Apple v. Samsung: Are You F-Ing Kidding Me?

Let me get this straight: The company that  allowed massive copyright infringement with their no-copy protection music pod now wants to prevent a legitimate competitor from copying what…? Rounded corners and a touch screen?.

Does anyone besides me find it ironic that Apple is suing anyone for “copying” them? Isn’t Apple the very company that railed on major labels, insisting that they should remove copy protection DRM from the songs sold in iTunes so that buyers could have a “better user experience?” (Read: make copies freely.)

Yeah, I’m pretty sure that was them. Thankfully, most major labels did not listen and the only one that did is regretting it– EMI.

Aside from the smack-in-the-face hypocrisy of Apple’s suit against Samsung, the legal merits have several experts shaking their heads: Apple is not taking their competitor to court for making exact copies of the design for iPads and iPhones, but rather the “look and feel” of the their innovations.

Basically, Apple is saying that rounded corners on a mobile device is their exclusive idea, oh and the idea of touching the screen with your finger to assert commands… Yeah, they got that one too.

Can you imagine the public flogging record labels would take for suing someone who created a song that “felt” like one of their recordings?

For those not familiar with patent law, “look and feel” is actually IP nomenclature, but it pretty much means what it implies: that you made something that looks a lot and behaves very much like something someone else already patented.

This argument seems a reasonable one for Apple to make. (They are leaders in just about everything they do.) Especially if you’ve seen Apple’s compelling evidence which clearly shows both phones have rounded corners and a touch screen. It all makes sense. That is, until you look at the company’s history; Apple tried this same exact lawsuit/argument once before against Microsoft. And lost.

For those under 35 here’s a quick computer history lesson: Apple was the first PC to use a mouse and pull-down menus. They did this while Microsoft and others were still using MS-DOS, which required users to type things like


…just to open a file.

Microsoft followed in 1987 with their “revolutionary” release– Windows. It looked and felt very similar to Apple Macintosh computers’ GUI (These days we shaved off the “G” and call it just a UI for, “User Interface”).

So, Apple sued.

The case ended in 1993 with a humiliating defeat for Apple. The judge’s decision basically boiled down to this simplified explanation:

The concept of a pull-down menu and a device that is an extension of your finger clicking a spot on the screen was inevitable in the development of personal computer technology. Trying to squat on it would be like trying to patent the ring on a coffee cup that your finger goes through so you don’t burn your hand. This makes use of a legal concept known as the merger doctrine: ideas cannot be copyrighted, only their expression. It’s applied meaning in patent law is that you can not own exclusively something that is obvious. (You can read more gory details about the Apple/Microsoft case than you ever wanted, here.)

I have never fully agreed with the judge’s application of the merger doctrine in the 1987 Apple case against Microsoft. It seems to me that no matter how inevitable something is, it could not be that obvious if no one thought of it and then a really smart person engineered it and then a really stupid person gambled on its development.

Everything seems obvious once some genius thinks it through.

And every investor who hits the long shot is a financial wizard.

I’m reminded of that old music biz joke: how many guitar players does it take to change a light-bulb? Answer: five. One to screw it in and four others to stand off-stage and say, “I could have done that.”

But, what I believe is unimportant. The question I wish some of my smarter attorney-readers would respond to is:  what makes this case against Samsung different? Why does Apple feel they have a better shot now, with a very similar argument (rounded corners and a touch screen) than they did almost thirty years ago (drop-down menus and mouse) which to me seems even less intuitive.

I’m torn on this one. I sorta want Apple to win on the grander principals, even if legally they are in a gray area, but the desire for justice in me really wants this tech company to get a taste of what it’s like to “share” some of its creative products against their will.

Mo out

Up next: Apple trademarks the color white. Sues Sony for changing the Vaio’s shell.


17 responses to “Apple v. Samsung: Are You F-Ing Kidding Me?”

  1. Keith Thomas says:

    I’m copyrighting chords 1, 4 & 5 right now! lol

  2. Terry Stump says:

    Apple’s intellectual property needs to be protected just the same as my lyrics, your song, and that album cover art you love so much.

  3. And let’s not forget that dropdown menus, the mouse and object-oriented programming were developed at Xerox’s PARC (Palo Alto Research Center in Silicon Valley) where Steve Jobs took a tour and saw these innovations for the first time. These were later implemented into the LISA computer system, then, the Mac. Xerox didn’t pursue legal action.

    • Absolutely – Xerox was quite a bit ahead, but unfortunately decided that a “personal computer” had little commercial value, and so they shelved it. Additionally, either during that same period or shortly after, Atari personal computers had their GEM system in place. It stood for Graphic Environment Management, which meant the “look & feel” of what we now all use to get around on every electronic device instead of the DOS key commands that all Microsoft based PCs used then.
      It was totally mouse-based, pull-downs, and was commercially available at reasonable prices. I became aware of these in the early 80s maninly because of their built-in MIDI interfaces (no additional box required) that worked flawlessly – all with only a 1 meg total capacity system.

  4. Tom Bishel says:

    Hi Moses, you make some great points. I’m a die-hard mac/iphone guy, but I can’t deny that Apple is being unreasonable in this suit.

  5. martin thomas says:

    It sounds like some lawyers are figuring how to get some of apple’s money.

  6. Perry Pansieri says:

    The touch screen part really makes me laugh. I’ve seen many POS (Point Of Sale)systems in restaurants with touch screens way before Apple came out with this concept. What’s up with that?

  7. Matthias says:

    As long as there are so many apple fans (aka idol worshippers) out there justice might not prevail. Oill your goddamn idils. Ive been an apple fan myself for many years all the time its been the underdog but since they began to dominate some markets their motives became obvious. They used to be “different” aka “alternative” and “indiependent” but just like their musical equivalents now theyre just mainstream and its all an illusion in your head like the shiny burgers on mcdonalds menu card. What you see aint what you get anymore and these days apple seems to believe everyone else has got to pay. not them. Kibd of a narcissistic personality disorder tgat might end up in acting like a psychopath.

  8. John Beecher says:

    I happen to hate Samsung for their poor customer ‘service’ but I agree, Apple are being hyper-hypocritical here and I hope they fail….

  9. Turaj says:

    I think they also tried to sue someone for having multi-tasking on a phone, as if “multi-tasking” was a proprietary invention, and not a general descriptive term to a phone’s processing capacity.

    I’m not even a techie, and I find that ridiculous.

  10. Val Gameiro says:

    Hey Mo,

    technically, X-Windows came out in 1982, 2 years before Macintosh, and they have the mouse and menus, etc. And the first GUI came out in 1973 by Xerox.

    I bet this does have something to do with their sales coming down! Instead of innovating with the iPhone 5, they’re looking for someone else to boost sales. 🙁

  11. John says:

    Let’s hope Apple does spend itself into oblivion as promised:

  12. Apecius Veritas says:

    Why don’t you stick to writing “All About Jazz.” Apple has large cash reserves, a cadre of lawyers who do nothing but pursue these things. So does Samsung. Like pretty much every company anywhere.
    Samsung/Apple? Get over it. and write about F-ing music.

  13. The thing is Samsung is beating them at their own game and now Apple is scared of loosing even more. I think companies should embrace competition and use it to find ways to be better.

  14. mark fisher says:

    thanks for bringing me up to speed on this one

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