instead of letting market demands dictate what engineers and designers spend their time on, their effort is wasted reinventing the wheel over and over again. The result is often an inferior product that lacks overall vision, as some are saying about the S3, at least aesthetically speaking. If a camel is a horse designed by a committee, what’s a horse designed by a committee of lawyers? Some horrific Darwinian accident from the deep ocean, I’d wager.

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: apple, samsung

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Comments on “Did Apple's Claims Over Rectangles And Corners Lead To 'The First Smartphone Designed Entirely By Lawyers'?”

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51 Comments
gorehound (profile) says:

At the rate things are going Patent Issues might just be a Non-Issue.I do not have an optimistic view of the future.Hope this Nation does not collapse into something really bad within 1 -3 elections.
In better times I would be saying to abolish these kinds of innovation killing Patents.If there was a Country you could move to and develope your Patenes I would almost say to do it anyway and to hell with the greedy suing World.A lot of these Patents are nothing but a piece of shit and they get granted by an equally unintelligent corrupted Patents Bureau.

MD says:

Patentable Stuff?

I’ve never understood what qualifies as patenable. For example, Larry Niven, in “The Integral Trees” in 1984, describes a ship controlled by finger gestures on a flatscreen display – pinch two fingers together while touching the door on the diagram, and the door closes.

With that sort of “prior art” description, why would finger gestures of any sort be patentable???

MD says:

Patentable Stuff?

I’ve never understood what qualifies as patentable. For example, Larry Niven, in “The Integral Trees” in 1984, describes a ship controlled by finger gestures on a flatscreen display – pinch two fingers together while touching the door on the diagram, and the door closes.

With that sort of “prior art” description, why would finger gestures of any sort be patentable???

Anonymous Coward says:

To be honest i think the lawyers have made a beautiful designed phone, it looks unique and far far better then the sharp edged iphone. I hope they have patented this shape so that apple cannot use a rounded edge on there phones. Looks amazing and once the price drops bellow $150 i will have one, definitely. Might have to wait a year or so for that price drop though.

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