Apple to Samsung: Make square, cluttered tablets

Melanie Pinola
6 December, 2011
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Apple proffers design advice on how Samsung could avoid stepping on Apple’s design patent toes, in a legal brief filed as part of its ongoing patent infringement lawsuit against its competitor.

Some of the alternative design options Apple has suggested for Samsung seem so farcical you’d think you were reading The Onion: Don’t make tablets or smartphones with overall rectangular shapes or rounded corners, make tablets with front surfaces that aren’t completely flat, try cluttering the appearance of the devices and more.

When Apple sued Samsung in April, the company claimed Samsung had “slavishly” copied the distinctive designs of the iPhone and iPad, thereby violating Apple intellectual property rights. In its rebuttal, Samsung argues that there are only so many ways you could design devices like the Galaxy S and Galaxy Tab.

Apple obviously doesn’t think so. To defend its claim that Samsung had other design options, Apple had to provide examples of design alternatives.

The design alternatives

In section 2-40 and 2-41 of the redacted public legal brief (pdf), Apple offers alternative smartphone designs Samsung could have used instead:

  • Front surfaces that are not black or clear
  • 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 centred on the front surface of the phone and that have substantial lateral borders
  • Speaker openings that are not horizontal slots with rounded ends and that are not centered above the display screen
  • Front surfaces that contain substantial adornment
  • Phones without bezels at all or very different-looking bezels that are not thin, uniform and with an inwardly sloping profile

The tablet alternatives Apple felt Samsung should have explored are similar:

  • 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 that have substantial adornment
  • Thick frames rather than a thin rim around the front surface
  • Profiles that are not thin
  • A cluttered appearance

So, Samsung could’ve avoided this lawsuit altogether if it had a square (or perhaps triangular or round) smartphone and tablet instead, chosen a colour other than black for the front, and/or designed thicker devices with a more cluttered look instead.

Two days ago, a US District Court judge denied Apple’s request to halt sales of the competing Samsung products (the Galaxy S 4G, Infuse 4G, Droid Charge and Galaxy Tab 10.1). The infringement issue was too close to call, the court ruled, despite Apple’s claim in its brief that Samsung had “so many different design choices” it could have used instead.


4 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. udi says:

    I drew a rectangle before steve jobs created apple and I’m gonna sue.

  2. Chris Manners says:

    What stunningly, breathtaking arrogance! A tablet is a tablet, a phone is a phone (smart or otherwise) – individual preference is what makes the (buying) difference.

  3. me says:

    There really is only so many ways that you can do this. while a circular or triangular tablet would be kinda cool, how practical would it be?

  4. David Everingham says:

    It seems to me that even Apple is missing the point. It has done the hard work inventing a handheld device (as described) that works intuitively enough that the person in the street positively *wants* to use one.

    It is like inventing the wheel, to use an extreme example; Apple’s move is like insisting that its competitors make their wheels thinner, or with different colours, or with longer or shorter spokes. (What it does not do, and what would be relevant, would be to insist that others’ wheels be square, or triangular, or something.)

    When you make simple, something that used to be difficult, the difference is in what is not there, and that is hard to “see”.

    The real issue is that they can now make wheels, too; either the world protects the IP in the original invention, or (representatively) Apple just accepts rampant profiting from its work.

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