John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Similarity of Apple and Samsung Icons “Beyond Coincidental,” Designer Testifies

The design of certain Samsung smartphones is so similar to that of Apple’s iPhone that a graphics expert testifying in the companies’ patent trial said she has mistaken one for the other.

Called as a paid witness for Apple, Susan Kare, a graphic designer who created the original icons for Apple’s first Macintosh and Microsoft’s Solitaire game cards, testified Tuesday that the application screens on some 11 Samsung smartphones are “substantially similar” to the iPhone display described in Apple’s ‘305 patent, right down to the photo-realistic sunflower that appears in the iPhone’s camera app icon.

“The similarities I saw were the regular grid, the rows of four icons, the colorful mix of icons that are square with rounded corners,” she said. “It is my opinion that these graphic features create an overall visual impression that could be confusing to a consumer.”

Or an award-winning designer.

Kare testified that she confused a Samsung handset with an iPhone at a pre-trial meeting. “There was a big conference table with a bunch of smartphones on it,” Kare said. “A number of them were on; I could see their screens. I went to pick up an iPhone to make a point about onscreen graphics, and found I was holding a Samsung. I think of myself as someone who’s pretty granular about looking at graphics, and I mistook one for the other. So I personally have had the experience of being confused.”

Under cross examination by Samsung’s legal team, Kare gave up some ground, conceding that certain individual icons are obvious or universal — the iPhone’s retro phone icon, for example. She also acknowledged that not all the icons on Samsung handset application screens at issue in the case were substantially similar. And she struggled a bit when asked how a consumer could possibly mistake a Droid Charge for an iPhone, given its start-up sequence, which includes the display of a Samsung logo and that infamous Droid animation. But she stood fast on her main argument: That there are significant similarities between the overall design of the screens.

“It seemed to me that all of these similarities … from phone to phone … was beyond coincidental,” Kare said. “It seemed likely to me that Samsung used iPhone screen graphics as a guide.”

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work