back to article Apple vs. Samsung goes back to court, again, to re-assess the value of a rounded corner

A US appeal court has opened the next round of the long-running Apple versus Samsung patent case, this time to recalculate the damages Sammy owes Cupertino. Apple won US$399 million in damages when courts agreed that various patents were infringed by Samsung, including rounded corners on the case, and the gridded home page …

  1. Gray
    Facepalm

    Another universe entirely

    American legal/judicial system? Common Sense? C'mon, people ... that's not even in the same universe!

    Besides which, no court case is ever conclusively concluded until it's sifted through appeal after appeal ... all the way, perhaps, to our currently fashionable eight-member Court of Supremes... the politically-neutered Ministry of Ju$tice.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Another universe entirely

      Common Sense is IMHO outlawed in the US Legal and Governmental Systems.

      All that matters is Laws, Precident and Rules.

      Have an upvote.

  2. Paul 76

    Ah, yes the Apple idea

    Have a look at https://patents.google.com/patent/US4279421A/en

    It's a 1979 patent for a square flat gaming device with a touch area on a display underneath. The display is an array of 8 x 8 7 segment LCDs - the idea is that you play chess and the like on it - and it's primitive (1802 CPU, 128 bytes of RAM etc.) because of the date and the technology then available.

    However, it is, to all intents and purposes the same thing as an iPad. We don't say things like the Sinclair ZX80 or the TRS80 Model 1 aren't somehow real computers just because they are primitive.

    It has rounded corners as well. AFAICS it would look like a square iPad.

    1. redpawn Silver badge

      Re: Ah, yes the Apple idea

      The problem with this, is that they used a square in their gaming device, which is a special case of rectangle. Apple has brilliantly and un-obviously expanded on the idea and applied it to ALL rectangles, hence the validity of their patent and adjudicated claim to rounded corners.

    2. Bob Vistakin
      Facepalm

      Re: Ah, yes the Apple idea

      Apple seems to think no-one can remember them apologizing already for this, then apologizing again for apologizing wrong.

    3. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Ah, yes the Apple idea

      A "coke" bottle or a Russell Hobbs kettle is extremely distinctive. The shape of an iPhone is more your generic wine bottle. There was nothing distinctive about the shape of the first iPhone.

      Well, you'd expect certain fashion companies that sell Asian made tat at x10 or x100 price simply because it has their initials to support Apple. They are naked emperors who in reality have nothing more original than their logo.

    4. Ian Joyner

      Re: Ah, yes the Apple idea

      Taking out a patent on an idea and developing a product are two different things. The concept of patent is to protect the investment of those who have developed products.

      This gets misused by people who just want to stop others making products altogether, without the original patent holder actually making a product themselves. This is against the spirit of protection, which is why some people get really upset and passionate against the patent system.

      The key point here is that Apple actually built the product and spent a good deal of risk and investment to do so. Now others just copy that, and bring products to market for far less investment. Apple's use of patents is legitimate and in the spirit of patents.

      1. TheDillinquent
        Facepalm

        Re: Ah, yes the Apple idea

        So, how many Apple geniuses did it take to think up a rounded rectangle? Its one of those ideas where you think, 'brilliant, how come no-one thought of that before?'. To think, before the iPhony all rectangles had pointy corners like playing cards. Oh, wait...

  3. moiety

    You have to have rounded corners on a phone or it'll rip/get stuck in your pocket.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      All corners...

      All corners that are not cutting edges are rounded (and if you look closely enough i.e. through a high powered microscope, even cutting edges will have some rounding).

      Thus, all corners on all material objects are rounded, the only difference between any of them being the radius of the rounding curve. Unrounded corners can only occur in mathematics and geometry.

  4. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Best award

    If Samsung truly violated a valid patent, I would say the proper award is $1. Rounded corners are often an engineering necessity to avoid high stresses caused by sharp corners. These high stress could cause case cracking starting from the corners. Stress concentration at sharp corners was discovered after 4 De Havilland Comets broke up in mid-air because of fatigue failure (early 1950's).

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: Best award

      If Samsung truly violated a valid patent, I would say the proper award is $1.

      I'd say US$0.785398163397 per corner.

      Stress concentration at sharp corners was discovered after 4 De Havilland Comets broke up in mid-air because of fatigue failure (early 1950's).

      Just two (G-ALYP and G-ALYY). A third (G-ALYU) was destructively tested to find out the exact failure mode, and the G-ALYV suffered a wing spar failure

      1. Loud Speaker

        Re: Best award

        So how much do DeHavilland owe Apple then?

    2. Vic

      Re: Best award

      Stress concentration at sharp corners was discovered after 4 De Havilland Comets broke up in mid-air because of fatigue failure (early 1950's).

