In a 63-page amended complaint filed on June 16, 2011, in federal court in San Jose, Apple Inc. is continuing to strongly press its contentions that Samsung Electronics Co.’s Galaxy smartphones and tablet computers infringe upon Apple’s patents and trademarks for the iPhone and the iPad. In this new filing, Apple, which has long been known as a company that pursues its intellectual property claims vigorously, amplifies a complaint it filed a couple of months ago against Samsung.
“Instead of pursuing independent product development, Samsung has chosen to slavishly copy Apple’s innovative technology, distinctive user interfaces, and elegant and distinctive product and packaging design, in violation of Apple’s valuable intellectual property rights,” Apple’s attorneys wrote in the new complaint. An Apple spokeswoman has been quoted as saying, “It’s no coincidence that Samsung’s latest products look a lot like the iPhone and iPad, from the shape of the hardware to the user interface and even the packaging. This kind of blatant copying is wrong, and we need to protect Apple’s intellectual property when companies steal our ideas.”
A key focus of Apple’s concern is several design patents that it owns for various aspects of the iPhone and iPad. These design patents, Apple said in the complaint, “cover the unique and novel ornamental appearance of Apple’s devices, which include features such as the black face, bezel, the matrix of application icons, and a rim surrounding a flat screen.”
The iPhone, according to the complaint, has a distinctive shape and appearance — including “a matrix of colorful square icons with evenly rounded corners and a bottom row of colorful square icons set off from the other icons, which does not change as other pages of the user interface are viewed – which are the embodiment of Apple’s innovative iPhone user interface.” And this combination of elements “is distinctive and serves to identify Apple as the source of the iPhone products,” the complaint says. Thus, the Samsung Galaxy products incorrectly leave the consumer with the impression that they are Apple products “based upon the design alone.”
But what smartphone these days doesn’t bear some resemblance to the iPhone? There are only so many ways to make a thin “bar” form-factor phone capable of running various applications. Do Apple’s design patents give it the right to exclude all others from the market? We will be following this case closely.