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Mac designer: Samsung phone fooled me

Apple's expert design witness and former Mac icon designer Susan Kare says that she mistook one of Samsung's devices for Apple's.

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- One of Apple's early designers apparently picked up a Samsung device believing it had been made by Apple.

That anecdote, shared in court this morning, came from Susan Kare, who is perhaps best known for designing the original set of icons for Apple's first Macintosh. Those designs include the "happy Mac" icon users saw when booting up the machine, as well as the bomb icon when something went wrong.

Apple tapped Kare specifically to compare Apple's patented iOS user interface with Samsung's devices. Kare said she examined phones from both companies and found "substantial similarities" between the two. Enough to the point where, as previously mentioned, she confused the devices on the first day she had come in to look at them as part of her testimony preparation.

"I would usually think of myself as someone who is pretty granular at graphics, and I mistook one for the other," Kare said. "So I guess in addition to my formal analysis, I had the experience of being confused."

Apple's '305 patent.
Apple's '305 patent. Apple/USPTO

At the heart of it is Apple's '305 patent (pictured right), which covers the design of the iPhone's home screen. That's the first screen Apple filed a patent for immediately after releasing the iPhone in June 2007, and was later granted for in November 2009. In this trial, Apple is aiming the patent at numerous Samsung devices over what it says are design similarities, claiming that consumers could be confused.

Kare said that that was, in fact, the conclusion she had drawn after evaluating nearly a dozen Samsung phones. On that list were 11 of Samsung's smartphones, including the Fascinate, Captivate, Droid Charge, Epic 4G, Galaxy S 4G, Galaxy S (i9000), Gem, Indulge, Mesmerize, Galaxy S Showcase (i500), and Vibrant -- all devices Kare said were similar to the design depicted in the patent.

"The overall visual impression on all of these screens -- compared each one by one -- compared to the screenshot from the iPhone 3G, were confusingly similar," she said.

That's an argument Apple has made with other Samsung devices, including its tablets. In a piece of evidence the company brought out yesterday, Apple was keen to point out that a portion of consumers who purchased Samsung's Galaxy tablets at Best Buy stores in three states had returned the device thinking they had bought an iPad 2.

Kare offered that there were numerous ways Samsung could have provided designs that she thought would not be so similar, saying it was her job as a designer to do that.

Samsung fought back against Kare's claims by showing one of the company's Droid-branded phones booting up, live in the courtroom. The device in question showed a prominent Samsung logo, Droid opening video with sound, and required two extra user steps before users could see the same application view Apple claimed Samsung was infringing. Kare replied by saying she had only prepared to compare the look and feel of the two operating systems, and not evaluate their functionality.

Samsung made further efforts to point out the differences between the look and feel of the two platforms, breaking out side-by-side comparisons of where icons were placed and the way they looked. Samsung counsel Charles Verhoeven drilled Kare on who owned the basic iconography found on both platforms, including things like the phone receiver, the clock, and even background colors on the icons.

Kare's design chops extend well beyond Apple. In addition to working for the graphics on the first Mac and Steve Jobs' NeXT, Kare noted that she's worked for rival Microsoft. There she designed the card decks in the built-in solitaire software, and the notepad icon in Windows 3.1 and beyond.

This is the first testimony of the day, and the latest in a series of expert witnesses discussing the look and feel of Apple's designs. Ahead of Kare, was the continued testimony of industrial design expert Peter Bressler, who appeared on the stand yesterday. Samsung spent the latter half of the day attempting to call into question Bressler's design chops and technical knowledge.

Slated to go up after Kare is Russell Winer, the chair of the Department of Marketing at the Stern School of Business for New York University. And following today's proceedings, court is scheduled to pick back up on Friday with more expert witnesses from Apple.

Updated at 11:30 a.m. with additional testimony details.