Steve Jobs warned Samsung not to steal inertial scrolling patent

As part of iOS chief Scott Forstall’s deposition in the Apple v. Samsung mega-suit, it was revealed that Steve Jobs explicitly advised Samsung against copying or stealing the rubber band scrolling, a feature Jobs specifically underscored during his January 2007 iPhone keynote.

Another tidbit describes how Jobs felt about Samsung lifting the iPhone’s rectangular appearance and its icons…

Yoni Heisler of NetworkWorld did a nice job combing through Forstall’s heavily redacted deposition concerning the U.S. Patent No. 7,469,381 which covers “list scrolling and document translation, scaling, and rotation on a touch-screen display”.

Put simply, this is what gives scrolling in iOS that rubber band-like bounce.

Asked in the courtroom about discussions Steve Jobs reportedly had with Samsung in July 2010 over the rubber banding patent, Forstall responded:

I don’t remember specifics. I think it was just one of the things that Steve said, here’s something we invented. Don’t – don’t copy it. Don’t steal it.

Apple representatives allegedly met with Samsung multiple times in 2010, showing them a presentation titled ‘Samsung’s Use of Apple Patents in Smartphones’ that focused on two particular patents (the ‘002 and ‘381 patents) that Apple felt Samsung was infringing upon.

One of the topics of the discussion were rectangles and iPhone icons, Forstall recollected:

I know like the design of icons with the rounded recs was something that we cared about because it – it – it looked uniquely ours, and we didn’t want other people to go and copy that design, because it would confuse users as to what’s, you know, an iPhone versus what’s one of these copy phones.

Back to the rubber band thing.

Why all the fuss over such a mundane thing as scrolling?

Forstall explains:

Rubber banding is one of the sort of key things for the fluidity of the iPhone and – and all of iOS, and so I know it was one of the ones that Steve really cared about.

I actually think that Android had not done rubber banding at some point and it was actually added later. So they actually went form sort of, you know, not yet copying and infringing to – to choosing to copy, which is sad and distasteful.

But I can’t give you a specific recollection of – of Steve, you know, going over rubber banding with – with them in those meetings or not…

I expect it came up, because it’s one of the key things we talked – you know, he and I talked about, but I don’t know if it came up there.

But who exactly invented the inertial scrolling?

The Next Web points to Walter Isaacson’s bio book on Steve Jobs, which contains the following excerpt describing an interview that interface designer Bas Ording had with Apple’s late co-founder (emphasis mine):

The process could be intimidating, but Jobs had an eye for talent. When they were looking for people to design the graphical interface for Apple’s new operating system, Jobs got an email from a young man and invited him in. The applicant was nervous, and the meeting did not go well.

Later that day Jobs bumped into him, dejected, sitting in the lobby. The guy asked if he could just show him one of his ideas, so Jobs looked over his shoulder and saw a little demo, using Adobe Director, of a way to fit more icons in the dock at the bottom of a screen.

When the guy moved the cursor over the icons crammed into the dock, the cursor mimicked a magnifying glass and made each icon balloon bigger. “I said, ‘My God,’ and hired him on the spot,” Jobs recalled. The feature became a lovable part of Mac OS X, and the designer went on to design such things as inertial scrolling for multi-touch screens (the delightful feature that makes the screen keep gliding for a moment after you’ve finished swiping).

Ording is listed as an inventor of the ‘381 patent which outlines the rubber band scrolling and is also credited with inventing the dock magnification effect in OS X.

Jobs would specifically highlight the inertial scrolling feature at the January 2007 iPhone unveiling, much to ‘ohs’ and ‘ahs’ from the audience.

He quipped:

I was giving the demo to someone a little while ago, and I finished the demo and I said what do you think? They said, ‘You had me at scrolling.’

Jobs also explained that the rubber-band scrolling was one of the earliest multi-touch features Apple’s engineers were researching well before the iPhone came along.

Here’s an excerpt from Jobs’ 2010 AllThingsD talk:

I asked our people about it [a tablet], and six months later they came back with this amazing display. And I gave it to one of our really brilliant UI guys.

He got [rubber band] scrolling working and some other things, and I thought, ‘My God, we can build a phone with this.’

So we put the tablet aside, and we went to work on the iPhone.

Here’s a clip of that segment.


The inertial scrolling feature remains one of the trademark highlights of iOS that Apple’s been fighting fiercely to keep exclusive to its platform.

Court documents also show how trustworthy Jobs was of Forstall’s ability to manage a software team that would create Apple’s mobile operating system from scratch as Jobs “told me I could move anyone within the company to that team”.

It was also revealed during Forstall’s testimony last week that iCloud boss Eddy Cue was the biggest proponent of a seven-inch iPad, an idea to which Jobs had allegedly become receptive by January 2011.

Forstall was profiled by Businessweek last October as Apple’s youngest and most ambitious vice president who wields power and influence because iOS software his division is charged with powers the iPhone, a device that accounts for more than 60 percent of Apple’s revenue and nearly half the profits.

The article also quotes former co-workers who labeled Forstall as Apple’s “chief a*****e”, a compliment of sorts to how driven the 43-year-old executive is.

The story also has it that Forstall clashes often with Apple’s design guru Jony Ive and hardware chief Bob Mansfield (who will be retiring later this year) and sometimes these fights would escalate up to the point where Ive and Mansfield would avoid meetings with Forstall unless Tim Cook was present.

In case you were wondering, Forstall shares Jobs’ passion for nice rides as his Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG can be often seen at Apple’s parking lot.

Do you think Apple invented the rubber-band scrolling effect?

Is the inertial scrolling invention one of those things Google argues are so widely used in smartphones that should be available to every manufacturer?