There is no doubt that we are in the middle of an unprecedented epoch that marks the very zenith of our electronic technological progress. But in the murky shadows of the seemingly brilliant spurt of this nigh technological revolution, there is a very bitter sense of competitiveness between two of the eminent electronic giants; which in effect has the potential to undermine the whole propitious situation. Yes, we are talking about the 'mobile wars', as in April 2011 Apple Inc. announced that they were suing Samsung over the design of their Galaxy S, Nexus S and Epic 4G range of smartphones. The lawsuit was filed on 15 April 2011 and alleges that Samsung violated Apple's trademarks and patents and "slavishly" copied the iPhone and iPad.
The strongly worded lawsuit clearly mentions:
Rather than innovate and develop its own technology and a unique Samsung style for its smart phone products and computer tablets, Samsung chose to copy Apple’s technology, user interface and innovative style in these infringing products.
But in another twist to this remarkable story is that Apple is also the largest customer of Samsung, with a reported $7.8 billion in purchases planned for 2011. Samsung even builds the custom chips used by Apple in their commercially successful devices like the iPhone and iPad. Anyway, regardless of the controversy, let us subjectively examine the so called similarities between Samsung Mobile devices and iPhone/iPad.
Samsung Mobile devices and iPhone/iPad similarities:
As already mentioned, Samsung does contribute to the micro chips used in Apple devices starting from Macbook Pros to iPads. Now in a startling discovery from analysts at UBM TechInsights, it has been revealed that the chip used inside Samsung's new Galaxy products and Apple's iPad and iPhone aren't just similar, but actually the same. We are talking about the 1GHz ARM Cortex A8 chip, which is supposedly used by Apple, as well as in Samsung's Wave S8500.
GUI or graphical user interface has always been a distinguishing feature of a mobile device. Now in an alarming report by Cho Jin-seo for The Korea Times, it says:
Samsung Electronics said it has changed the graphic designs used in its latest handset model ‘Skin,’ after it was found to have copied Apple and Microsoft artwork. The electronics giant admitted plagiarizing designs of the handset’s graphic user interface. Many graphic designers and other Internet users on various Web communities such as http://www.appleforum.com over the last two weeks have accused the firm of stealing the designs.
Chung Kook-hyun, chief of Samsung’s corporate design center, told The Korea Times:
There were a few mistakes while we were developing the new product. We have already fixed the designs and I believe that the old models are not being sold in the market anymore.
What is similar in the above image? If you ask me, what is not? The two phones exhibit the same thin, polished, black body with the rectilinear chamfering round the corner with a myriad of colorful icons. Anyway, in the case you didn't notice, the left one is Samsung Galaxy S and the right one is Apple's iPhone 3G.
Coming to the exterior ornamentaion elements of the packing cases, in the lawsuit Apple did mention about the striking resemblance of the ubiquitous rectangular case with rounded corners, the metallic edge and even the thick, black bands that appear at the top and bottom of the Samsung phones, to the Apple iPhones, iPod Touchs and iPads. The examples of the features that have been found in both Apple Product Packaging Trade Dress and Samsung Galaxy tablet computer products are:
1. A rectangular box with metallic silver lettering and a large front-view picture of the product prominently on the top surface of the box
2. A two-piece box wherein the bottom piece is completely nested in the top piece;
3. Use of a design that cradles products to make them immediately visible upon opening the box.
Now, some of these according to us may be a little bit stringent, especially if we consider the third point. It is a sort of commonplace advertising norm that can be found in many cases.
4. Application icons:
Now coming to the phones themselves, the icons displayed for music player, notepad, contacts and settings functions inside the phones also supposedly have a close alikeness to each other, thus violating Apple's trademark. Taking the above image as an example, we can clearly notice the semblance of the color combinations and again the round corner chamfering of the icons (in some cases).
5. Hardware and software:
Several hardware and software designs have also being touched upon by this lawsuit. For example, Apple claims that Samsung had infringed a patent on Apple’s design for the slim buttons on the sides of its devices. Coming to software, Apple also says that Samsung has plagiarized their interface technologies such as text messages appearing in bubbles on the opposite side of the screens of two people involved.
Some, if not all accessories of Samsung's galaxy are certainly patterned after Apple iPhone 3G. But we should also take into account the overall business strategy of Samsung, which clearly underlines the fact that Samsung Galaxy was contrived in the first place to play 'catch up' with Apple's iPhone, and hence its similar attributes.
7. Marketing plans:
At last but not the least, Apple even accuses Samsung of including Apple's product appeal in their (Samsung's) marketing strategy. According to them, the advertisings clearly alluded to the fact that Samsung's smartphones has features much like the Apple's iPhone, but on the other hand they were conveniently cost effective.
Though we do see many similarities between the two exalted products, one (especially as a consumer) simply can't assume the black and white nature of this 'cyber' conflict. Apple does seem to have some clear cut reasons and most importantly rights to complain, but on the other hand this mega lawsuit can't be leveled as wholly righteous. Firstly, because of the broad nature of the appeal, including some far fetched claims that do not even remotely conform to the similarity issue. And secondly, from the business perspective, this lawsuit may be just another way to hamper the profitable progress of the Google (Android) and Samsung combination.