Wired sat down with Apple’s Jony Ive to talk design ahead of the trial of the century which kicked off in northern California today and the publication is now extending the courtesy to Samsung, interviewing its product person to hear the other side.

Samsung’s Kevin Packingham discussed patent and design accusations between his company and Apple, the result of which is bound to have serious ramifications for both parties. Unsurprisingly, the executive played down Apple’s concerns that the Galaxy tablets and smartphones copy the iPhone and iPad slavishly, pointing out there’s really just one way to go about the candy bar form factor…

Nathan Olivarez-Giles interviewed Samsung’s product chief Kevin Packingham for Wired. One of the most striking answers he gave shed light on the complicated Apple-Samsung relationship.

Even though the two companies are fighting fiercly for supremacy both in the fast-growing smartphone market and in the courtroom, Apple is also Samsung’s #1 buyer of components, often prepaying billions to secure multi-year supply of mobile displays, processors and NAND flash chips at prices no other buyer can match.

Asked how Samsung reconciles being both a business partner and a litigant, he responded cleverly:

The two parts of the company, they’re extremely isolated. There are times when I’m absolutely appalled that we sell what I consider to be the most innovative, most secret parts of the sauce of our products to some other manufacturer — HTC, LG, Apple, anybody.

And they [the components groups] are like, ‘Look, that’s none of your business. You go make your mobile phones and if you’d like to use our components, that’d be great.’ But you know, we also use Qualcomm components, and we source from other component manufacturers as well.

He’s right about Samsung’s mobile and components arms being two separate entities that don’t give each other preferential treatment. In addition to being the world’s leading smartphone and cell phone vendor, Samsung is also the world’s biggest maker of television sets and second-largest semiconductor manufacturer, right after Intel.

As for its legal fight with Apple over the look and feel of the iPhone:

In terms of patents, we have a made lot of contributions in the design space as well. I would say the patents we’re struggling with — where there’s a lot of discussion and litigation right now — are around these very broad design patents like a rectangle.

For us, it’s unreasonable that we’re fighting over rectangles, that that’s being considered as an infringement, which is why we’re defending ourselves.

The fighting-over-rectangles bit is sure to generate some nice headlines on Twitter.

The jury will get to see this, however.

Samsung, of course, has an infographic of its own.

He also shared this:

Hopefully the entire industry is in the position now where we have to defend ourselves and say, “Look, it’s unreasonable for us to be in the position of claiming that there is design, claiming that there is some sort of protected property, around a rectangle.”

So I would say, yeah, we have design patents as well, but they’re not as simple as the rectangle. And so that’s where I think you see a little bit of this challenge.

The industry at large is asking the same ‘rectangle’ question, the executive asserted:

In some cases, for most of us in the industry, it’s defying common sense. We’re all scratching our heads and saying, “How is this possible that we’re actually having an industry-level debate and trying to stifle competition?”

Consumers want rectangles and we’re fighting over whether you can deliver a product in the shape of a rectangle.

I don’t think Apple’s patent infringement is as trivial as Packingham would have us believe, especially in that it boils down to the question of the candybar form factor.

Maybe he was just concerned about pre-trial set backs as his company won’t get to show off a Sony-inspired iPhone prototype to weaken Apple’s case. And news that Samsung wanted to subpoena a former Sony designer (who created said prototype) to testify in the case by sending him a $60 check also doesn’t bode well for the company.

After all, if it loses this patent trial of the century, as Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt put it, Samsung is quite possibly facing billions in damages and a mega-sales ban on its Galaxy smartphones and tablets for the entire United States, the world’s largest market for mobile devices.

Let’s see how the trial goes.

I’m sure we’ll be seeing lots of ups and downs in this litigation.

Thoughts?

  • AmazingBJW

    I’m sorry I’m going to say this, but I am absolutely sick of Apple suing all these different companies for things like “a rectangular shape”. I am very much enjoying both my iPhone AND my Galaxy Nexus and I think Apple needs to understand that it needs to do better than a 4S to gain some traction. It’s their own fault they only release one phone a year.

    • That’s when you are wrong, BJW.

      The reason why Apple releases an iDevice almost once a year is because of the amount of time and research that goes into the device before Apple decides to launch it. As far as I know, Apple does not launch half-baked products and they are quick to respond to faults be it hardware or software flaws.

      I’ve used Android phones once and that’s when I took an arrow to the knee. They are always laggy/buggy. Speaking of Samsung, they release handsets so frequently that some of their devices have serious hardware issues. Guess what, they don’t really seem to care. From where I see it, Samsung perceives that quantity equates profit.

      Clearly, there is a big difference. And you know what, 4S is one of the fastest handset in the market although it only has less than a GHz of processor speed. Speaking of which S2 by samsung has more than 1GHz of speed, the lag sometimes is unbearable.

      • Altechi

        The amount of research?, the 4S was what the 4 was supposed to be, what has changed?, they moved the antena, fix battery issue, slap on a new cpu/gpu taken from the ipad that’s it, hardly anything to heavily research about

        No Half-Baked hardware/software ….Siri (beta) outside of US? it’s practically useless and a gimmick. Yes apps crash, but isn’t that the fault of the app maker?. iPhone apps crash as well, Facebook being a main culprit.

        All companies, not only samsung, release there products frequently no problem with that, different phones to cater different needs, all I do is focus on their main phone product, being the Galaxy S phones, and they more or less follow the Apple 1 year release

        I used an iphone 4S but moved to the SGS 3 after the contract finished (though I still keep the iphone for my car), and I have yet encountered any buggy android or random crashes, it really is a great phone

        Tablet wise, android still has a long way to go (none has impressed me to change from my ipad), phone wise though, companies like Samsung are making a case of become an actual alternative to the iphone

      • SoCoMagNuM

        well said. im enjoying my SGS3 though its not a perfect phone…neither was my iphone. i understanding the whole freedom to use the phone the way i want to. STOCK! no jailbreaking/rooting required. It gre on me faster than i expected

    • Hugo Oskarsson

      Hey! I have an iPhone 4 and thinking of switching to the galaxy nexus cause My iPhone crashes all the time and i have had to restore it several Times
      So is the galaxy nexus good? Is it smooth? Is jellybean nice?

      • Geeks on Hugs

        Jelly Bean is fantastic. The Galaxy Nexus has great core hardware (CPU/GPU/Memory). The display is brilliant. The sound, sadly, is the worst I’ve experienced on a phone. It’s really bad. So if you want to consume media with it anywhere noisy you’ll need to use the included headphones (and then it is quite a premium experience).

        The build quality is nice, I wish it were better and more substantial. While it is plastic I will say it is premium plastic. The back has a nice feel and the thin device has attractive curves which needs to be seen in person to appreciate.

        Again Jelly Bean is fantastic and the benefit of it is the pure-Google, pure-Android experience. Keep in mind, however, that to enjoy that you need to buy direct from Google (from the Google play store) and absolutely not from the carriers.

        In any case it’s a great deal at only $350 and you can shop around for a discount service provider. I have unlimited everything for $45 a month.

        Pros – Attractive design with beautiful curves, the best finish possible considering it’s plastic, stunning HD display – HD video is tremendous, sound with headphones or external speakers are premium, price, software (OS + lack of crapware), direct google updates

        Cons – Sound from built in speaker is HORRIBLE, I mean bad. Plastic finish. Camera is mediocre, battery life is mediocre to terrible depending on your usage patterns

        One last thing…this can be a pro or con…it has a BIG display. At first I didn’t care for how big it is but I kind of like it now. It does mean you may need to buy a new holster.

    • Geeks on Hugs

      The problem with the closed eco-system is lack of choice in form factors. There is something to be said for Apple’s focus but at this time they have the cash and with the various form factors and price points for Android devices if they made some variations on the theme then that would serve them well. Alternatively why not even license their technology to select partners. I think this would just suck away Android sales and put more money in their pocket rather than lose out because there is not enough choice.

      Otherwise they are going to remain what they have been historically and currently are except in the tablet market – a premium, high end, non-commoditized product – a great place to be – but not the market leader. Anyway it’s not like that has hurt their bottom line.

      There is no way they can single handedly remain on top of a market with only one option against an open eco-system (Android) with various competitors competing for form factors and price points. That goes without saying.

      They perhaps have a shot at this in the tablet space but not with one product. They need a tablet range to hold onto their lead and if not they will eventually also lose their dominance in that market.

  • It’s not “dumbing it down,” it’s the truth. Companies give their customers what they want, or they don’t get business. Customers want touchscreen rectangles, so that’s what every company is pushing out. Also, check your facts. China is the largest market for mobile devices, not the US.

  • @dongiuj

    As somebody nicely put on an iDB blog comments the other day “It’s a feaking rectangle!”
    How can you patent a shape?! If apple win this then they should ban ALL tablets, not just samsung, giving the consumer zero choice. All tablets are rectangular, samsung, sharp, toshiba, acer, asus, the list goes on.
    Computers are the same damn shape. What the hell do you want, child?!
    1: i’am one happy owner of an iphone

    2: i’m not a “fandroid”

    3: you’re a dick

  • Geeks on Hugs

    The point is valid even if somewhat simplified: the design patents appear absurd to most laymen and I certainly think we need reform of our IP laws. I wonder if Apple is afraid that without Steve Jobs that they are not going to be able to keep producing leading designs. Why not out-innovate rather than out-litigate. At the end of the day that would be a far bigger win for apple. Imagine leaving a trail of innovation with a trail of copy cat designs in it’s wake.

    But seeing how intense Apple is here I’m starting to wonder if they are conceding that the pinnacle of Apple design is now historical and they need to dig in and defend what is fast becoming scarce to Apple today.