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Samsung exec: Don't copy, 'learn the wisdom of the iPhone'

A new internal Samsung e-mail shows that one of the company's top designers told the company not to copy the iPhone but to learn from it.

SAN JOSE, Calif.--Despite numerous pieces of evidence suggesting Samsung eyed Apple's software in the creation of its devices, a new internal memo shows that some inside the company warned designers against mimicking the iPhone too slavishly.

Near the tail end of cross examining Terry Musika, the accountant Apple hired to estimate the $2.5 billion damages figure in the case, Samsung brought out an e-mail thread from one of its own top designers, Sungsik Lee.

The e-mail, sent on March 2, 2010, and addressed to the company's "UX [user experience] executives," makes the case that designers should take "lessons" from Apple's iPhone, but not make something identical.

"At the Lismore critique meeting yesterday, CEO Gee Sung Choi strongly pointed out Samsung's [user experience] mindset of 'clinging to the past generation'," a translated version of Lee's e-mail reads. "Of course this must be distinguished from saying that we should do something simply because the iPhone did it that way, but [Choi] told us to make judgements based on user convenience, rather than through logical reasoning."

Lee argues that what Samsung needs to do is simply focus on making what it believes to be a good product and not on reaching parity with each feature.

"In the end, we must learn through the lessons of the iPhone that just providing every good feature isn't the way to go about it," Lee wrote. "Although everyone would agree with this, we would face huge obstacles putting this into practice."

Instead, Lee urges people to focus on what the iPhone did to the cell phone industry.

"I am not saying to make what is exactly identical to the iPhone, but I am saying to learn the wisdom of the iPhone, and recognize the standard of the industry which was set by them already," he said.

The e-mail filters into Samsung's larger argument that any similarities between the two products was the result of "benchmarking" -- what Samsung says is an industry-wide practice of keeping pace with features introduced by competitors. In its own complaint, Apple accuses Samsung of copying the look and feel of the iPhone and the iPad with its devices and running away with profits and market share as a result.

The internal e-mail thread is just the latest to come out of the case between the two technology giants, which is set to run through next week. Earlier instances included internal talk between some of Apple's top executives about a 7-inch version of the iPad, as well as translated meeting notes from Samsung's top brass saying how the company was having a "crisis of design."

Complete coverage: Apple v. Samsung, a battle over billions

Update at 6:16 p.m. PT: Below is the full copy of the e-mail thread: