Off-Topic: Apple vs Samsung – the start of a bloody long, costly civil war

Mostly, I tend to keep this blog focused on target (firearms, 2nd Amendment Rights, and related topics).  But every now and then I need to venture off.

If you’re not much into the techie world, you may be completey unaware that a major patent lawsuit just decided against your favor.  You see, Apple decided to file a lawsuit against Samsung and sought a $2 billion penalty and an injunction banning the sale of several of Samsung’s products.

So here is my summary of the accused infringments

381 “bounce back”

This patent covers scrolling to the end of a list and continuing to pull with your finger. Rather than stopping, the iPhone will often let the contents be dragged up higher revealing some null space; then upon release it will use an easing function to “bounce back” into place.

Mind you, easing is a standard technique. It has been done in many Flash apps, granted mostly in mouse based scenarios.  Samsung showed prior art as well.  The real issue in this case, was not the “bounce back” but whether this had been done on a dedicated touchscreen device.

Seriously, we need to quit making the mere “moving” of an idea to a new “medium” a patentable offense. Does driving on pavement versus a dirt road make for a new invention?  An auction done online is NOT a new invention. It’s simply the use of a new medium for an old invention – this should NOT be patentable.

So essentially, Apple won against Samsung on a patent for which clear prior art was presented. Merely by arguing minute differences. And largely, Apple is arguing that prior art didn’t display off-screen information. Mind you, Apple’s “off-screen” information consists of a blank screen space. Pretty damn weak if you ask me.

915  finger to scroll, pinch/zoom

This was the whole pinch/zoom issue.  Granted, Samsung demonstrated some prior art. Including the fact that Adam Bogue demonstrated similar technology for Apple back in 2003.

Mind you, we’re not even talking about much innovation to begin with. We’re not talking about the invention of zoom.  But is the use of pinching worthy of invention status?  Mind you we’ve had a lot of various ways to implement zooming. In fact, we’ve even utilizing pinching in many graphic applications. Honestly, this is IMHO Apple’s strongest case. But not something I think should be patent worthy.

163 tap to zoom

Yes, tap (double-tap) to zoom. So what’s at question here?  One tap or two. I am dead serious, that is what this patent is all about. One tap or two.  One tap is okay, but two is a no, no. We “own” that.

This patent should have been invalidated. As I did this back in the 90’s. I’ve owned laptops with trackpads since 1994.  And as early as the 2000’s I can recall using graphic editing software. And if I selected the zoom mode. Tapping would zoom me in.  And depending on how your mouse was configured for actions, you could set it up to be double-click.

So I don’t see how the mere fact that my touch pad and my screen are now combined together, makes a “behavior” I’ve used for years patentable as a new invention.


983 design style

This was the final patent. This wasn’t a patent on invention, but look and feel and interfaces. So let’s talk about some of the iPhone design attributes.

The Samsung Galaxy S is probably the phone that most appears to be infringing, at least from an initial glance.(March 2010).

But this was also deemed to have infringed Apple’s design patents on the iPhone?  And I am hard pressed to see any similarities in physical design.

But the big question is how much is evolutionary? and how much of the iPhone is simply based upon other prior art?

Let’s list some of the (seemingly) infringing aspects:

Let’s list some of the (seemingly) infringing aspects

  • Large screen 
  • Grid arrange icons
  • App dock bar on bottom
  • Singular button on the front

Wow, these Palm Tungsten units seem to meet many of the above criteria. The last of these was released in 2005.  Sure looks like we can see where the iPhone interface came from. I bet if we changed the color of the Tungsten and it’s screen from silver and white background to all black. The similarities would be magnified.

Granted they have more than one central button, but it’s quite clear the center button has greater prominence. Now looking at the Samsung phones, they have more than one central button.  So that should be a non-issue, as many devices utilized multiple buttons but gave the center one strong prominence.


HTC 6700 – I owned one of these. So why do I reference it? Because it’s rounded edge, ear speaker placement, and button arrangement is very similar and relevant to the iPhone. Mind you, it has an antenna nub, but it was reduced from many prior designs.  There was a clear desire to eradicate this as technology allowed, proving the iPhone was merely evolutionary in not having an antenna.

Now let’s talk “style”….Prada,  clearly this is a clone of the iPhone. Of all phones we’ve seen, this is the most alike in design. It was made by LG.

