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Let's talk about this picture of a Samsung F700

Let's talk about this picture of a Samsung F700

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So this very funny picture of a Samsung F700 and the original iPhone is like the lolcat companion to my Apple / Samsung lawsuit analysis from yesterday. I'm seeing it everywhere, and it's been sent to me several times. I definitely laughed when I saw it -- at first glance it's very well-done, apart from the "being" typo in the headline. (I have no idea where it came from, though -- did you make it? Tell me and I'll link you up.)

Unfortunately, however, it's also factually inaccurate: the F700 was announced in Feburary 2007 at Mobile World Congress, after the iPhone was announced in January at MacWorld, and it's actually a chunky 16.4mm-thick slider QWERTY that looks appreciably different than the iPhone. It also has a homescreen that's quite different than iOS -- what you're seeing above is the function menu. (Remember, it was a dumbphone: no apps!) But that's been hashed out all over the place. I want to point out something else. Let's look at the F700 in a different context. Instead of looking at the similarities, let's try to highlight the differences.

I think it's pretty clear here that one of these things is not like the others. The entire aesthetic of the F700 interface is significantly different than either iOS or TouchWiz: the icons are monochrome and have unique designs, there's that cool X/Y highlight on the selected icon, there's a text label at the top. And the list goes on, especially if you look at the F700's actual homescreen:

These aren't just minor differences: they combine to create an entire user experience that is instantly and recognizably different than an Apple or iOS product. In many ways, the F700 does nothing but underline Apple's overall contention: that there are thousands of ways to design and package a phone interface, but Samsung chose to drop its differentiated interface and instead lift elements of Apple's style for TouchWiz. I don't think anyone would use the F700 interface and think it's an iPhone, and I don't think anyone using the iPhone today is thinking about the F700. But do people see TouchWiz and think "oh, that's an iPhone?" That's the most important thing when it comes to trade dress and trademark: what brand does the average consumer associate with certain design elements, phrases, and words? That relationship is incredibly valuable, especially to a company like Apple. Ironically, if Samsung had just continued to develop the interface ideas shown in the F700, it likely wouldn't be facing this particular lawsuit -- Apple's cases against Motorola, HTC, and Nokia are all based on technical system-level utility patents, not trade dress, trademark, or design patents.

Now, I'm very very curious to see how Samsung responds to this lawsuit before I say much else on this subject -- I think we'll learn something about the company's negotiations with Apple in the past, and I think we'll see just how intent Samsung leadership is in fighting back. It's going to be an interesting few months -- that could turn into an interesting few years.