The latest in the Apple-Samsung legal drama: according to court documents filed by Samsung, Cupertino has indirectly ripped off Sony for its handset’s aesthetics by adopting the Japanese giant’s design language. The Galaxy maker points to a 2006 Businessweek interview with Sony’s product designers Takashi Ashida and Yujin Morisawa in order to establish prior art and prove that Sony’s design philosophy influenced the iPhone’s original design direction.

The iPod Godfather Tony Fadell apparently showed the Businessweek article to Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs and design chief Jony Ive who then allegedly approved use of some of the ideas outlined in the interview for early iPhone mockups…

An excerpt from the Businessweek interview, describing Sony’s design philosophy:

The Sony spirit is about being original, not a copy. We generally don’t rely on surveys, because we’re always trying to make something that’s never been done before.

Not relying on surveys sounds very much Apple-like.

When Sony opened its first design center in 1961, the color theme was black and silver. The idea was to do away with excessive ornamentation. We’re continuing that tradition.

Samsung’s argument: Apple borrowed the simplified design that Sony first used for the Walkman NW-A1200 music player that designer Yujin Morisawa created by getting rid of the buttons and doing away with excessive ornamentation.

Of note here is Steve Jobs’ disdain for physical buttons. Asked to detail how much Apple’s iPod influenced Morisawa’s design for the Walkman NW-A1200, he responded:

When I started this project, that was my concern. I looked at the first Walkman [which debuted in 1979]. Then I thought, “How can I give shape to the music?” Music doesn’t have shape; it’s flowing. I was listening to music and waving my hand in the air. I thought there shouldn’t be an end to its lines. So I started drawing a round shape, and I kept moving the line.

My team had shown me their sketch: It was a square with a screen and buttons. Most other players have a screen and buttons. My first mock-up didn’t have buttons. I didn’t want buttons. With any digital-music player, the hard disk drive and chips are similar.

I thought, “How can we make the layout different?” I knew what would go inside, so I could start the design from the outside. I knew how big the hard disk drive would be, how many chips there would be.

John Paczkowski, writing for the Wall Street Journal-owned AllThingsD blog, cited Samsung’s trial brief which asserts that Apple stole the iPhone’s design from Sony:

Right after this article was circulated internally, Apple industrial designer Shin Nishibori was directed to prepare a “Sony-like” design for an Apple phone and then had CAD drawings and a three-dimensional model prepared.

Confirming the origin of the design, these internal Apple CAD drawings prepared at Mr. Nishibori‘s direction even had the “Sony” name prominently emblazoned on the phone design, as the below images from Apple‘s internal documents show.

Apple’s Sony-inspired iPhone mockup can be seen at the top of the article. Note that floating this mockup internally is not necessarily problematic in and of itself.

This, however, could be:

Soon afterward, on March 8, 2006, Apple designer Richard Howarth reported that, in contrast to another internal design that was then under consideration, Mr. Nishibori‘s “Sony-style” design enabled “a much smaller-looking product with a much nicer shape to have next to your ear and in your pocket” and had greater “size and shape/comfort benefits.”

Furthermore, Nishibori later confirmed in his deposition testimony that his Sony-inspired iPhone mockup “changed the course of the project that yielded the final iPhone design”. Samsung is leveraging this fact to instill the notion that there is enough prior art available to weaken Apple’s legal position. Samsung’s legal brief reads:

Samsung has used the very same public domain design concepts that Apple borrowed from other competitors, including Sony, to develop the iPhone.

Wow, this is getting more and more interesting.

Samsung previously asserted that Apple would have sold zero iPhones if it hadn’t been for its patented technology pertaining to wireless standards.

Court documents also show that Google tried to influence its partner Samsung not to copy the iPhone so much. Another ruling by a U.K. court today has it that Apple won’t be required to post free adverts for Samsung on its website and in British newspapers (saying the Galaxy tablets didn’t copy the iPad’s design) until at least October.

The high-stake Apple-Samsung lawsuit is scheduled to begin July 30.

Are you confident in Apple’s legal position?

  • but there is a reason that Sony jis not suing

  • Apple is a copy cat too it seems. They are being selfish. Who cares it looks like an iPhone’is not the same so just leave Sammy alone.

    • then i suppose when someone else steals your intellectual property, designs and ideas and then makes money off it while you make nothing….i suppose you’ll be just fine with that then.

      • grant

        puahahaha! Apple making nothing? I don’t mean to sound condescending but, that’s just ludicrous…

        also let me propose to you to make a touch screen phone that is nothing like an iphone… oh wait…

      • I agree with both Remy and Grant. Competition brings innovation. Apple wanting to control everything is just stupid. They make loads of money and yet they feel the need to sue the company that also make 90% of their parts? Honestly, if we only had the iPhone, ipad, ipod, and had no other type of device, it would be like having uniforms in grade school, boring as hell. Variety is good, and all this suing that Apple is doing is gonna come back to bite them in the ass. Dont get me wrong, I have an iphone and I like alot of apple products, but in the end, can you come up with a non fanboy-ish response, that doesnt re-affirm the fact that Apple just wants to be the only smart phone “name in the game”? That they nothing to lose and everything to gain from these legal battles?

    • seyss

      are you retarded

  • Weak. Or else Sony and it’s struggling tech biz would be all over this. There’s got to be some sort of big hole to this Sony design thing or Sony sharks would do anything to get theirs.

  • is that a nintendo joystick or a cellphone 😛 #fail sony and samsung

  • Like the article says, these were “public domain” documents, that’s why Sony isn’t saying anything about it. But you have to say, that looks a LOT like the iPhone, and most phones today. This weakens Apple’s argument, but both companies are just hoping to get some damages sent their way. Honestly, I can see this backfiring for Apple in a HUGE way. Hopefully they just drop this stupid trial and settle out of court. Even though two talks have failed, this might help change Apple’s mind somewhat.

  • YujinNY

    I gave it to jobs.

  • First, that does look like the iPhone or the iPhone does look like it. Second, did this product ever come to market? Lastly, I think people are forgetting that non-defense of a patent makes it irrelevant. You HAVE to defend your patents otherwise they become invalid. I’m 90% sure that last statement is true. 🙂

  • thats not “interesting” sony creates psstore then apple creates appstore
    then micosoft made msstore. hyundai copy mercedes and jaguar and we pays them

  • “The Sony spirit is about being original, not a copy.” Damn right. Just look at Xperia phones. They look nothing like iPhone. And that is something that can’t be done according to Samsung

  • I think the article is somewhat misleading! The picture shown above is not a prototype by Sony but a design by Apple!
    This design was inspired roughly by some things the Sony designer said in the article, but it wasnt designed by Sony! You can look up the Sony NW-A1200 online and see how Sonys design really looked like!

  • This has gotten out of hand just pay the f….. royalties to one another on products. Apple to samsung on some patents related to cell phone technologies while samsung to apple on hardware.

  • Bottom line is this… No matter who was the “first” to create an idea of something, what matters is whom is the “first” to take the idea, craft it, and release it. We all have many ideas, we craft them in our mind and on paper only to,find out a few moments later someone else has already done it.