Samsung designer: We were doing tablets before iPad

One of Samsung's head designers says the company was at work on its allegedly infringing tablet design well before the iPad first debuted.

Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 in front of Apple's iPad. James Martin/CNET

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- According to a Samsung principal designer, the company was at work on its Galaxy Tab 10.1-inch tablet months before Apple unveiled the iPad.

As proof, Samsung's Jin Soo Kim -- who testified in court today through an interpreter -- offered up an internal e-mail thread, with a sketch of the tablet's design dated January 6, 2010 -- days before Apple debuted its tablet to the public.

The testimony aimed to rebut claims made by Apple that Samsung copied the look and feel of the iPhone and the iPad. In the case of the iPad, Apple is holding a design patent over Samsung's head, one that covers a rectangular tablet with a flat glass front and rounded corners.

Kim argued that the flat glass was functional, given that curved glass would not only be harder to make, but add the potential for touches on-screen to be mis-registered. Kim also explained that the bezel around the screen -- something else Apple says Samsung copied -- is for function more than form.

"The bezel acts like a bumper on a car, it is to protect the device, so really it's for the user," Kim said.

Kim also detailed how the company settled on a size, noting that 10.1 inches was in a sweet spot where Samsung could get a certain number of displays from a larger piece of glass without undue waste.

"We start with a mother glass, and if you were to increase the display size, or glass to be cut by even 0.1 inch, that instead of 50 glasses from the mother glass you'd end up with 30-35 units only," Kim explained.

The testimony is the second from Samsung this week to tap one of its designers. Yesterday the company tapped Jeeyuen Wang, a senior designer who was in charge of the company's software icons, who laid out similar claims of originality.

In cross-examination, Apple brought Kim's testimony into question, citing a pair of internal company e-mails explicitly mentioning that Google flat out demanded the company to alter one of its tablet designs because it looked too much like the iPad.

One of those, pertaining to Samsung's 7-inch Galaxy Tab, as well as a version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 that was not sold in the U.S. were "too similar to Apple," with instructions to "make it notably different, starting with the front side."

Kim repeatedly denied the claims, saying he had never been told by one of his supervisors that Google was concerned.

Updated at 2:17 p.m. PT with additional details from the testimony and at 7 p.m. with embedded documents below.

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