Blog Post

Judge in Apple-Samsung case says patent drawings can ‘speak for themselves’

A judge sided with Apple (s aapl) on Friday, saying she would not provide detailed  instructions to a jury about how to interpret patent drawings that lay out claims to the iPad and iPhone. Instead, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh said it would be up to the jurors to use “the eye of an ordinary observer” to decide if Korean phone maker Samsung copied the drawings.

The ruling represents one of the final skirmishes before a closely-watched trial set to kick off Monday in San Jose near Apple’s headquarters. The California trial is the biggest showdown yet in a global struggle in which Apple is carpet-bombing Samsung with intellectual property claims in the hopes of removing Samsung products from store shelves and forcing it to pay massive damages.

The decision that the drawings can “speak for themselves” is significant because it means the judge will not, as Samsung had hoped, provide detailed legal instructions about how to decipher the patents. Instead, the jurors will be asked to base their decision on the overall design and to give “such attention as a purchaser usually gives.”

The drawings in question are from four Apple design patents. Each patent contains between two and 48 drawings that are used to illustrate how Apple owns features like the shape of the iPad and the black-colored surface of the iPhone (the three iPhone-related patents can be found herehere and here while the iPad one is here ). Here are some examples of the drawings the jurors will consider (note that the judge will, however, instruct them that the dotted lines indicate that Apple is not claiming that part of the design) :

The ruling that the jurors’ should decide based on the overall impression of the drawings may strengthen Apple’s case that Samsung copied its designs. But if they do find copying, Samsung could still be off the hook if the jury (again acting as an “ordinary observer”) decides the patents are obvious based on earlier tablet and smartphone designs. For instance, Samsung is arguing that Apple itself lifted design ideas from these Sony prototypes:

The design patent dispute is just the most high profile part of a case that also features a complicated mix of other intellectual property claims such as utility patents, trade dress and more. The trial, for which jury selection is to begin on Monday, will also address whether Apple infringed Samsung’s patents. Apple claims Samsung’s claims fail because they are based on so-called FRAND patents which companies must license because they part of an industry standard.

Koh on Claim Construction
(Image by nokhoog_buchachon via Shutterstock)

13 Responses to “Judge in Apple-Samsung case says patent drawings can ‘speak for themselves’”

  1. Shaun Willsher

    While a company tops the market, rumors spread. This not only makes the company famous, it also lets down the repute of the company against it. Apple has its own designs and it does not copy anyone. I have seen all the gadgets of Apple, since it made Lisa as well as up until now the iPad 2 and the iPhone 4S. It has never made any copies of the designs by other companies.



  2. I believe we has “compass boxes” with a rectangular design…. Most things in the world are either square or rectangle like… eg the “Diary, the little Palm Os that used to be there … etc etc”… How the hell did “Apple” manage to get away with patenting obvious stuff ? The patent office did a lousy job in accepting patents…. Pls show Apple the GATE. We need competition for innovation to thrive…

  3. Alivation

    I am a great apple product fan but i agree with the comments about patenting the look of something. This should be covered by common copyright not patent, unless the shape or colour or surface is somehow critical to the technological function of the device and it’s innovative. The patent system stinks. It offers no protection for small or individual inventors because of the prohibitive cost of worldwide patents and the totally impossible cost of sueing for a patent violation if you domanage to stump up the filing fees.

  4. Patents on physical design is bullcrap. If your company comes up with a good design, your products will sell. But to say no one else can make rounded corner phones is just ludicrous.

    • Totally agree! It just appears that Apple does not have any more tricks under their hat. This is all they had? the physical appearance? which are being vigorously protected… makes me sick!

  5. Benjamin

    This article is incorrect – these are not Sony prototypes, but Apple designs of what a Sony inspired device might look like. Samsung is trying to confuse they jury and the press by calling them Sony inspired designs.

  6. Richard

    We’ll see how the court’s ruling fares on appeal. I suspect the court erred in this instruction and will have an opportunity to correct it at retrial.

  7. Kalpana Ganesh

    Informatics Outsourcing is an Offshore Intellectual Property Services company. They are providing Intellectual Property services for Bio Technology, Biochemistry, Drug Discovery, Chemistry, etc

  8. That’s not a sony design. It’s an Apple design done as part of a design study – the designer was asked to create a phone that would look like what Sony might do.