Samsung says Apple lifted the iPad’s design from a 1981 tablet, other prior art claims

It’s the third week of the Apple v. Samsung mega-suit and Samsung is on the offensive with some interesting assertions meant to invalidate some of Apple’s key patents. For example, the Galaxy maker, whom Apple accuses of ripping off its iPad and iPhone wholesale, now counterclaims that Apple stole its patents related to things like e-mail, photo albums and playing music in the background.

Furthermore, Samsung brought a number of experts who testified that Apple’s patents should be invalidated due to a bunch of prior art. Heck, the company even wheeled in a monstrous Surface-like tablet computer into the courtroom in an attempt to invalidate Apple’s pinch-zoom feature and establish that everyone, even Apple, takes inspiration from someone else’s work…

Joel Rosenblatt, reporting for Bloomberg, points to a videotaped testimony by Roger Fidler, who heads the digital publishing program at the University of Missouri. It was shown yesterday to the jury as Samsung’s attempt to invalidate Apple’s iPad design due to alleged prior art.

Fidler said in a written declaration he started working on a tablet design in 1981 and that “Apple personnel were exposed to my tablet ideas and prototypes” during a period in the mid-1990s when the company collaborated with Knight-Ridder Inc.’s information design laboratory in Colorado.

His first tablet mockup was meant to be what today’s tablets are:

“My feeling was that it should be something that’s lightweight, portable, with a flat screen that had an ability to use a touch screen,” Fidler testified, referring to the first mock-up of his tablet from the early 1980s.

Fidler built another version of his tablet in 1994. It had “rounded corners”, slots for memory cards and of course a “flat touchscreen”.

“My original assumptions were that it would be a touchscreen without a stylus,” he said.

Tactics changed, the South Korean firm is now accusing Apple of infringing on three patents covering things like e-mail, photo albums and playing music in the background of other apps. The company also attempted to invalidate Apple’s rubber-band scrolling patent that Steve Jobs warned Samsung not to copy and the pinch-to-zoom feature.

Yesterday, Samsung summoned its witness, a Mistubishi engineer named Adam Bogue (via Fortune), who worked on a device called Diamond Touch from a company called Circle Twelve.

It’s akin to Microsoft’s Surface and has pinch-zoom functionality, which is one of Apple’s prized iPhone patents.

Samsung actually wheeled this tech monstrosity on a tripod in the courtroom.

Not sure if the jurors will be able to draw parallels between pinch and zoom functionality on this large table-like device and the iPhone’s 3.5-inch display.

Here’s a video of it in action.


Samsung is attempting to establish that everyone copies, even Apple, in the hope of  making the case for its claim that Apple’s intellectual property is invalid to begin with.

Itay Sherman, the inventor and CEO of multitouch company DoubleTouch, testified that Apple’s patents should be invalidated due to a number of alleged prior art claims. In respect to the iPhone, Sherman mentioned a Japanese design patent from 2005 describing a device with rounded corners, rectangular shape and “lozenge-shaped” speaker.

Of course, he also mentioned LG’s Prada handset.

As for the iPad, Sherman brought up the 1994 Fidler tablet concept (seen below) and Compaq’s TC1000 tablet computer from 2002.

InformationWeek on Monday quoted Christopher Canari, chairman of the American Bar Association’s design rights committee and former chair of the American Intellectual Property Law Association committee on industrial design, who thinks the court will side with Apple.

Angered by the ongoing courtroom “theatrics”, Judge Lucy Koh which presides over the case ordered on Monday and again on Wednesday that lawyers for both parties meet in person one last time, advising the parties to settle to avoid both getting burned by verdict.

What do you think, does Samsung have a shot at invalidating Apple’s prized inventions?