Apple Design Expert 'Confused' Samsung For iPhone - InformationWeek

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8/8/2012
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Apple Design Expert 'Confused' Samsung For iPhone

Susan Kare, an original Mac icon designer, testifies Samsung menus are "substantially" similar to the iPhone's, to the point that she mixed up the smartphones.

Apple iPhone 5 Vs. Samsung Galaxy S III: What We Know
Apple iPhone 5 Vs. Samsung Galaxy S III: What We Know
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
More expert testimony poured into the courtroom Tuesday to support Apple's claims that Samsung infringed its iPhone and iPad design patents. But Samsung's attorneys keep chipping away at what sometimes seems like a wall of evidence against it. In one or two instances, a ray of light shone through to illuminate Samsung's side of the case.

Since the July 30 opening of the trial, each day has started and ended with the attorneys from both sides wrangling over what phone features may be blown up in illustrations, which documents are legitimately part of evidence, and which phones they agreed could be shown to the jury. There are 175 phone exhibits in this case.

Samsung, unlike Apple, makes dozens of variations of its phones and upgrades different models each year. That's true, in part, because each telecommunications carrier wants phones different from its competitors' deices. Verizon sells the Fascinate; AT&T offers the Captivate; Sprint sells the Galaxy S 4G Touch; T-Mobile offers the Galaxy S II and the Vibrant. That means Samsung introduces 50 new phones a year and is manufacturing up to 100 different models at any given time. That's the opposite of Apple, which introduces one new model of the iPhone once a year.

The company cultures are opposite as well. Harold McElhinny's opening statement July 31 said not only did Samsung copy Apple's market-leading product design, but that the copying was deliberate. Apple, he said, would prove not only that it occurred, but it was supported in the highest ranks of the company.

[ Learn how Samsung's attorney made testifying difficult for Peter Bressler, one of Apple's expert witness. See Samsung Challenges Key Apple Witness' Expertise. ]

In an under-reported response, Samsung's Justin Denison said he and other Samsung executives found the Apple charges "very offensive. At Samsung, we are very, very proud of all the products we have produced and all the hard work that goes into bringing them to market."

Samsung led the market, including Apple, in offering voice recognition and advanced touchscreen technology, he said. It also had the first cloud-based video service in the United States.

"When Apple followed you, did you feel ripped off? Were you outraged?" Samsung attorney John Quinn asked him.

"No," answered Denison both times. Samsung is a "humble culture, constantly self critical ... not satisfied with what it's done so far" in the market. It expects other companies to eventually match what it does and tries to stay ahead through skill in design, manufacturing, and a readiness to adopt new technical approaches.

"What we want to do is to continue to compete ... to deliver the best technology possible," he said.

Nowhere was this difference in culture and self-description more evident than Tuesday's testimony on the icons used on each company's smartphones and how they were conceived. To illustrate its claims of copying, Apple showed a screen of Samsung's Galaxy application menu page alongside the iPhone's home page.

Expert witness Susan Kare, an independent graphic designer formerly with Apple, is best known for creating the icons used on the first Apple Macintosh and is a leading expert on computer pixel art. Upon questioning, she named 11 Samsung phone models that, she said, showed "a substantial similarity" to the iPhone's application menu layouts.

She based that judgment on "an overall visual comparison" in which she noted: "the regular grid, the rows of four icons, the colorful mix of icons that are square with rounded corners." She cited the similarity of the clocks, text labeling, and use of a sunflower in icons on both companies' devices.

These icon screens were so closely matched that they "could be confusing to the customer," she said, even though she hadn't spoken to a customer who found them confusing. She then illustrated the point by saying when she reached for an iPhone on a table of phones during a consultation with Apple attorneys, she inadvertently picked up a Samsung model.

"My point of view is pretty granular on graphic images. I guess I became confused," she said.

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