Apple announced its first iPhone, in 2007. In the spring of 2010, Samsung reacted by releasing a smartphone unlike any it had produced to date, dubbed the Galaxy S. And Samsung’s new smartphone clearly cloned many of the features of Apple’s iPhone. Samsung’s copying eventually resulted in multiple lawsuits filed by Apple claiming patent infringement on the part of the Korean firm.
Now, Kurt Eichenwald has written a detailed history of the battles between the two companies. And he has uncovered significant evidence that Samsung has long been a serial patent infringer.
Here is an excerpt:
According to various court records and people who have worked with Samsung, ignoring competitors’ patents is not uncommon for the Korean company. And once it’s caught it launches into the same sort of tactics used in the Apple case: countersue, delay, lose, delay, appeal, and then, when defeat is approaching, settle. “They never met a patent they didn’t think they might like to use, no matter who it belongs to,” says Sam Baxter, a patent lawyer who once handled a case for Samsung. “I represented [the Swedish telecommunications company] Ericsson, and they couldn’t lie if their lives depended on it, and I represented Samsung and they couldn’t tell the truth if their lives depended on it.”
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Across Samsung, the message was heard: the company needed to come out with its own “iPhone”—something beautiful and easy to use with just that dollop of “cool”—and fast. Emergency teams were thrown together, and for three months designers and engineers worked under enormous pressure. For some employees, the work was so demanding they got only two to three hours of sleep a night.
By March 2, the company’s Product Engineering Team had completed a feature-by-feature analysis of the iPhone, comparing it to the Samsung smartphone under construction. The group assembled a 132-page report for their bosses, explaining in detail every way the Samsung phone fell short. A total of 126 instances were found where the Apple phone was better.
No feature was too small for comparison. A calculator image could be made bigger on the iPhone by rotating the device in any direction; not so with Samsung’s. On the iPhone, the calendar function for the day’s schedule was legible, the numbers on the image of the phone keypad were easy to see, ending a call was simple, the number of open Web pages was displayed on-screen, Wi-Fi connection was established on a single screen, new-e-mail notices were obvious, and so on. None of these were true for the Samsung phones, the engineers concluded.
Bit by bit, the new model for a Samsung smartphone began to look—and function—just like the iPhone. Icons on the home screen had similarly rounded corners, size, and false depth created by a reflective shine across the image. The icon for the phone function went from being a drawing of a keypad to a virtually identical reproduction of the iPhone’s image of a handset. The bezel with the rounded corners, the glass spreading out across the entire face of the phone, the home button at the bottom—all of it almost the same.
In fact, some industry executives worried about the similarities. Earlier, on February 15, a senior designer at Samsung told other employees about such observations from Google executives at a meeting with the Korean company—they suggested that changes be made in certain Galaxy devices, which they thought looked too much like Apple’s iPhone and iPad. The next day, a Samsung designer e-mailed others at the company about the Google comments. “Since it is too similar to Apple, make it noticeably different, starting with the front side,” the message said.
The article most definitely is worth a careful read. And the shamelessness of Samsung is on display throughout.