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How To Avoid Infringing On Apple's Patents 323

Posted by Soulskill
from the easy-as-pie dept.
bdking writes "In a public legal brief (PDF), Apple offers numerous design alternatives that Samsung could have used for its smartphones and tablets to avoid infringing on Apple's patents. Basically, as long as competitors' smartphones and tablets bear no resemblance to smartphones and tablets, everything's cool."
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How To Avoid Infringing On Apple's Patents

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  • ok so... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moheeheeko (1682914) on Monday December 05, 2011 @06:38PM (#38273074)
    "[A]lternate tablet computer designs include: 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; and profiles that are not thin relative to the D’889 or that have a cluttered appearance."

    Translation: a completely impractical eyesore that nobody would buy is something we will accept you selling.

  • Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by masternerdguy (2468142) on Monday December 05, 2011 @06:39PM (#38273088)
    Simple, don't make anything electronic, or that uses touch as a method of operation.
  • by pesho (843750) on Monday December 05, 2011 @06:43PM (#38273160)
    USPTO drops any apple patent that implements obvious designs with established prior art.
  • Re:ok so... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by steelfood (895457) on Monday December 05, 2011 @06:48PM (#38273220)

    The ridiculous part is, HP tablet PCs from 10 years ago would completely "violate" Apple's design patents. The only difference between them visually was that Apple's iPad had a black bezel and a glossy screen.

    Functionally, the iPad is thinner, lighter, and has a capacitive touch screen whereas the HP tablet PCs had a resisitive touch screen and a keyboard underneath the screen that added to the weight and thickness of the overall machine.

  • not really (Score:4, Insightful)

    by v1 (525388) on Monday December 05, 2011 @06:48PM (#38273230) Homepage Journal

    as long as competitors' smartphones and tablets bear no resemblance to smartphones and tablets

    That's not how to avoid infringement, that's how to avoid litigation. And in this game, that's not the way business is done. There's "what's illegal" and there's "what you'll get called on". Somewhere in between there lies "what I can get away with". And that's generally what many shoot for. Staying in your comfort zone will just get you buried in the harsh world of business.

    So really, getting a suit brought for infringement at this level really isn't big news. Losing said fight is bad, for whoever loses. It either gives someone a free pass to continue without (as much) further harassment, or tosses a large bucket of water in your foundry. It's a gamble for both sides.

    Apple has a pisspile of ("good" and "bad") patents and prior art on tablet design and touch interfaces, and if you try to compete in their market with something they think they can shove you out with, you can absolutely bet on them trying. It's just good business. And in this case Apple has a strong upper hand because of their early successes in these markets. Don't blame Apple. Whoever made it to the top of the hill first is naturally going to work hard to push the others off as they approach, that's just how the game is played. Doesn't matter if it was Samsung, Google, Nokia, Microsoft, whoever. They'd be doing exactly the same thing if they were in Apple's position right now, fighting to stay on top.

  • Re:ok so... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Trolan (42526) on Monday December 05, 2011 @06:51PM (#38273256) Homepage

    Which also happen to generally be items associated with how tablets looked like prior to the iPad.

    Funny enough, those also line up with a bunch of other tablets, which sell rather well, and for companies Apple isn't suing. Like: The Nook, the Kindle, the Kindle Fire, etc., etc.

  • Re:How to avoid... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by arbiter1 (1204146) on Monday December 05, 2011 @06:51PM (#38273262)
    Another good way to avoid Infringing On Apple's Patents, Just don't even make a device cause no matter what apple will sue claiming infringement to block competition.
  • obvious choices (Score:5, Insightful)

    by l2718 (514756) on Monday December 05, 2011 @06:53PM (#38273292)

    What's notable about this list is that nearly all items are either industry-wide practices (rectangular phones with flat surfaces) or obvious design choices (a thin rim around the front maximize screen area compared with a thick rim). In particular Apple opted for choices anyone facing the design problem would make, but is now trying to prevent others from making the choices.

    Even worse is that the remaining items reflect aesthetic choices on the part of Apple (no adornment, for example). Such choices should indeed be protected, but they are not inventions which deserve patent protection. Instead they are identifying marks which should be protected under trademark law.

  • Re:ok so... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moheeheeko (1682914) on Monday December 05, 2011 @06:59PM (#38273394)
    Its not that everyone else "managed" to avoid getting sued, they just "managed" to avoid possibly giving Apple a run for thier money.

    Samsung is the only developer thats close to being even or taking over Apple in the market, hence why Apple is on them like a fat man on a ham sandwich and letting the others slide down in >10% of the marketshare land

  • So .... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DaMattster (977781) on Monday December 05, 2011 @07:03PM (#38273476)
    I guess that means don't even bother innovating or building anything. I hate the patent system - it has become so broken as to be sorry. I thought patents should protect truly innovative ideas not commonly thought up things such as shapes. What next, someone will try and patent the tri-angle (hyphenated on purpose.)
  • Re:not really (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 05, 2011 @07:03PM (#38273486)

    Problem is this stifle competition and hurt us, the customers.

    The solution? A sensible legal and patent system, where millions are not needed to defend against a frivolous lawsuit.

    Captcha: inequity :)

  • Re:ok so... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Telvin_3d (855514) on Monday December 05, 2011 @07:05PM (#38273510)

    No, if the decade old HP tablet was released today it would not have 'violated' anything. These are design patents. It's more like copyright. It's the same kind of thing that stops anyone but Coke from selling cola in those specifically shaped bottles. And it's not about any one of the claimed similarities. It's about all of them at once.

    If Samsung had changed a single thing on their products there would be no case. Square buttons or a different colour or differently shaped speakers. Anything and the case would never have even been filed.

    Every time this comes up on Slashdot the threads of filled with people treating these like a regular patent case. Running around for prior art and latching on to singe points of data. It got old months ago and has really killed any sort of actual discussion about the lawsuits.

  • Re:obvious choices (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moheeheeko (1682914) on Monday December 05, 2011 @07:09PM (#38273558)
    Palm would like a word with you
  • Re:ok so... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fluffeh (1273756) on Monday December 05, 2011 @07:13PM (#38273630)

    Running around for prior art and latching on to singe points of data. It got old months ago and has really killed any sort of actual discussion about the lawsuits.

    So did all the defending of Apple.

    Smaller, thinner, neater are logical progressive steps in refining a design that is basically rectangular and has buttons. Apple might be inside the law when it says it "owns" this design for a tablet, but at the same time, this court case may well be the one that settles it once and for all.

    To me, this case is the same as if IBM in its early days would have gone after anyone (including Apple) selling some sort of computational device consisting of a box to house everything in, some sort of rectangual screen and an input device consisting of letters and numbers - and tried to maintain a no competition policy using the courts to back its business plan.

    Having said this, I don't mind Apple products, some are quite nice (though I am not a fan of bloaty iTunes at all), but trying to stop anyone making a neat black tablet with rounded corners? Give me a break already...

  • Re:ok so... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zagadka (6641) <zagadka@xenom[ ]ina.com ['ach' in gap]> on Monday December 05, 2011 @07:40PM (#38273994) Homepage

    If Samsung had changed a single thing on their products there would be no case. Square buttons or a different colour or differently shaped speakers. Anything and the case would never have even been filed.

    The Galaxy Tab 10.1 has no face buttons at all. The earlier (7") Galaxy Tab had four face buttons (not one), and none of them looked anything at all like home buttons on iOS devices. Sure looks like Samsung changed (at least) "a single thing"...

  • by OpinionatedDude (1323007) on Monday December 05, 2011 @07:47PM (#38274068)
    A direct copy of an iPhone is a lot like porn. You know it when you see it. Samsung, et. al. flat out copied the iPhone, and then the iPad. Nothing that came before it looked anything like it. Now everything looks just like it. The entire industry copied the crap out of Apple's new devices. The purpose of a patent system is to allow someone who creates something entirely "new" to profit fully from their ingenuity. That is it's full and complete purpose. If the system is very flawed, don't bash Apple for trying to use it as best they can to accomplish the goals of the patent system. Bash the very flawed patent system. If, on the other hand, you disagree with the purpose of a patent system, then you should move to a communist country where nobody benefits from their own ingenuity.
  • Re:ok so... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Monday December 05, 2011 @07:53PM (#38274126) Journal

    Samsung were deliberately cloning Apple

    What kind of idiotic mods modded this post up to +4? This is the kind of person who would probably claim that the F700 [gsmarena.com] was a clone of the iPhone since it's a black monolith with a single button. Never mind that it was released before the iPhone and that most of the samsung phones look much more like the F700 than the iPhone.

    And apparently they copied the charger? This is beyond vapid. It's a cuboid with two pins on the end, just like the charger I had for my Zaurus SL-C3000 in 2004.

