Samsung Says It Designed Its Devices Long Before iPhone, iPad Came Along

In its first full day presenting testimony in its defense at a patent trial, Samsung produced witnesses who explained that its product designs were based on "prior art," not Apple's designs.

Samsung says its smartphones and tablet computers were not based on Apple's iPhone or iPad, but on many products and some of Samsung's own patents.

The testimony came Aug. 14 in Apple's patent infringement suit against Samsung, which claims that Samsung copied design features of Apple's iPhone and iPad in designing its competing products.

In U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., Samsung witness Clifton Forlines testified that the technology used on handheld devices, such as touch screens, zoom and the ability to drag icons across a screen, were all in use in the mobile device market well before the Apple iPhone or iPad were introduced. In patent law, this is what is called "prior art."

Samsung went beyond just defending itself against charges that it copied Apple's patented designs. It tried to turn the tables on Apple by accusing it of copying Samsung patents. Woodward Yang, an engineering expert and professor at Harvard University, testified that Apple infringed upon Samsung patents with an iPhone feature for bookmarking photos, another for sending an email with a photo, and a third for playing background music on a device while performing other tasks.

"I can do my email and listen to Bruce Springsteen," Yang quipped.

Yang said the iPad also infringes on a Samsung patent for emailing photos.

But under cross-examination by a lawyer for Apple, Yang was forced to admit that he had no evidence that Apple had been informed of these patents and that 65 Samsung smartphone models make no use of those three features.

Other Samsung witnesses testified that there were tablet computers in development as far back as the 1990s. One of those witnesses, Itay Sherman, founder of an Israel-based IT consulting firm, presented a Hewlett-Packard TC1000 tablet computer introduced in 2002, whose design he said was "almost identical" to an Apple design patent for the iPad.

Sherman testified that design patents for such features as flat screens, the placement of the speakers or rounded corners are so "functional," meaning basic, that Apple has no patent rights to them. In patent law, this is known as the "obviousness" argument.

But in cross-examining Sherman, Apple attorney Rachel Krevans presented him with six Samsung smartphones, all introduced after the iPhone in 2007, which are of different shapes and sizes than the iPhone. Krevans' point was that if the iPhone design is so "functional" and obvious that it would be typical of all smartphone designs, according to Sherman, why then did Samsung offer alternative designs.

Apple is seeking up to $2.5 billion in compensation for the alleged patent infringement by Samsung. Apple presented testimony from an expert witness who estimated that Samsung has sold 22.7 million smartphones and tablets that infringe on Apple patents, which generated $8.1 billion in revenue.

On Aug. 14, market researcher Gartner reported that Samsung increased its sales lead over Apple and all other smartphone makers in the 2012 second quarter. Overall, Samsung produced a sales increase of nearly 30 percent in the quarter, according to Gartner.

Material for this report was obtained from a live blog of trial proceedings posted on the We site of the San Jose Mercury News.