Federal judge says important evidence should not be considered because Samsung was "too late" filing it

If Judge Lucy Koh of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (San Jose/San Francisco) had her way, the public would never have known that Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) coveted iPhone design was developed based on a verbal description of a "future phone" by veteran gadget-maker Sony Corp. (TYO:6758).  More surprisingly, she also wished to suppress Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd.'s (KSC:005930) from sharing details on its own designs which preceded the iPhone.

I. Samsung Hits Dead End in Trying to Prove Prior Art

Samsung's lawyers were under great pressure as Apple pushed for a speedy trial.  But late in the pre-trial proceedings they discovered seeming pay dirt.  

Samsung engineers had worked on dozens of designs in 2006 that looked like its later design handsets, which Apple is suing Samsung for, claiming it "ripped off" the design of the iPhone.  One of the designs looked almost identical to the later iPhone -- but it was design patented in 2006 -- just before Apple announced the iPhone and filed for U.S. Design Patent D593,087.

Sifting through gigabytes of data from Apple, including scores of backed up emails they also discovered that Apple's original design had been inspired by an interview with Sony, with the iPhone being quite literally a sketch of what Apple engineers thought the Sony device might look like based on a verbal description.  Early CAD mockups of the iPhone even made unauthorized use of Sony's text logo, further driving home the point that the iPhone was Sony-derived.

Samsung evidence
Samsung was banned from showing evidence in court that could absolve it from copying claims.  The company may now be punished for sharing that evidence with the press. [Image Source: The Verge]

Judge Koh, however, ruled that the evidence was submitted too late in the discovery process.  Samsung tried to appeal on a technicality -- Apple had actually shown one of the designs (the F700 media player) in one of its evidence slides, apparently mistakenly believing the 2006-era device was announced in 2007 (after the iPhone announcement).  Judge Koh rejected this argument.

She admonished Samsung, noting in patronizing fashion, "Samsung has filed like 10 motions for reconsideration."

Samsung lawyer John Quinn tried to sway her saying his side was "begging the court" to allow the important evidence.  What was the point of wasting a jury's time considering design infringement and possibly reaching a flawed outcome if there's compelling evidence that Samsung did not steal the iPhone design, he argued -- he commented, "What's the point in having a trial?"

Judge Koh refused to listen, ordering the attorney to "sit down".  She warned, "Don't make me sanction you.  Please."

II. Judge Blasts Samsung for Sharing Denied Evidence

The federal judge ordered Samsung's copies of the evidence be destroyed, never to be seen by jurors or the public.  But Samsung refused to comply leaking the evidence to All Things DWired, and several other sites with accompanying text stating, "The excluded evidence would have established beyond doubt that Samsung did not copy the iPhone design."

Its product chief Kevin Packingham also gave an interview with Wired blasting Apple's claims to have "patented" rights to a rectangular smartphone design with rounded edges.

According to The Verge, Judge Koh became "livid" upon finding out about the media releases from Samsung.  She demanded, "I want Mr. Quinn's declaration as to what his role was.  I want to know who authorized it."

Samsung's attorneys may now face sanctions from the court.

iPad girl
Apple claims to have "invented" the rectangle, in essence. [DeviantArt/KalasPuff]

Judge Koh several weeks ago banned the Samsung Nexus smartphone and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet.

The bad news for Samsung is that the denied evidence and sanctions could hurt it as the case goes to trial.  The good news is that Samsung's multiple pleas to admit the evidence could give it fodder for an appeal, should it lose.

III. Update: Apple Disputes Claims it "Copied" Sony, Shows Off Purple Prototype

In newly released court filings, Apple counters Samsung's claim that it "ripped off" Sony in some shape or form, with its "Sony" iPhone (later "Jony") mockup.  Apple shows an August 2005 design that came months before Jony dubbed "Purple".  The mockup looks like an iPhone with a single "Menu" button on the face of the device.

iPhone purple mockups
Purple & Co. [Image Source: The Verge]

This is plausible, given Apple's 2004-era iPad design featured no face buttons.  It appeared that Apple sometime in 2006 decided a single face button was a reasonable compromise -- an approach it later applied to its iPad.  As with the iPad, it appears Apple actually produced a physical mockup of the "Purple" concept.

All Things D has also gotten its hands on more sketches and mockups of early iPhones.  The earliest, it says, date back to 2004 -- the same time when Apple mocked up the iPad.

iPhone sketches
Early iPhone musings, circa 2004 [Image Source: All Things Digital]

Apple says that Shin Nishibori's Sony mockups were "an 'enjoyable' side project", but that the basic iPhone design idea had already floating around at Apple's secretive product development group for some time.

Sources: The Verge [1], [2]

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