Samsung keeps prior art parade marching against Apple

Samsung keeps bringing up old technology to knock off four Apple design patents pointed in its direction.

Josh Lowensohn
Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
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The Fidler tablet, a prototype device Samsung is pointing to as pre-dating the iPad.
The Fidler tablet, a prototype device Samsung is pointing to as pre-dating the iPad. Apple

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Samsung today brought out early technology relics in hopes of busting Apple's design patents for the iPhone and iPad -- the very ones Apple has pointed at it like howitzers.

The South Korean technology giant called upon a pair of experts -- one in person, another by video deposition -- to make the case that others had beaten Apple to the punch, effectively rendering those patents useless.

Samsung's argument relied mainly on foreign patent designs and an early prototype for a tablet that never made it into commercial production. However, Samsung also brought out a real product, Hewlett-Packard's TC1000 tablet, which the company argued made Apple's tablet design patent obvious.

Making that case for Samsung was Itay Sherman, chief executive of the multi-touch company DoubleTouch and an inventor with 20 patents to his name. Sherman brought out the same trio of smartphone design patents Samsung used earlier in the case, two of which are Japanese and another that's Korean. In short, Sherman said that features like big screens, rounded corners, and "lozenge" speaker holes in these designs predated what Apple brought out with the iPhone.

When it came to tablets, Sherman suggested that HP's tablet had many of the same features named in Apple's design patent though it was released as a commercial product in 2002, two years before Apple would apply for its tablet design patent, and nearly eight years before the first-generation iPad went public.

The Compaq TC-100 tablet circa 2002.
The Compaq TC-100 tablet circa 2002. Apple

Sherman paired that example with the Fidler, the famous early 1990s tablet prototype designed by Roger Fidler as part of the labs group for news conglomerate Knight-Ridder. Fidler had appeared just before Sherman in a brief video testimony explaining that he had actually shown the device to Apple in 1994, the same year the company would apply for the '889 patent, which covers the look of the iPad.

In the sections of the deposition that were shown to the court, Fidler said that he had worked with multiple technology companies, including Apple, at the Informational Design Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., to figure out whether his tablet was feasible. Unfortunately, he was told it would require a stylus, and the project was later scrapped.

Fidler's deposition is the second this week to note that Apple had been privy to a design ahead of releasing a product. In testimony yesterday, Adam Bogue -- the creator of the DiamondTouch table (a projector-based, multi-touch gesture-enabled computing technology that came out of Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories) -- told the court that Apple had been given a demo of the device well ahead of demoing the multi-touch tech found in the iPhone.

Samsung: Apple developed touch tech? Yeah, right (pictures)

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Apple's lawyer Rachel Krevans took Sherman to task over his testimony, noting that he was qualified as an electrical engineer, but not as an industrial designer. Krevans tried to drive that point home by asking him questions about what he thought about the design features of Samsung devices, arguing about details like rounded corners. Krevans also pointed out that other companies like Sony and Nokia had designed noticeably different products.

Sherman is the latest patent expert to testify in the trial, which is now into its third week. Closing arguments are scheduled to take place next Tuesday, though the evidence in the case could be completed by the end of the week.

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