Top Mac designer says Samsung ‘copied’ Apple’s screen and icon designs in patent trial

Macworld Australia Staff
8 August, 2012
View more articles fromthe author

As the Apple vs Samsung patent battle in the US continues, renowned icon designer and former Apple employee, Susan Kare has testified that, in her opinion, Samsung copied Apple’s iPhone design, by using similar screens and icons in several of its smartphones.

Apple lawyer, Rachel Krevans showed Kare a series of screens comparing Apple’s D’305 patent – displaying a screen with icons similar to those on the iPhone – with a number Samsung handsets, including the Fascinate, the Epic 4G and the Droid Charge.  After each screen was presented, Kare confirmed to the court that the design of Samsung’s screens and icons were copied from Apple’s design patent and the overall look of the iPhone.

Kare was an employee at Apple in the early 1980s, where she designed some of the early Macintosh icons, which have gone on to become some of the most recognised user interface graphics in the industry. From 1986, Kare has operated from her own business, working on designs for big-name tech clients such Microsoft and Autodesk. Since her employment at Apple, Kare has not worked for the company in any capacity, until now.

For the purposes of the trial, Apple hired its former designer to analyse Samsung’s phones and testify in the case as an expert witness. Kare conclude that she believed the icon designs – like the clock and the green phone icons used on the Fascinate, for example –  are “substantially similar” to Apple’s D’305 icons, and, in turn, the iPhone.

Kare also commented on the similarity between both companies’ graphics c and how this could potentially confuse consumers, recounting a recent experience that had this effect on her:

“When I visited the law firm to see about being an expert witness in this case, a number of [phones] were on a table,” Kare said.

“I reached for an iPhone because I could see the screen, to make a point about the user interface, the graphics – and I was holding a Samsung phone. I usually think of myself as someone who’s pretty granular in looking at graphics, and I mistook one for the other.”

Spot the difference: Samsung’s Fascinate homescreen icons (pictured right) copy Apple’s iPhone design, according to Kare

Kare was then cross-examined by Samsung lawyer Charles Verhoeven, who focused his line of questioning to the designer on numerous, small differences between the Samsung phones and the iPhone.

Verhoeven used the Fascinate phone to highlight several key differences between its design and that of the iPhone, focusing on Kare’s earlier testimony that Samsung had infringed on Apple’s design by using a green telephone and clock icons.

“Apple doesn’t own ‘green for go,’ does it?” Verhoeven asked the witness. To which Kare agreed that it did not.

“You’ve seen dozens of icons that have green with telephone receivers on them in the past, haven’t you?” Verhoevan continued.

“When I was looking at this design, I specifically looked at that [Samsung] incarnation of a phone icon,” answered Kare.

Verhoeven finished the cross-examination by asking Kare how much she as being paid byApple to testify on the company’s behalf as an expert. Kare revealed that she is receiving US$550 an hour and that, so far, she has been paid “about [US]$80,000″.

The trial continues today, as more witnesses in Apple’s camp are set to testify.


Leave a Comment

Please keep your comments friendly on the topic.

Contact us