Apple “fighting over rectangles” says Samsung product head

Jul 31, 2012
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Samsung's product lead has lashed out at Apple's design patent case, describing the jury trial as "fighting over rectangles" and blaming the Cupertino firm for being trigger-happy when it comes to litigation. "In the current environment, there's just one company that's firing the first shot consistently" chief product officer Kevin Packingham told Wired. "Most everyone else seems to be getting along really well." The Apple vs. Samsung case kicked off in San Jose on Monday this week, with jury selection taking place; Samsung argues that Apple's interpretation of design patents for the iPad and iPhone are too broad, with Packingham claiming Apple is "defying common sense."

"For us, it’s unreasonable that we’re fighting over rectangles, that that’s being considered as an infringement, which is why we’re defending ourselves" Packingham says of Samsung's stance. "In some cases, for most of us in the industry, it’s defying common sense. We’re all scratching our heads and saying, “How is this possible that we’re actually having an industry-level debate and trying to stifle competition?” Consumers want rectangles and we’re fighting over whether you can deliver a product in the shape of a rectangle."

According to the product lead, Apple is unique among companies for the way it approaches rivals and the marketplace. Samsung launches new devices with a combination of prior due diligence and the expectation that some unforeseen licensing issues will likely show themselves, and usually, Packingham says, "some additional conversations [are] required" but "in the past it's never been a barrier to us introducing new products."

As for the strange dual-role Samsung plays to Apple, as key component supplier and arch nemesis at retail, Packingham says the two sides of the company are "extremely isolated" in how they operate. That's not always a good thing, he believes; "there are times when I'm absolutely appalled that we sell what I consider to be the most innovative, most secrete parts of the sauce of our products to some other manufacturer" Packingham admits, only to be told by the components group that "that's none of your business. You go make your mobile phones and if you'd like to use our components, that'd be great."

The Apple vs. Samsung case is expected to take at least two weeks, with the court meeting three times a week. However, Packingham argues that much broader patent reform is required if the current situation isn't to repeat itself.

"Hopefully the entire industry is in the position now where we have to defend ourselves and say, “Look, it’s unreasonable for us to be in the position of claiming that there is design, claiming that there is some sort of protected property, around a rectangle.” So I would say, yeah, we have design patents as well, but they’re not as simple as the rectangle. And so that’s where I think you see a little bit of this challenge" Kevin Packingham, Chief Product Officer, Samsung

Samsung and Apple both shared prototype and concept designs from their archives as part of pre-trial briefs last week. Samsung accused Apple of rewriting history and of itself copying Sony, while Apple fired back with a 2005 iPhone prototype that it claimed pre-dated any relevant Sony concept.


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