New court documents hint at Samsung not exactly copying Apple

Earlier this year in August, a 9 person jury concluded that Samsung had infringed upon multiple design and software patents of Apple. This trial was the main event of the year for the mobile industry as the two titans faced off in a battle of epic proportions. Ultimately the verdict awarded the Cupertino-based company $1.051 billion in damages. Following the trial, residing Judge Lucy Koh issued several orders that focused on having a number of documents in the lawsuit be unsealed and unredacted.

Tech law blog Groklaw, after reviewing numerous documents and evidence has identified multiple misleading arguments Apple used against Samsung in the trial however. As many will recall, during the trial Apple attorneys used a Samsung internal memo as evidence that the company was intentionally copying Apple’s iPhone. In that memo, Samsung Mobile President JK Shin had expressed disappointment at how far behind the Korean company’s user experience had become to Apple’s. Shin was quoted as saying the difference was “…truly that of Heaven and Earth” and Samsung had suffered from a “crisis of design”. While these statements are valid, Apple had revealed during the trial that Shin told his designers to “make something like the iPhone“. Based on Groklaw‘s findings, however, Apple had left out key parts of the quote.

In that internal memo, Shin, actually stated:

…let’s make something like the iPhone. When everybody talk about UX, they weigh it against the iPhone. The iPhone has become the standard. That’s how things are already.”  

The Executive then went on to state:

Designers rightly must make their own designs with conviction and confidence; do not strive to do designs to please me; instead make designs with faces that are creative and diverse.

As these quotes suggest, Shin never instructed his teams to design a copy of Apple’s UI but rather suggest his team  should remain creative and focus on the comfort and ease of use akin to what Apple’s offering has done.

Shin also instructed his designers to do their best to design a device that “…(does not have) a plastic feeling and instead create a metallic feel”. Certainly this is a design philosophy that is very similar to Apple’s but also one all companies have begun exploring. Shin was also observed as stating that Samsung should focus on leveraging larger displays, a feature that Apple didn’t include until it released its iPhone 5 this year.

Our biggest asset is our screen,” he said. “It is very important that we make screen size bigger, and in the future mobile phones will absorb even the function of e-books.

As expected, the statements above were never revealed by Apple during the trial. Instead Apple’s attorneys used the bits and pieces of select quotes to formulate their case and mislead the jury as to Samsung’s standing. Never the less, it is difficult to deny that portions of Samsung’s design on its devices and UI are certainly pulled from Apple’s iOS. Perhaps these same designers Shin spoke to, out of a lack of creativity or other unknown factors decided to utilize Apple’s standards.

It is not known how these details will play into Samsung’s appeal process of the verdict but it does reveal interesting details on how the case played out for both companies.


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