  • by kawabago (551139) on Monday December 05, 2011 @07:54PM (#38274152)
    Apple finally joins Microsoft at the bottom of the ethical barrel.
  • Re:ok so... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by interval1066 (668936) on Monday December 05, 2011 @07:56PM (#38274178) Homepage Journal
    Apple has become IBM (see pirates of silicon valley), that's about the best way to spin this whole thing.
  • Re:ok so... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RenderSeven (938535) on Monday December 05, 2011 @08:08PM (#38274310)

    If Samsung had changed a single thing on their products there would be no case.

    Bullshit. Samsung changed quite a few things, but Apple conveniently ignores all the differences. If Samsung changed one of these "single things" then Apple would have ignored that single thing and still sued on the rest. And that is the point here... that Apple's laundry list of similarities, both individually and in sum, are self-servingly arbitrary. Samsung was going to get sued no matter what they came out with, not because of their similarity but because of their success in the market, and Jobs' obsession with killing Android.

  • Re:ok so... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mrchaotica (681592) * on Monday December 05, 2011 @08:09PM (#38274326)

    The goal in making any tablet is to make the screen as large as possible, and the rest of it as small as possible. Something that looks like an iPad is the natural consequence of those goals. It shouldn't be patentable.

  • Re:ok so... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chrb (1083577) on Monday December 05, 2011 @08:14PM (#38274382)

    it's not about any one of the claimed similarities. It's about all of them at once. If Samsung had changed a single thing on their products there would be no case.

    Sorry but this is just plain wrong. Changing one lone design feature does not magically make a product non-infringing. Design patent: [wikipedia.org] "An object with a design that is substantially similar to the design claimed in a design patent cannot be made, used, copied or imported into the United States. The copy does not have to be exact for the patent to be infringed. It only has to be substantially similar."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 05, 2011 @10:11PM (#38275428)

    Yep. And it's still crazy. They're all logical improvements. Thin bezel? Remember old TVs and how they were 90% bezel? Rectangular? Wtf? Lack of buttons? You've got a touchscreen, why do you need extra buttons? A non-flat screen? On a tablet? And so forth. The simple combination of these things shouldn't be protected.

  • by Endo13 (1000782) on Monday December 05, 2011 @10:25PM (#38275518)

    The problem with your claim is that everything listed in TFA is generic design elements, and none of them are remotely patentable, either individually OR together. No rounded corners? Seriously? Nothing rectangular? No clear or black screen? I mean really, WTF. Honestly, what would you be saying if the first LCD screen manufacturer had included such outrageous things as part of their patented design?

    Patents have never been about how something looks. They're about how something works.

    Any respect I had left for Apple is completely eradicated after reading that article.

  • Re:ok so... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kiwirob (588600) on Monday December 05, 2011 @10:51PM (#38275714) Homepage

    Patents are supposed to be there to protect the inventor of a new idea, to allow them to market and make money off their new invention. Making an existing idea/product neater, giving it a pleasing case/housing and rounded corners should not be a patentable market distinction.

    You are mistaking "Design Patents" vs good old regular patents. Design Patents are more like copyright but for industrial design so one company can not simply go out and exactly copy their competitors product and create customer confusion in the market. Should it be ok for a Korean or Chinese company to make an 99% copy of a Corvette car and then flood the USA market with it confusing customers if it's a real Corvette or a imported "copy". A Design Patent protects things like the styling of a particular make of car and it's distinctive qualities, like a Corvette looks very distinctive. It doesn't have anything to do with the internal suspension, ABS, traction control or other technical elements of the car that may be covered by other unrelated patents.

    During the Australian Apple vs Samsung lawsuit the Judge held up an Samsung Galaxy Tab and an iPad in each hand and asked Samsung's head lawyer which one was made by his client. For a few yards away the Samsung lawyer was unable to correctly identify the Galaxy Tab. That is because Samsung intentionally designed their product to look as close as possible to Apples and create confusion in the market place. Motorola, HTC, Dell, HP, and Research in Motion can make tablets that don't create the same level of confusion amongst customers. Samsung can too make unique and distinctive products if they wanted. But instead they are trying to copy Apples to give them a competitive advantage over the other Andriod manufactures.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 05, 2011 @11:22PM (#38275886)

    Samsung have market share, that's why. Samsung has problems because Apple want to give Samsung problems.

