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Apple expert: How shoppers mistook Samsung gear for ours

Apple brings out more surveys in court to show how consumers could associate, or even confuse one of Samsung's phones and tablets with an iPhone or iPad.

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

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- To help quantify how consumers could confuse Samsung's devices with Apple's, Apple has whipped out another study of shoppers.

In U.S. District Court here today, Apple called on Kent Van Liere, a survey research expert, who polled mall visitors to determine whether certain Samsung smartphones and tablets would be associated or, worse, confused with Apple's iPhone and iPad.

Van Liere said that yes, that turned out to be the case with separate studies of both devices.

For smartphones it was Samsung's Galaxy Fascinate and Galaxy SII Epic 4G smartphones, along with Research In Motion's BlackBerry Storm, which Van Liere described as the control group. Selected front images of these devices were shown to users, who were told to say whether or not they associated that image with Apple. Thirty-eight percent of the people the group polled said that was, in fact, the case with the Fascinate, with 37 percent for the Galaxy SII Epic 4G.

"Those percents would suggest that it is likely that consumers will associate the look of a device of the Samsung Galaxy phones with Apple or the iPhone, and that would be evidence suggested of dilution," Van Liere said.

Samsung fared better with tablets, where videos of both a branded and unbranded version of its Galaxy Tab 10.1 were shown, along with a control group of Barnes & Noble's Nook Color. With the branded tablets, 6 percent of those polled thought people could be confused, with 19 percent for the unbranded tablet.

Samsung lawyer Bill Price made the case that Van Liere hadn't surveyed a critical piece of the puzzle, which is when consumers would actually buy products. Price asked Van Liere if Apple had asked that of him, to which he replied no.

Price also took offense to the survey since users weren't actually given the devices to see in person, including the tablets, which Price suggested was unfair given that the Nook is considered as more of an "e-reader."

"You could have used Motorola (or) an LG tablet. You could have used something that looked a lot closer to the iPad than that," Price said.

"No I don't agree with that," Van Liere said sharply.

Van Liere's testimony followed one from Hal Poret, who had done an online survey to find if people had associated certain phone and tablet designs with particular brands, even when key features like buttons and iconography had been blurred out.

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