@BenHarvell is a freelance writer and former editor of iCreate magazine. He writes for a wide range of international technology magazines and websites including Macworld, MacFormat and MacLife. He’s on Twitter,blogs at www.benharvell.com and is currently enjoying the latest social network, Tout.
So the gloves are off and two former bedfellows (at least in terms of component sales), Apple and Samsung, are ready to fight. I thought I’d jump in here and pick my side. I’m backing, without question, Apple.
Now this isn’t because I’m an iPhone user or that I’ve used some pretty awful Samsung phones in the past, it’s because I really dislike the current opinion that this imitation of a UI is in some way helping the market and bringing about evolution. It’s not. I also disagree that Apple is suing for the sake of it. Apple has to sue in this case.
I base these opinions largely on the comparisons between the Samsung and Apple mobile UIs. Packaging and hardware are, I would say, less important parts of this lawsuit and probably harder to make stick. The UI argument is also the clearest infringement of Apple’s designs and patents and the one that simply bugs me the most.
I’m not particularly sure that the “Trade Dress” allegations are quite as strong for all parts of the suit either. This is Apple basically saying “you’re tricking people into thinking they’re buying an iPhone”. Let’s face it, you would have to be a complete moron to think you were actually buying an iPhone when you walked out of a store with a Samsung. I think the key difference is not thinking you’re buying an iPhone, but buying an equivalent and that’s where the UI plays a part.
Put the Samsung Vibrant or Galaxy S and the iPhone next to one another and there are some startling similarities. It’s not just the icon layout (which is nigh on identical, including the dock!) but even the icon images look the same. Looking at the two side by side, a consumer without a lot of tech knowhow could certainly believe that both devices ran the same software and offered the same feature set.
The lawsuit aside for a second, however, when did it become cool to simply rip off an idea? Samsung must appreciate the likeness between its TouchWizz interface and Apple’s iOS and presumably believes that this similarity might sway consumers not ready to leap into an iPhone contract or pay for their phone. That’s Trade Dress. Like the slew of avian-oriented iOS games that flooded the App Store once Angry Birds became a hit, Samsung’s designers either got lazy or accidentally hit copy when they meant to press “create derivative”.
Apple has built itself a slick mobile OS that looks good and works well. It has looked good since 2007. To say that Apple is suing because it’s scared of Android is madness. Like any artist would, Apple is defending its own, unique UI design from another who has simply rebranded it.
Apple might not be able to claim that a mobile device that is mainly made up of a screen is its own copyright, but what’s on that screen is all its own work.