Apple design expert calls Samsung a copycat

Apple is once again turning to designers to help make its case that Samsung lifted its smartphone and tablet designs, this time going to a company outsider to prove its point.

Industrial designer Peter Bressler
(Credit: University of Pennsylvania)

In testimony yesterday, Peter Bressler — a former president of the Industrial Designers Society, and the founder and board chair of product design firm Bresslergroup — said that numerous Samsung designs have infringed on Apple's patented designs.

"My opinion [is] that there are a number of Samsung phones and two Samsung tablets that are substantially the same as the design in those [Apple] patents," Bressler said.

As a result, Bressler suggested that consumers could confuse one of Samsung's devices with Apple's.

To back that point up, Bressler, the inventor or co-inventor of about 70 patents, went through how nearly a dozen Samsung devices are similar to Apple's. That includes Samsung's first- and second-generation Galaxy S phones, as well as the company's Galaxy tablets.

Bressler also attempted to gut Samsung's prior art defence, which cites a Japanese design patent issued to rival electronics firm Sharp in 2005. That device, which Samsung suggested looks like the iPhone, is unlike the ones depicted in Apple's patents, since it has a curved, non-flat front, Bressler argued.

It's not the first time that these design claims have been laid out in the case, which pits the tech competitors and business partners against one another. However, it is perhaps the deepest inspection made during the trial so far of what exactly Apple's design patents cover. In his own words, Bressler said that one of the key issues at stake is that industrial designers see things differently than "normal" people do.

"Industrial designers are trained to pay attention to a lot of the little details that work together to form the overall impression that the usual consumer would view," he said. "So [consumers] may see those details, but they tend to be somewhat subconscious to the overall view."

Despite those claims, Samsung's lawyers pushed Bressler on how well he really knows how customers shop. That included getting him to admit that he hasn't witnessed any customers accidentally purchasing a product from either Apple or Samsung when believing it to be from the other company. He was instead was relying on information furnished by Apple about that from a Samsung-led study on Best Buy shoppers.

Samsung also attempted to raise questions about Bressler's understandings of design, asking him about numerous details from button designs on Android phones to the angles and bezels on accused Samsung devices. At one point during cross-examination, Bressler became irritated by the questions.

"You're asking me to compare peanut butter and turkey," Bressler said. When asked which device was which food item, he said, "I'm getting frustrated by the level of detail you're asking me to analyse."

Bressler is just one of several design specialists that Apple is calling on to make its argument, and he told the court that the technology company is paying him US$400 an hour for his services, which so far has resulted in US$75,000 worth of work. Up after him, and also expected to testify, is Susan Kare, an early Apple employee and designer who may be best known for creating the original set of graphics on the Mac.

Earlier in the day, Samsung's top strategy officer, Justin Denison, was on the stand where he offered a sharply different interpretation, rebutting allegations that Samsung "slavishly" copied Apple's iPhones and iPads.

"I find it very offensive," Denison said. "At Samsung, we're very, very proud of the products we produce, of all the hard work that goes into bringing those products to market.

"What we would like to be able to do is simply compete in the market, continue what we've been doing for the last 15 years in the market," he added.

But this is the crux of the dispute between the companies. In previous document dumps, for instance, Apple submitted evidence to buttress its claim that Samsung took its product design cues from the iPad and iPhone. (See the images put together by Apple below.)

(Credit: Apple)

In an earlier deposition, Bressler elaborated in detail on his conclusions. Based on his analysis of the designs used by both companies in their commercial products, he said that Samsung is not bound by function, and indeed considered alternative designs that were different from the tablets it later released.

For example, one of the Samsung tablet models featured a wide, opaque frame on the front surface around the display screen. The fact that Samsung and other manufacturers have commercially released tablets with alternative different-looking designs shows that Samsung had access to a variety of design options that would have provided equivalent or similar functionality for the end user. These alternative designs belie any suggestion that utilitarian or functional considerations dictated the design of the D'889 patent, or of Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1.

From top row, left to right: Sony Tablet S, Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet, Coby Kyros, Acer Iconia A500, Sony Tablet P and Vinci Tablet. Bressler's deposition pointed to them as designs representative of some alternatives that have been commercialised.
(Credit: Apple)


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BenD5 posted a comment   

Apple is basically suing Samsung for having a rectangular tablet?
ive lost any diminishing respect for apple after this. pathetic. they know they are dying and they are trying to take samsung down with it.


trebor83 posted a comment   

Ok, my bad. I was perhaps a little to direct in making statements of my opinion about things that are currently before courts in multiple jurisdiction and which are likely as not going to rule against me.

However I would like to invite people to play a little game that is a favorite of Sesame Street, Which of these things is not like the other. Google images (if i could post pictures here i would do it for you) of the Samsung F700 (the phone Samsung want to point to as evidence that they were developing iPhone like things before the iPhone), the iPhone and the original Galaxy S and decide for yourself.

TO ME there is little question that the odd one out is the inch thick QWERTY slider with the resistive touch screen, but that could just be me.


dookeye posted a reply   

I agree that the Samsung F700 is the odd one out but only because of the keyboard. If Samsung has stolen technology inside the device then fair enough, but arguing over shape on this small scale is a bit ridiculous on both sides.


dookeye posted a comment   


Ape, thats good :)

I take your point, but basically these are just shapes they are arguing over. I must admit that I lean towards the side of patents being prohibitive to all of us going forward in what we invent as a species, but everybody needs to make money as well, I suppose.

A couple of years ago my work colleagues traveled to Samsung headquarters in South Korea. They came back claiming that Samsung people where stating that their goal was to take what others had done and make it better.


dookeye posted a comment   

Humans, from the dawn of their existence, have taken what has come before and built upon it, these sort of patents are a joke. Luckily we didn't have patents when flint hand axes were invented. Apple iAXE v Samsung AXE III.


RoedyG posted a comment   

"is unlike the ones depicted in Apple's patents, since it has a curved, non-flat front, Bressler argued"

Good lord. These suits think they invented the flat and curved shapes. The arrogance!


BeauW posted a comment   

This is pathetic. It's obvious Apple are pulling out the stops to try and stop Samsung from being the success it is so Apple can go back to being the #1 phone seller.


trebor83 posted a reply   

Really? So you actually believe that Samsung in no way ripped off Apple's designs in making the GalaxyS and, to a slightly lesser extent, Galaxy SII?


MitchellT posted a comment   

i call it "keeping up with design trends" not copying!

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