Now, how long before Sony sues them both for copying its design?
The vicious circle of “no, you!” continues in this latest update on Apple’s and Samsung’s almost comical argument over design originality.
In a new court filing, Samsung has accused Apple of stealing iPhone design ideas from Sony, pointing out that the Cupertinos are as much a “copyist” as they claim others to be. Samsung cites a 2006 interview with Sony product designers Takasi Ashida and Yuijn Mirosawa, where the duo spoke about moving away from the constraints of buttons and have a design that “flows”. Following the interview, Apple designer Shin Nishibori was instructed to make a mock design that matched that aesthetic style, which Nishibori later admitted changed the course of the final design of the original iPhone.
Samsung bases its case on a specific quote from Morisawa during the interview when he was asked, “How much did the iPod influence your design?”
Morisawa had said, “The idea was to do away with excessive ornamentation. … I looked at the first Walkman [which debuted in 1979]. Then I thought, “How can I give shape to the music?” Music doesn’t have shape; it’s flowing. I was listening to music and waving my hand in the air. I thought there shouldn’t be an end to its lines. So I started drawing a round shape, and I kept moving the line. My team had shown me their sketch: It was a square with a screen and buttons. Most other players have a screen and buttons. My first mock-up didn’t have buttons. I didn’t want buttons.”
This, Samsung says, is where Apple got its design ideas for the iPhone. In the trial brief, Samsung gives the following version of the “Sony-style” iPhone story:
Right after this article was circulated internally, Apple industrial designer Shin Nishibori was directed to prepare a “Sony-like” design for an Apple phone and then had CAD drawings and a three-dimensional model prepared. Confirming the origin of the design, these internal Apple CAD drawings prepared at Mr. Nishibori‘s direction even had the “Sony” name prominently emblazoned on the phone design, as the below images from Apple‘s internal documents show:
Soon afterward, on March 8, 2006, Apple designer Richard Howarth reported that, in contrast to another internal design that was then under consideration, Mr. Nishibori‘s “Sony-style” design enabled “a much smaller-looking product with a much nicer shape to have next to your ear and in your pocket” and had greater “size and shape/comfort benefits.” As Mr. Nishibori has confirmed in deposition testimony, this “Sony-style” design he prepared changed the course of the project that yielded the final iPhone design.”
Does Samsung have a case? That’s to be seen. Samsung’s claim is quite a stretch as Morisawa’s remark is broad and generic. Apple has always been known for its simplistic design, as evident with the original iPod, which released in 2001, five years before the cited interview.
A court ruling is still pending to see if Samsung can use this as evidence in their case. You can download the trial brief here.