Whatever the merits of the present battle between Apple and Samsung, the legal wrangle holds some important lessons for any firm hoping to rival the iPad’s dominance, says Seb Janacek.
A German judge appears to have agreed with Apple’s assertion that Samsung has “slavishly” copied the iPad with its latest tablet the Galaxy Tab 10. The Galaxy Tab is consequently banned from going on sale in Germany.
Explaining her decision, judge Johanna Br�ckner-Hoffmann stated: “The court is of the opinion that Apple’s minimalistic design isn’t the only technical solution to make a tablet computer. Other designs are possible.”
She added: “For the informed customer there remains the predominant overall impression that the device looks [like the iPad].”
I have little sympathy with Apple’s assertions about Samsung and others imitating its hardware, particularly when it claims the iPad’s form has been imitated. Tablets existed before the iPad and in principle they all look similar.
Two of Apple’s design claims were “a rectangular product shape with all four corners uniformly rounded” and “the front surface of the product dominated by a screen surface with black borders”. You can see why Samsung might feel aggrieved.
In its defence, Samsung produced documents claiming film director Stanley Kubrick invented the tablet form when he had his astronauts watch news videos on iPad-like devices in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The filing summed up how daft that part of the case was.
I’ve held a dozen tablets and none of them looks exactly alike but they all look tablety. Every tablet looks more or less the same and Apple can hardly claim to have invented the form factor, any more than it can claim to have invented the form factor of touchscreen phones.
It’s what happens when you turn them on that makes the difference, and this is where I do have sympathy with Apple’s case. The physical form of the device is less important than the software that gives it life. Apple has understood that this key point is the only way of making tablets commercially successful - through its iOS software and its touch paradigms.
Windows tablets and touchscreen devices have been around for a while. They failed to capture either the imagination of consumers or the unit sales in the way the iPad has. Most relied on desktop versions of Windows and, heaven forbid, a stylus.
iOS is the main reason…