Samsung Product Chief Takes Issue With Apple "Owning" the Rectangle
July 31, 2012 1:03 PM
He says Apple is the biggest troll in the current legal conflict
The small legion of lawyers from Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (
) and Apple, Inc. (
) will today be waging war as their high-profile trial begins in
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
in San Jose, Calif. Both companies have submitted their briefs [
]. The jury
has been selected
. Everything is in place for a dynamic legal war as each company seeks to convince a jury that the other
I. "Patenting the Rectangle"
On the eve of that battle, Kevin Packingham, Samsung's Chief Product Officer, discussed his feelings on the case with
provides a fascinating look at Samsung's complexities and frustrations.
One topic that drew Mr. Packingham's ire during the interview was Apple's lawyers claiming that their design patents grant them a monopoly on rectangular patents.
Apple claims to have "invented" the rectangle, in essence. [DeviantArt/KalasPuff]
In terms of patents, we have a made lot of contributions in the design space as well. I would say the patents we’re struggling with — where there’s a lot of discussion and litigation right now — are around these very broad design patents like a rectangle. For us, it’s unreasonable that we’re fighting over rectangles, that that’s being considered as an infringement, which is why we’re defending ourselves.
Hopefully the entire industry is in the position now where we have to defend ourselves and say, “Look, it’s unreasonable for us to be in the position of claiming that there is design, claiming that there is some sort of protected property, around a rectangle.” So I would say, yeah, we have design patents as well, but they’re not as simple as the rectangle. And so that’s where I think you see a little bit of this challenge.
In some cases, for most of us in the industry, it’s defying common sense. We’re all scratching our heads and saying, “How is this possible that we’re actually having an industry-level debate and trying to stifle competition?” Consumers want rectangles and we’re fighting over whether you can deliver a product in the shape of a rectangle.
Logically, as an engineering and manufacturing company, it makes more sense to focus on the things that are really relevant and we think are truly intellectual property. They are truly unique, and have come intrinsically out of the investments we made in R&D. A rectangle did not come out of R&D investment that we’ve made. Some of our products happen to be in the shape of a rectangle, but I wouldn’t consider that to be an art or a science that we’ve created.
To be clear, Mr. Packingham's comments refer to the arguments constructed by Apple's lawyers. The actual patents in question, such as a patent on the iPad design (
U.S. Design Patent D504,889
Apple's D'889 patent [Image Source: Google Patents]
...are mostly pictures with little text.
Apple's lawyers are choosing to claim that those pictures represent a patent granted on a rectangular "minimalist" design.
II. Samsung Sees Apple as Only Unreasonable Player
The Samsung executive labels Apple as the
key villain of the patent wars
, commenting, "In the current environment, there’s just one company that’s firing the first shot consistently."
Perhaps alluding to Microsoft Corp. (
), another operating system veteran who Samsung has
an intellectual property licensing pact with
, he adds, "There are a few areas where there has been some contention recently, but if you look at those areas of contention, they were legitimate and people were able to come to terms, business terms, that were reasonable. That’s the way the system should work."
Samsung licenses IP from Microsoft. [Image Source: Ubergizmo]
Mr. Packingham discussed his company's awkward position producing the chips that power every iPhone and iPad. He says that "[At] times... I’m absolutely appalled that we sell what I consider to be the most innovative, most secret parts... of our products to... Apple [or anybody]."
But he says the semiconductor units says, "Look, that’s none of your business. You go make your mobile phones and if you’d like to use our components, that’d be great."
The situation may seem odd, he acknowledges, but it's a product of the modular, "isolated" nature of Samsung's business units.
Mr. Packingham is optimistic that one day Apple will see the light and stop patenting obvious/already-existing features -- like rectangles,
slide to unlock
making graphics disappear
. He also hopes Apple will eventually move to licensing its valid intellectual property like Microsoft.
He comments, "We need to find a way in which we can have healthy competition and not try to stifle competition with patents that aren’t particularly unique, and really don’t represent intellectual property."
Apple likely see things a little differently, and it seems unlikely that the company will change its tactics any time soon, despite the criticism.
"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007
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