  • Apple just hasn't gotten around to suing the other companies yet. Samsung is the biggest threat, so they're trying to cut the head off the snake. It's not like Apple steals liberally from Android, either... biggest bunch of hypocrites. They do good design, but they take liberal inspiration from other products and then somehow convince their faithful that they're unique. They execute well, but they don't design in a complete vacuum.

  • Re:ok so... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by um... Lucas (13147) on Monday December 05, 2011 @11:32PM (#38275972) Homepage Journal

    As said before in this thread, everyone taking Apple to task over this is painting an overly broad picture due to their anti-apple mindset. To your example, Apple, in your Ford Scenario, would not be out there suing every manufacturer of a vehicle that relied on a gas engine and had four wheels. They would, though, take the manufacturer of a vehicle that, from every angle viewed, would pass for a Mustang to a casual observer. That's the case here. Other tablets are fine, just as other cars are. But Apple is seeking to disallow tablets designed to so closely resemble their product.

    Perhaps design patents aren't the proper venue for this. Asi do agree with your reasoning about the existence of patents. However, another forum should turn out the same result. I'd say the case design should be copyrighted or trademarked, but we all know how most slash dotters feel about copyrights.. :)

    End point is, if you look at the tablet market, many companies have managed to come up with their own tablets with unique and identifiable designs that don't clearly leach every design aspect from the iPad. That samsung couldn't or didn't do that is their own fault, and to my mind, it's certainly understandable that a company that spent countless hours refining their products design should be able to prevent other players from passively sitting back and doing nothing but waiting for their competitors final design to emerge and then simply utilizing that design just about in its entirety.

  • Re:ok so... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by viperidaenz (2515578) on Monday December 05, 2011 @11:55PM (#38276136)
    No, because Apple can photoshop the exhibits to correct the aspect ratio of the Samsung device, remove the logo, etc...
  • Re:ok so... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fluffeh (1273756) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @12:42AM (#38276390)

    To your example, Apple, in your Ford Scenario, would not be out there suing every manufacturer of a vehicle that relied on a gas engine and had four wheels. They would, though, take the manufacturer of a vehicle that, from every angle viewed, would pass for a Mustang to a casual observer.

    This comparison [mobilemegamall.com] of five tablets (Samsung Galaxy, and Galaxy 2, the Xoom, Playbook and iPad2) really shows in my opinion that there are certain things that every tablet will have:
    1) Minimal design - something neat, something clean where the touch screen is the focal point.
    2) Some sort of border around the screen - which is due to engineering constraints.
    3) Will probably have rounded corners. (My monitor has rounded corners, so does my laptop, so did the ruler that I had in primary school.

    To say that the Galaxy Tab 2 from every angle viewed, would pass for a [iPad2] to a casual observer is a stretch. To a casual observer any of those devices could be mistaken for any other. To a casual observer, a HP laptop could be mistaken as a Dell and vice-versa.

    I'd say the case design should be copyrighted or trademarked, but we all know how most slash dotters feel about copyrights.. :)

    You can't trademark something that in itself is so broad - that's the whole point of most of the people that you seem to think are attacking Apple here. No company should be allowed to make a tablet (and have a design trademarked) that says "Screen, small border, rounded corners, one button" and stop anyone else making a tablet that had a screen, small border, rounded corners and a single button. Don't paint with such a broad brush. Would I support Apple if Samsung was putting an Apple logo on their tablet? Absolutely. They aren't. Apple generally uses a minimalist approach to presenting their products visually. That's fine, a lot of people like a clean, simple, minimalist approach. However, they cannot stop others using a minimalist approach.

    Lastly, when Apple pulls this sort of shit [bbc.co.uk] it really makes it hard for someone like me to try to be understanding towards them in this case.

  • by tbannist (230135) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @09:34AM (#38278798)

    Sometimes "a more nuanced opinion" is really "idiots who can't accept reality". The issue is that the Samsung phone looks too much like the iPhone according to Apple. It's not a strawman argument to repeat what Apple has actually claimed. Yes, there's some additional parts to, but it's basically it's black, rectangular with square corners. Every other part of the claim is equally stupid. The reason the Samsung phone looks too much like the iPhone is that they're both constrained by the same design limitations and there are a limited number of ways to solve the problems. Smart phones with touch screens are going to be rectangular, with few buttons and most of the space dedicated to the screen or they're going to be terrible.

    In this case the "more nuanced opinion" is an apologist trying to invent a rational where it isn't Apple trying to establish a legal monopoly on smart phones. The alternatives suggested by Apple are ridiculous at best.

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