It even features a grid bar on the bottom.  The ear piece looks nearly “identical” to the iPhone


And a grid of icons

 The only problem with the Prada phone is that it was designed and had many aspects shown nearly a yer before the iPhone. So what does this mean?  It means, that the design of phones was already starting to trend toward this representation. Which namely, is a maximization of display screen real estate. Why is this? Because technology advances and LCD screens were coming down in price.  And users want more screen.  In fact, Samsung was working on the F700. Which was not allowed to be used in their defense.  This phone was revealed 1 month after the iPhone.

If you understand engineering, you’re going to be hard pressed to get even a prototype product from start to finish in one month’s time.

The evidence is that Samsung is probably telling the truth, and was working on the F700 before Apple released the iPhone. They may have tweaked some aspects to their favor.  But the evidence across the board points to the basic style of the iPhone as being evolutionary and somewhere the PDA/phone industry was already headed too.

Of all the phones, the LG Prada makes this very clear. It’s front appearance and software layout is extremely similar to that of the iPhone. Granted, that Apple did a superb implementation that was probably at least a year or two ahead of most of the competitors. But remember, Verizon typically delayed the release of phones on their network by 6 months to over a year. So many cell phone manufacturers were very tepid about major change. Fearing that they wouldn’t be allowed on the network. 

Few had the weight Apple had to bring to the bargaining table to be allowed as much control as they did.

Ironically, the Samsung Galaxy tablet which really kicked this whole thing off, and was banned from importation by a preliminary injunction was deemed a non-infringing device.  Go figure…


Lastly, was the whole court process handled correctly? First off, we had a jury all from the Silicon Valley area. Do we think

Insightful comment regarding the jurors experience, which puts into question whether they actually considered the ‘prior art’ correctly, and whether the foreman, a patent owner, may have misled the rest of his jurors due to his own desire to affirm patents:

Hogan was jury foreman. He had experience. He owned patents himself…so he took us through his experience. After that it was easier. After we debated that first patent — what was prior art –because we had a hard time believing there was no prior art….In fact we skipped that one,” Ilagan continued, “so we could go on faster. It was bogging us down.”

There is also some disturbing commentary here, where some of the jurors were looking to judge in Apple’s favor even on unregistered trade dress. Including icons, corners and rectangles. This is frightful, because to me it shows the jurors had no understanding of the concept of prior art.

Ilagan said: “We were debating the unregistered trade dress claims. That took a while because some of the guys wanted to give [Apple] protection to round corners, the icons, and rectangles, but they were not registered. So, some of the jurors said ‘Why are we playing patent office? We’re not the patent office. It’s not even registered.’ And some of the jurors, when you look at the combination of those features, said it looks like an Apple. But we didn’t want to shut out Samsung from the market because we thought ‘OK, well, if Apple had tried to get a patent for all that stuff and didn’t, now they wanted us to be the ones to get it for them. We didn’t want to do that.”

Seriously, a project manager at AT&T was a juror. That’s someone I’d have not had on. Clear bias to iPhone’s number 1 beneficiary

“One of the jurors, believed to be Peter Catherwood, is a project manager with AT&T”

I wonder if the jurors asked for other phone samples?

“I realized that’s a big deal if Samsung can’t sell those phones,” Ilagan said. “But I’m sure Samsung can recover and do their own designs. There are other ways to design a phone. What was happening was that the appearance [of Samsung’s phone] was their downfall. You copied the appearance…. Nokia is still selling phones. BlackBerry is selling phones. Those phones aren’t infringing. There are alternatives out there.”

Really? How about this Nokia phone? Sure seems to be as infringing as any of Samsung’s designs.

How about the new Blackberry? Wow, sure looks like an iPhone

If I were to express my feelings. I would say these jurors had next to zero understanding on these matters. Nor on the consequences of their decision.

More on the jurors…


Just hoping that Congress implements some Patent reform soon. The reform I feel that is most needed, is restoring the patent system’s access to the common inventor.

My solution for that, allow anyone to file a patent free of charge if they commit it to “public domain”.  This would allow an individual with an idea, but without the $$$ and resources to produce the idea quickly (and compete against billion dollar multinational corps) to have their own use of the idea protected.

This may seem crazy, but it’s not. I have ideas that I have had for years, and worked a bit toward. And now some of those ideas would likely fall afoul of patents owned by big mega corps. 

If I ever got my idea off the ground, I’d probably be sued for an idea I had long before. How sad is that? how does this promote innovation? It doesn’t…and needs to be fixed!

Published in: on August 27, 2012 at 9:26 pm  Comments (1)  
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