Lets face it, all this legal news has gotten way out of control and I was over it months ago, but I have to admit, it’s starting to get interesting again. With Samsung and Apple set to battle it out next week, we’ve seen trial briefs from both Samsung and Apple, but as part of Samsung’s trial brief there was a mention about Sony and this quote:
For good measure, Apple seeks to exclude Samsung from the market, based on its complaints that Samsung has used the very same public domain design concepts that Apple borrowed from other competitors, including Sony, to develop the iPhone. Apple‘s own internal documents show this. In February 2006, before the claimed iPhone design was conceived of, Apple executive Tony Fadell circulated a news article that contained an interview of a Sony designer to Steve Jobs, Jonathan Ive and others. In the article, the Sony designer discussed Sony portable electronic device designs that lacked “excessive ornamentation” such as buttons, fit in the hand, were “square with a screen” and had “corners [which] have been rounded out.”
In 2006 two Sony product designers, Takashi Ashida and Yujin Morisawa, were interviewed by BusinessWeek. They were asked about design philosophies and how or if the iPod influenced their own designs for their new Walkman player. This very article was circulated internally to Apple executives and of course Steve Jobs saw it. Supposedly he ordered Apple designer Shin Nishibori to come up with a similar looking device.
Here’s what Sony had to say about it:
Right after this article [BusinessWeek's interview of Sony designers] was circulated internally, Apple industrial designer Shin Nishibori was directed to prepare a “Sony-like” design for an Apple phone and then had CAD drawings and a three-dimensional model prepared. Confirming the origin of the design, these internal Apple CAD drawings prepared at Mr. Nishibori‘s direction even had the “Sony” name prominently emblazoned on the phone design, as the below images from Apple‘s internal documents show:
Soon afterward, on March 8, 2006, Apple designer Richard Howarth reported that, in contrast to another internal design that was then under consideration, Mr. Nishibori‘s “Sony-style” design enabled “a much smaller-looking product with a much nicer shape to have next to your ear and in your pocket” and had greater “size and shape/comfort benefits.” As Mr. Nishibori has confirmed in deposition testimony, this “Sony-style” design he prepared changed the course of the project that yielded the final iPhone design.
By convincing the court that Apple copied Sony, Samsung’s hope is that any evidence that they copied Apple would be null and void. Lastly, Samsung said this:
“Samsung has used the very same public domain design concepts that Apple borrowed from other competitors, including Sony, to develop the iPhone.”
It’s a chess game at this point and I agree, nobody should have to be spending time and money in the courts over this stuff. Unfortunately our legal and patent system is set up to work like this. The attorneys win and innovation suffers. I will say though that I’m a little more intrigued with this case now as things are really heating up.