updated 05:00 am EDT, Wed August 8, 2012
Full report may be 'smoking gun' in patent case
Apple has been allowed to enter an entire 132-page Samsung report entitled "Relative Evaluation Report on [the Galaxy S smartphone, known internally as] S1, iPhone" into evidence in the Apple vs. Samsung patent trial ongoing in San Francisco. The report is an an excruciatingly-detailed, side-by-side comparison of the Galaxy S and iPhone from 2010 that compares the two products, and repeatedly suggests that the way to best improve the Samsung product is to make design and features more like or similar to those on the iPhone.
While Apple has been allowed to use selected highlights from the report in previous portions of the trial, the full report -- translated from Korean -- is likely to be considered (at least by Apple attorneys) as a "smoking gun" showing Samsung's strong intent to copy iPhone ideas and patented inventions. Even if it is not seen as a direct indictment of Samsung engineers, it is likely to be claimed to illustrate a mentality that may have deeply influenced the entire company and all its subsequent product design decisions.
In the trial, Apple is alleging Samsung has copied at least four design patents, and the trial so far has focused on this aspect. Samsung is counter-charging that Apple has infringed on two telecommunications patents, but details on that will come in a later portion of the trial. Jurors have heard a parade of Apple executives and paid experts testify that Samsung's designs post-iPhone were at the very least obviously influenced by, if not simply copied from, the iPhone. The full Samsung report even goes beyond the iPhone itself to make suggestions regarding iTunes features that the company needs to emulate in its sync software, such as Genius playlists and auto-backup of app purchases.
Though the even-more-obvious similarity to between the iPad and the Galaxy Tab (which resulted in several sales bans on both the original 10-inch and the currrent 7-inch versions, including in the US) has been more lightly touched on, the detailed comparison of the iPhone and Samsung's at-the-time rival device along with repeated instructions to engineers to change their design to be more like the iPhone is likely to be very damaging to Samsung's credibility. The defense Samsung has offered so far has dwelt mostly on small changes that keep the similarity of icons, layouts and hardware design intact, but make enough difference that consumers buying phones would be unlikely to be confused.
Still, Samsung may be able to persuasively argue that trying to improve its own products by studying its rivals does not amount to copying, despite the strong similarities of the results in some cases. Apple still faces an uphill battle of proving beyond reasonable doubt that Samsung's intent was to infringe, though the report may make its job easier. Apple is seeking $2.5 billion in damages from Samsung and injunctions barring sales until the company modifies its products. It has already won sales bans in the US and other countries on select products, such as the Galaxy Tab and the Galaxy Nexus (though the latter injunction has been stayed for at least the course of the trial).
Some observers have said, however, that the money is not a motivating factor in the case -- as Steve Jobs is said to have told Google when charging that Android, the OS most Samsung products use, is "stolen technology." Rather, as echoed in remarks by Jobs, designer Sir Jonathan Ive and current CEO Tim Cook, Apple wants to make clear that other companies (particularly Google) should steer clear of copying Apple's style, and come up with their own original inventions.