Design was borrowed from picture frame lineup

Tech fans were rocked this morning by news that a German court had granted Apple, Inc. (AAPL) an effective monopoly on tablets, by banning competitors from making rival tablet designs.  As usual DailyTech has some outstandingly sharp readers, who raised a couple points that were so juicy, a followup was in order.

One reader, Solandri, points to this digital picture frame created by Samsung Electronics Comp, Ltd. (SEO 005930) in 2006.  Complete with an 800x480 pixel LCD screen, the device also packed 32MB of internal memory, support for SD, CF and USB devices for memory expansion, and built-in Ethernet for networking.

The device is essentially a tablet -- only, at the time Samsung referred to it as a "digital picture frame".  The device was to be used as a fancy piece of digital art.

Now this device was made four years before Apple released its first iPad.  And it looks virtually identical to the iPad -- and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 -- in its minimalist design.

Apple chairman, former CEO, and co-founder, Steven P. Jobs has bragged about his mastery of stealing ideas from others, stating [video], "Picasso had a saying - 'Good artists copy, great artists steal.' And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas."

So did Samsung "slavishly copy" Apple or did Apple "steal" from Samsung's
"great idea"?  Consider the following:



Apple patents a design for a tablet in the U.S. [link] and in Europe [link].  However, the device doesn't look much like the iPad of the future.  Specifically, the device is much thicker (see Fig. 6) than the eventual iPad design, it has no face buttons (see Fig. 1), and has a much thinner bezel (see Fig. 1) than the original iPad.

In short it bears substantial differences from any product Apple would actually produce.

Images in the design look curiously like those from science fiction movies:

Apple has produced no commercial products at this point, but has patented a design that looks suspiciously like widely published science fiction designs.  The result looks little like the iPad of the future.


Samsung produces digital picture frames, which are essentially tablets as we know them today, though it lacks an advanced operating system (Android/iOS), multi-touch, or sound.

The device matches the iPad in thickness in some areas (except at the ethernet port region) and the bezel is closer to the iPad's.

Two important things to note are that the back of this design (see side images), doesn't look much like an iPad or Galaxy Tab 10.1.  Second, Samsung's subsequent (2008-era) models abandoned this iconic look.  That said, the face of this commercially sold picture frame is a virtual doppelganger for the eventual iPad and Galaxy Tab 10.1 look.

Samsung has essentially produced the modern tablet as we know it, sans multi-touch and sound.  The only problem?  It doesn't realize the value of what it's created, and it lacks an operating system to let users take full advantage of this breakthrough.


Apple redesigns its tablet and releases it commercially.  The result is substantially different its own patented design from four years prior:

But it does show some striking similarities to Samsung's (unpatented) picture frame design:

Apple has deviated from its patented design to produce a multi-touch tablet that parrots some aspects of the look of Samsung's picture frame-cum-tablet device.  Granted there's substantial differences between the tablet and the "picture frame", but there's equal or greater differences between the iPad and the patented design from 2004.


Samsung takes its picture frame, revamps the back, and inserts a multi-touch display and slightly updated internals, trimming the bezel.  The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is born.

Samsung now realizes the gold mine they've designed and debuts a tablet with superior screen resolution, memory, and wireless modem to Apple's design.  They expect it to be a hit and safe from lawsuits.  After all, their design is derivative from an in-house design 4 years before Apple and doesn't look much like anything Apple has patented.

Sept. 2011:

A German court decides that Samsung's new tablet infringes upon Apple's patented design.  The ruling stands in direct opposition to the neighboring Netherlands court, which took a thorough look at that 2004 European Community Design claim filed in Spanish court and realized that it looked nothing like the iPad, much less the Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Apple has essentially sued Samsung and won for a design which it never patented.  The court somehow has confused Apple's current design, with the 2004 patent which bears little semblance to either the iPad or the Tab 10.1.

We leave it to our readers to judge for themselves what they think of this timeline.  We have resized the images used therein, but in all cases have maintained the original aspet ratios we found them in.  We encourage you to leave feedback.

Again, a big thanks to Solandri for digging up the 2006 Engadget post on that "picture frame"/tablet.

"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher

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