A Samsung memo intruduced by Apple in its patent-infringement case against Samsung seems to show that no iPhone angle or pixel was left unexamined by Samsung. Is it curtains for the South Korean electronics giant? Not hardly.
Tuesday, Apple introduced a 132-page internal Samsung document to the trial that shows how Samsung compared its Galaxy, and in particular a model dubbed S1 (likely the original Galaxy S), products to Apple’s iPhone. The Samsung document pores over almost every single aspect of design and functionality that the iPhone and Galaxy S share. Considering that those are two products that do essentially the same thing, the list is considerable.
In the document, Samsung compares, with side-by-side pictures, everything that the iPhone can do and how the Galaxy S implements each function. That includes many basic functions like how the browser shows articles and how contacts, SMS messaging and Wi-Fi would work on the Galaxy line.
The full document shows that Samsung did indeed pay much attention to almost every aspect of Apple's iOS, the software that runs the iPhone. But, there are two key points to consider before looking at the memo and automatically deciding that Samsung must be guilty of copying iPhone and iOS designs.
Foremost, comparing Samsung functions with iOS does not mean that Samsung deliberately copied Apple’s work. The document states which aspects of its own design could overlap with Apple’s, but also how each overlap would be an improvement on Apple designs.
Apple is trying to prove that this memo shows that Samsung “slavishly” copied the iPhone and iOS. Yet, from a different perspective, Samsung could argue that the side-by-side comparison was a way for it to differentiate itself from Apple.
Second, the broad and voluminous memo shows that Samsung performed a detailed product comparison. But Apple still must prove that Samsung copied very specific designs and functional patents, which might amount to a small subset of points discussed in the document.
That's a much more nuanced argument than “look how much Samsung paid attention to what we were doing.”
There is also a practical argument that will likely not make it into the trial: consumer perception.
Apple is often lauded by both media and consumers for its comparatively simple and easy-to-understand iOS interface. The TouchWhiz software skin that Samsung lays on top of Google’s Android operating system has not historically enjoyed that same critical praise.
TouchWhiz may look like iOS, but it is comparatively complicated and unintuitive. That is especially true with older Samsung Galaxy devices, such as the original Galaxy S. In its court challenge, Apple claims that dozens of old Samsung devices copy its iPhone, but many of Samsung’s new devices (such as the popular Galaxy Note and Galaxy S III) are not part of litigation. Between the launch of the original Galaxy S and the newest Note and S III, Samsung has updated TouchWhiz to look and function less like iOS.
In the general scheme of the trial, this memo is damaging for Samsung.
Technically though, it does not prove anything. Companies routinely create side-by-side market comparisons. The majority of the comparisons in the Samsung document are not relevant to the particular patents being litigated.
Apple is trying to prove that the memo is a smoking gun, drop-dead evidence that Samsung copied the iPhone. The reality is not so concrete.