updated 07:15 am EDT, Mon July 30, 2012
New court docs reveal 'purple' prototype predates 'Sony' design study
Apple has released images of an iPhone prototype from 2005 codenamed 'purple' as evidence to refute Samsung's assertion that Apple copied its iPhone design from Sony. The prototype was asserted by Apple's lawyers to predate the 2006 Sony-inspired prototype designed by Apple's Shin Nishibori. As a result, Apple's lawyers have filed (pdf) to have Samsung's references to Nishibori design study stricken from the record.
Late last week, Samsung produced images of an iPhone prototype discussed in an email exchange between Apple's hardware engineer Tony Fadell and Richard Howarth. Nishibori was instructed to design an iPhone that reflected Sony's design language as explained by one of its former designers in an article. On its own, the Sony-styled prototype bares distinct resemblance to the current iPhone 4 and 4S design; however, the 'purple' prototype shows that Apple was already well down the road to the eventual iPhone 4 and 4S design as far back as 7 years ago - which is probably why Nishibori made the 'Jony' reference that adorned the back of one of his design studies.
Samsung had planned to use the Sony-inspired design as proof that Apple had in some way 'stolen' iPhone design from Sony. Even though it was clear in the evidence entered into the court that the Nishibori design study did not draw from an actual shipping Sony product, the bold 'Sony' logo on the rear could have led jurors to think that that is indeed what Apple had done. By releasing yet another previously top-secret design study, Apple aims to have demonstrated that its iPhone designs were completely in-house design efforts - which is likely why Sony itself has never intimated that Apple had stolen its IP.