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 centered 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 color other than black for the front, and/or designed thicker devices with a more cluttered look instead.
Two days ago, a U.S. 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.