Apple's early iPhone prototypes were inspired by Sony, while Samsung knew its tablets and smartphones were virtually indistinguishable from Apple's but launched them anyway, court documents reveal.
A US jury trial in the high stakes patent infringement battle between Apple and Samsung begins on Monday, and both have filed their trial briefs. Amongst court documents is a slew of photographs of iPhone and iPad prototypes, first revealed by The Verge.
In Australia, after the High Court in December overturned a decision to ban the Galaxy Tab 10.1 from sale, the Federal Court is now hearing Samsung's counter-claim that Apple infringed Samsung's patents related to 3G communications technology.
Australian patent lawyer Mark Summerfield, senior associate at Watermark, said he did not expect the US case to impact the case in Australia as in the US the hearing would be concerned with Apple's "design patents" protecting the physical appearance of products, whereas the case in Australia concerned their function.
Apple's US trial brief, obtained by The Wall Street Journal's AllThingsD blog, reveals the company will rely on internal Samsung emails showing the similarity of Samsung's products to Apple's is "no accident".
"Rather, it results from Samsung's deliberate plan to free-ride on the iPhone's and iPad's extraordinary success by copying their iconic designs and intuitive user interface," Apple's brief reads.
"Apple will rely on Samsung's own documents, which tell an unambiguous story."
The company is asking for Samsung to pay damages of US$2.5 billion (NZ$3.1b) to cover its estimated lost profits.
Among the documents is one from February 2010 showing Google warned Samsung that its Galaxy Tab and Galaxy Tab 10.1 products (code-named P1 and P3) were "too similar" to the iPad. It demanded "distinguishable designs".
Another from 2011 shows Samsung's Product Design Group noted it was "regrettable" that the Galaxy S "looks similar" to older iPhone models.
Furthermore, third-party designers warned Samsung that the Galaxy S "looked like it copied the iPhone too much". They warned that "all you have to do is cover up the Samsung logo and it's difficult to find anything different from the iPhone".
Samsung hit back with its own court filing, seen by Fairfax Media, claiming that Apple's iPhone wasn't its own invention but in fact based on Sony products.
In 2006, the year before the iPhone was launched, Apple industrial designer Shin Nishibori was directed to design an iPhone prototype inspired by Sony. The Apple prototypes even had the "Sony" logo bar one which was renamed "Jony" after Apple design chief Sir Jonathan Ive.
Compared to Apple's own internal prototype that looked like an iPod Mini, Apple designer Richard Howarth noted the Sony-inspired designs allowed for a "much smaller-looking product with a much nicer shape".
One bears a striking resemblance to the iPhone 4 and was described by Howarth as "only half a step away from the current model".
Other internal Apple emails contained in Samsung's brief showed Apple employees claiming that the iPhone's features weren't first to the market but instead the "first successful versions of many features".
Samsung also tabled its own internal documents from 2006 purportedly showing that it was working on iPhone-style designs "well before the iPhone was announced". It claims much of what Apple complains of is Samsung simply "benchmarking" products against competitors, which Apple also practices.
"Samsung has been researching and developing mobile telecommunications technology since at least as early as 1991 and invented much of the technology for today's smartphones," Samsung claims.
"Indeed, Apple, which sold its first iPhone nearly twenty years after Samsung started developing mobile phone technology, could not have sold a single iPhone without the benefit of Samsung's patented technology."
A US federal court judge this week sanctioned Samsung for destroying email evidence relevant to the case, saying the company "failed to prevent" its destruction.
Patent lawyer Summerfield said settlement talks between Samsung and Apple appeared to have failed because Apple believes its patents are worth significantly more than the Samsung patents involved in the case.
Since Samsung's technology forms an essential part of 3G, unlike Apple, it has already previously agreed to make its patents available to all comers on "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory" terms.
"The fact that it [Samsung] cannot deny a license to a good-faith requestor may mean that the court will not grant an injunction, which weakens Samsung's negotiating position," he said.
"Apple seems to hold the view that standards-essential patents are inherently less valuable than its user-experience patents. I am not persuaded that this is the case.
"Samsung has invested huge sums of money over two decades in its contributions to mobile communications technology, and to suggest that a license covering the huge number of patents (hundreds?) it owns in this area should be much cheaper than a license to a handful of Apple UX patents fails to recognise this reality."
Federal Court Justice Annabelle Bennett recently labelled Samsung and Apple's patent dispute over the 3G wireless transmission technology "ridiculous" and said it might be best settled in mediation.
In the US, Judge Lucy Koh in California already tried to resolve the issue via mediation but it did not work.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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