      Nope. They'd already had Liberty ships breaking in half for the same reason, but a decade earlier.

      I doubt this was the first time, either.

      Vic.

  5. HildyJ
    Mushroom

    If Sammy stole round corners from Apple, who did Apple steal straight sides from???

    Patents have gotten to be complete manure. You want a pocketable device, a commercial product, still for sale at Amazon (for absolutely no good reason), with a near full screen, straight sides, and curved corners? Look no further than the Palm Zire 72 from 2004, three years before the iThing ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zire_72 ). The fact that it didn't have a radio antenna should have nothing to do with an external "design patent".

    1. imaginarynumber

      Re: If Sammy stole round corners from Apple, who did Apple steal straight sides from???

      The 2003 HP TC1100 tablet had rounded corners as well

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HP_Compaq_TC1100

      TBF to Apple, they did cite it as prior art in one of their patent applications.

  6. Neoc

    Rounded corners

    @a_yank_lurker, et al

    The rounded corners in questions do not refer to the physical device but rather to the icons on the screen. Later generations of Samsungs no longer have them, but the original icons used rounded corners, same as the iPhone.

    1. imaginarynumber

      Re: Rounded corners

      Sorry but the rounded corners also applied to the shape of the device.

      "The iPhone is radically different from the devices that preceded it. It has a

      distinctive shape and appearance—a flat rectangular shape with rounded corners, a metallic edge,

      a large display screen bordered at the top and bottom with substantial black segments, and a

      selection of colorful square icons with rounded corners that mirror the rounded corners of the

      iPhone itself, and which are the embodiment of Apple’s innovative iPhone user interface"

      https://www.apple.com/pr/pdf/110415samsungcomplaint.pdf

      It is true that Samsung used rounded corners on their icons but those corners were much less rounded. Apple argued that many of the samsung icons looked like Apple's, eg the use of a handset at a 45 degree angle for the phone app and the use of a cog for the settings app. IIRC they also complained about the boxes that Samsung sold their devices in and the use of "rubber banding" when you scroll to the end of a page.

      I suspect that Apple fell for their own marketing, they even told the court that they had invented touchscreen smartphones.

      "Before the iPhone, cell phones were utilitarian devices with key pads for dialing and

      small, passive display screens that did not allow for touch control."

      1. Aqua Marina Silver badge

        *imaginarynumber

        "Apple...... they even told the court that they had invented touchscreen smartphones."

        Now this is what I find crazy, in the years that have passed, everyone and their dog now knows that there are 1001 examples of prior art (eg. the first iPhone released 2007 could easily be mistaken for the Samsung F700 that first appeared at CEBIT in 2006) for pretty much every one of Apples claims.

        With all this now established knowledge amassed in the past decade, why hasn't someone pushed in the courts to persue perjury charges? Given all the documentation that exists now, someone must have deliberately lied in court.

        1. imaginarynumber

          Re: *imaginarynumber

          Indeed, one has to wonder to what extent the jury were swayed by Apple's whopping porkie-pie about being the first to release a touchscreen smartphone.

    2. Mage Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Rounded corners

      Any patent for the appearance, shape or layout of Icons is an insult to intelligence!

      The fact is the vast bulk of USPTO "Design Patents" (a special type of copyright called Registered Design) in UK are not sufficiently distinctive or original. Most of the actual "inventive" Patents are also invalid, as they are obvious to those versed in art, not original (prior art), or not realisable, or too broad etc.

    3. HildyJ

      Re: Rounded corners

      In that case, Apple is even more rotten at the core since the Palm OS, dating back to the Palm Pilot 1000 in 1996, years before the first iPod, used round icons arranged in a grid ( http://www.palminfocenter.com/news/8493/pilot-1000-retrospective/ ). If it has to be a smartphone, the round icons in a grid was seen as early as 2002 on the Palm Treo 180.

  7. redpawn Silver badge

    Should have done it

    Many years ago when I was using a Mac 512K computer I had the thought that I ought to patent flat surfaces with the novel characteristic of being shiny. Life is full of missed opportunities.

  8. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    It will be interesting to watch

    The current methodology of financial awards - "all profits from the product using the invention" is one of the key factors to feed the patent troll environment Decreasing this reward to be proportional to the actual role of the patent pretty much kills the patent trolling business model while still keeping patents and patent licensing as viable means to make money on IPR.

  9. Paul Woodhouse

    wouldn't mind having as 'little' as $50million in the bank...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The damages could reasonably be cut to as little as $50 million

    Must be fun having so much spare change lying around that you can label $50M as little..

    Yes, I know it's "little" in context, but I would have though that sentence also deserves to have "little" in quotes.

