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iPhone and iPad designs are 'obvious' and shouldn't be protected, says Samsung expert

iPhone and iPad designs are 'obvious' and shouldn't be protected, says Samsung expert

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Samsung called an expert witness today who testified that the design of the iPhone and iPad were obvious given previous devices, and that they should not be protected.

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iPhone design patent image
iPhone design patent image

Apple has spent quite a bit of time describing how unique the visual characteristics of the iPhone and iPad are, but a Samsung expert witness disagrees, stating today that the designs of each of the devices was obvious given several examples of prior art. Itay Sherman took the stand to discuss three Apple design patents: the '677 and '087 patents that describe the front face of the iPhone, and the '889 patent that covers the iPad design.

Sherman showed four examples of prior art when discussing the iPhone, including two Japanese design patents, a Korean design patent, and the LG Prada — all of which pre-dated the iPhone. All of the examples feature rectangular shapes with rounded corners and centered screens. When taken together, Sherman said, they meant Apple's patented designs were not unique.

For the iPad, Sherman turned to two physical devices: the Compaq TC1000 tablet computer, and a mock-up put together in 1994 by Roger Fidler. The iPad patent specifies a device with a front face with edge-to-edge glass, while the Fidler concept featured a frame with an inset screen. By combining the TC1000's front face with the Fidler concept, Sherman said, you would get the elements contained in the '889 patent — and therefore the iPad design should not be protected either.

A Lumia makes a courtroom appearance

Design patents cover elements that are ornamental in nature — not strictly functional — something that Sherman said invalidated Apple's patents as well. He noted that several of the design elements from Apple's patent were utilitarian: rounded corners increase comfortability in the hand, and make devices easier to pull from your pocket, for example. Apple's legal team took the statement as an opportunity to attack. Showing Sherman several other phones on the market, they forced Sherman to admit that any type of rounded corners would provide the functionality benefit he described — not just the specific degree of rounding Apple used and has accused Samsung of copying. They also showed a Nokia Lumia device as an example of a phone that doesn't use any of the discussed iPhone design elements, countering the notion that Apple's choices were functional necessities.

The visuals Sherman presented were compelling when he began his testimony, though Apple definitely seemed to score some points near the close; we'll have to find out from the jury who was most effective. Judge Koh is pushing hard for both sides to finish up all of the testimony this week, and we'll be keeping you posted with the day-to-day developments.

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