Apple's Argument: Samsung Could Have Made Its Phone Large, Thick, Bumpy, Sharp-Edged & Hexagonal

from the sounds-great dept

A few months ago, we noted that Samsung's new phones had rather odd designs... and the theory making the rounds was that, considering the ongoing worldwide fight it was in with Apple, it was trying to go out of its way to make the phones as un-Apple-like as possible. Of course, that resulted in ugly, weirdly shaped phones.

As you may (hopefully?) know, some of the patents in the fight are "design patents" rather than utility patents. When people talk about patents, they usually are referring to utility patents. Design patents are, in many ways, more similar to trademarks than to utility patents. But it creates odd situations where Apple gets to claim "ownership" of the concept of a rectangular device with rounded corners. It's also important to remember that design patents can't be for functional features, but only for design/appearance. That means that Apple has to insist that the basic design of the iPhone and iPad aren't functional at all.

As Matt Schruers highlights, that means that Apple is left in the awkward position of insisting that these basic concepts that are sort of obvious design choices to make such devices functional both aren't functional at all and that there are perfectly reasonable alternatives. For example, Apple's lawyers have suggested some "alternatives" in how Samsung could have designed its devices:
“front surfaces that are not rectangular, not flat, and without rounded corners; display screens that are more square than rectangular or not rectangular at all, display screens that are not centered on the front surface of the phone...”

and

“overall shapes that are not rectangular with four flat sides or that do not have four rounded corners; front surfaces that are not completely flat or clear... and profiles that are not thin”.
So what would that mean? Schruers explains:
Of course. Surely consumers would happily hold a large, thick, bumpy, sharp-edged hexagonal thing up to their head. They’ll no doubt appreciate the different “ornamental” approach while reading through their opaque screen. No functional drawbacks there.

Does that even sound like an object you would willingly put in your pants? Having a device that is not an unwieldy weapon-like object is a functional feature, not an ornamental design choice. One is not going out on a limb in concluding that if the object design increases your likelihood of getting strip-searched at the airport, those are functional drawbacks, and foreclosing functional features is not the purpose of design protection.
Oh yeah, Schruers also includes this bit of prior art to emphasize his point:

Filed Under: design patents, iphone, patents, shape, smartphones
Companies: apple, samsung


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. icon
    Wally (profile), 7 Aug 2012 @ 6:06am

    Re: Silly fanboy nonsense.

    I fail to see how knowing the difference between ARM and x86 devices is being a fanboy. You're right, the processor of a desktop is of little concern. The thing is, each architectural family of processors are instructed to handle data differently. Therefore you have to program software to utilize the carious platforms you intend to utilize. Yould have to write separate software for MS Office on PowerPC, ARM, and x86 because each of those architectures/platforms handle data in different ways.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Show Now: Takedown
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.