Hoo Boy, Here We Go Yet Again: Apple Sues Samsung

By  |  Monday, April 18, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Do Samsung products such as its Galaxy S phones and Galaxy Tab tablets imitate Apple’s iPhone and iPad? Yes, of course they do. So, to greater and lesser extents, do nearly every smartphone and slate-type computing device on the market today. Is that legal? I guess we’ll find out: Apple is suing Samsung, saying that it’s violating multiple patents and trademarks.

I haven’t seen Apple’s suit, but it sounds like it relates to look-and-feel issues more than do most of the umpteen lawsuits that tech companies have filed against each other recently.  In a statement to All Things Digital’s Ina Fried, an Apple spokesperson even complained about the boxes that Samsung products come in being too Apple-esque:

It’s no coincidence that Samsung’s latest products look a lot like the iPhone and iPad, from the shape of the hardware to the user interface and even the packaging,. This kind of blatant copying is wrong, and we need to protect Apple’s intellectual property when companies steal our ideas.

If Apple has a case, you gotta wonder who else it’ll sue and where all this ends. HP’s upcoming TouchPad tablet, for instance, is promising–but it’s even more strikingly iPad-like than Samsung’s tablets to date. Is it vulnerable? And given that Archos is just about the only company that can honestly say it would be making tablets even if the iPad had never existed, does Apple have a legally-justified beef against the entire category?

I’ve always been made uneasy when one company unimaginatively cribs another’s designs–when I attended Mobile World Congress 2009 it felt like a blur of faux iPhones–but I don’t like the idea of one company essentially having a monopoly on a product category or a form factor. More thoughts to come as details emerge, but for now, what’s your take?


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9 Comments For This Post

  1. Steven Fisher Says:

    What's my take? Simple: If an invention is worth anything, it's worth something to its inventor.

    I'm sure that after years and years, Apple will lose this case. But if stupid little software techniques are patentable against all common sense, why isn't an entire approach to a product protected (which it should be)?

  2. Seth Weintraub Says:

    Is there a supplier of parts for iPhone that doesn't also make an android phone? Sony, LG, Samsung, Toshiba, Panasonic…

  3. swildstrom Says:

    <div class="idc-message" id="idc-comment-msg-div-144002235"><a class="idc-close" title="Click to Close Message" href="javascript: IDC.ui.close_message(144002235)"><span>Close Message</span> Comment posted. <p class="idc-nomargin"><a class="idc-share-facebook" onclick="IDC.ui.fb_wrapper(144002235)" href="javascript: void(null)" style="text-decoration: none;"><span class="idc-share-inner"><span>Share on Facebook</span></span> or <a href="javascript: IDC.ui.close_message(144002235)">Close MessageThe Supreme Court ruled more than 20 years ago that the look and feel of a software program was not covered by copyright (Borland v. Lotus.) Apple is trying on patent and trademark grounds. For patent, they would have to show very specific infringement, but you can't patent look and feel. Trademark is trickier–there is the concept of "trade dress," such as the shape of a Coke bottle. But I don't know that rectangular and flat with icons in a grid is trademarkable.

  4. morphoyle Says:

    Paramount should sue Apple for blatent Star Trek ripoff then. Apple didnt do anything new with their form factor. As for the interface, Android is quite different. An iOS homescreen is a clutter of icons. The Android homescreen is clean, customizable, and can have widgets. I guess if you can’t beat the competition on merits, you sue.

  5. The_Heraclitus Says:

    Whatever company made the 1st Tablet years ago should sue Apple for everything its got.

  6. David Says:

    Sure, because the iPad(The big iPod) looks exactly like any of the tablets previously produced. Samsung created a remote that is so close to the iPod Touch it may was well be called iRemote.

    There is a world of difference between suing for making a tablet and suing for making a tablet that looks like an iPad.

    I'm not saying Apple should win, but your statement is utter nonsense.

  7. The_Heraclitus Says:

    Irrelevant. Mere looks forced by function doesn't cut it. The early tablets look a lot like the current ones. Including Apples. That suit would therefore be as valid as the current suit.

  8. richardl Says:

    HP has been making tablets since long before the iPhone.

  9. David Says:

    The problem is that Apple(inspired by Star Trek: TNG, perhaps they should sue) perfected both the phone design and tablet design in one shot. Look at the BB and tablets of a few years ago and look at Apple today. A screen with a button.

    That's it.

    There isn't much left that can be done to that design. But here is the problem with all the other companies: They didn't think of it and the design is distinctive. They had years to come up with it and didn't do it.

    I suppose Apple can say that if the idea was so fundamental, how come no one else did it until after we demonstrated that the design is popular. I suspect that Apple's ears still ring with the "No keyboard!! Big iPod Touch! Look at that Glass! Too Fragile!" cries that came out from people when they first introduced their design.

    If these products had failed, it would have been "See? I told you so." Instead, they are pretty blatantly copying and not even being all that subtle about it. These guys plan their pricing and features based on what Apple puts out for Pete's sake.