    As for the case itself, now would be the time for Apple to be intelligent and ask the court itself to limit the damages to costs plus a bit - it would look far better from a PR perspective and would take some of the steam out of this tit for tat nonsense. Neither party needs this IMHO. Apple served its heads up to Samsung that it shouldn't get too comfortable just copying design and was proven right in the courts, but the issue is IMHO too trivial to make it a big deal. A degree of magnanimity would IMHO work better from a PR perspective than demanding stupid amounts, and could in turn lower the heat from Samsung as well.

    That said, maybe I'm just naive in these matters. Apple is, after all, a US company ..

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: The damages could reasonably be cut to as little as $50 million

      I agree, if the "patents" have been violated, then $1 per patent is all they should get.

  11. ukgnome Silver badge

    Hasn't anyone mentioned Prior Art yet?

    While we are at it can we sue Motorola - their Razr never did give me a clean cut.

  12. David Austin

    Surely

    You start with π, then decide how many zeroes you out on the end?

  13. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad
    Paris Hilton

    value estimations

    "the world's big names in design (Calvin Klein et all) have filed an amicus brief because they want the court to find that the design elements in question are sufficient to make up the whole value of the copy"

    Not sure that those design wizards have thought it through. Attributing whole 100% of value to the design (and brand) would imply that the underlying product is worth precisely nothing on its own. So if I buy a pair of CK jeans for €80, then those jeans carry less practical value than a €20 pair of no-name jeans?

    Foot, meet gun.

  14. Ian Joyner

    Why do people buy non-Apple products?

    People buy other brands than Apple for one simple reason - they work much the same as Apple at a base level. This is because companies like Samsung and Google with Android have substantially copied the Apple look and feel.

    They really have stolen much of Apple's investment and development, which is non-trivial. Much of the industry sits back, waiting to see which new products are successful or not. They can easily capitalize on the successful ones and save themselves the unsuccessful ones.

    Catching Samsung on rounded corners is really like gaoling Al Capone for tax evasion, which is all they could get Capone on.

    1. imaginarynumber

      Re: Why do people buy non-Apple products?

      Sure, no one had ever used a grid'o'icons before Apple...

      It is true that the iPhone was the first to use multitouch, however it was not the first to support finger gestures such as swiping and double tapping.

      Multitouch, pinch to zoom, etc had been demonstrated by Jeff Han a year earlier and Jazz Mutant were selling their Lemur multitouch music controller two or three years before the iphone was released.

      Other than mutlitouch iOS the iphone wasn't all that different to the other touchscreen phones back in 2007.

      1. Ian Joyner

        Re: Why do people buy non-Apple products?

        Well, Mr Imaginarynumber, you certainly are living in an imaginary world (sorry cheap shot).

        No one denies that many technologies were developed long before they were put into a product. Most stuff like touch were demonstrations like 'look you put your finger here and it does something', but nothing particularly useful. In other words just little hardware demonstrations.

        Apple put the whole bundle together and in such a way that showed people 'this is how you can use this stuff'. All these little demonstrations come together to make something useful.

        You and many Apple detractors make out this is something trivial, that the real work is in devising the basic hardware. That is where you make your mistake, although you persist with this mistake deliberately in order to disparage Apple. Knocking and mocking is just so easy, but it doesn't really show you know what you are talking about - in fact, the opposite. This is a long tradition in the computing industry of spreading FUD against those who come out with products first. This kind of bashing actually proves the point.

        What Apple has done is non-trivial. Take a look at the status-quo of phones before iPhone, and then suddenly afterwards - because iPhone was a success - the rest all adopt Apple's look and feel. Strange that. I won't say any more, but this has been adequately address in Quora answers:

        https://www.quora.com/The-iPhone-was-not-the-first-touchscreen-phone-nor-the-first-phone-with-apps-so-in-what-way-did-it-change-everything

        Especially the answer from Karta Sutanto.

        1. imaginarynumber

          Re: Why do people buy non-Apple products?

          Other than pinch to zoom, what could you do on an iphone that you couldn't already do on something like the 5" HTC Athena?

          Nothing. In fact you could do far more on the HTC.

          And seriously.. Karta Sutanto's post is bollocks.

          "The iphone was the first phone with a big screen?"- It had a 3.5" screen, I had a 3.5" HTC Blue Angel in 2004, in Feb 2007 I had a 5" screen.

          "It was the first phone with bundled data"- my 5" HTC had unlimited 3.5G data. The iPhone was GPRS.

          All Karta is right about is multi-touch, but how often do people actually rotate images. I suspect that swiping and double tap to zoom are the most frequently used gestures, and both of those existed before tha iphone.

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