New internal Samsung documents that indicate the Korean company based its device hardware and software on Apple designs were made public Friday as part of the patent litigation between the two mobile device giants. The latest documents come just three days after Apple successfully admitted another set of internal Samsung documents supporting the same claim.
Two Samsung usability studies were introduced by Apple during Friday’s testimony. The first dealt with Samsung’s “Vibrant” smartphone, codenamed Behold 3, while the other discussed a preproduction model of Samsung’s iPad competitor, the Galaxy Tab. Both studies looked at the way Apple implemented gestures and the over-scroll rubber band effect and compared it to Samsung’s own implementations.
A simple comparison to a competitor’s product is certainly not verboten, but, copying another company’s patented designs and user interface concepts can be. As it turned out, products released by Samsung after the internal release of the usability study implemented the gesture and over-scroll features just as Apple had.
Apple expert witness Ravin Balakrishnan, a computer science professor at the University of Toronto, testified on the meaning of the Samsung documents:
It’s very clear to me from the documents that Samsung studied this problem, recognized limitations of its current design in comparison to what the iPhone and iPad were doing, and recognized that the iPhone and iPad had a better solution…In subsequent versions of those phones in the market, that exact same functionality has been implemented.
In its cross examination of Mr. Balakrishnan, Samsung showed the court several product demonstration videos, arguing that the allegedly infringing implementations were not present in all of Samsung’s post-iOS products.
Mr. Balakrishnan then clarified that, while indeed not every aspect of Samsung’s software allegedly infringed on Apple patents, there were clear examples of infringement in Samsung’s photo gallery viewer, web browser, and contact manager.
The over-scroll implementation is not just for visual aesthetics, Mr. Balakrishnan further testified. It was important for Apple to develop and desirable for Samsung to obtain because it solves two user interface problems: “freezing” and “desert fog.”
“Freezing” occurs when users incorrectly believe that something has gone wrong with their device when they attempt, and expect, to scroll beyond the edge of an image or document. “Desert Fog” refers to the situation where users inadvertently scroll beyond the boundaries of a page and are unable to easily navigate back to the content. By “bouncing” the page at the scrollable margins, a clear signal is given to the user that they have reached a boundary.
Once Apple popularized this and other useful technology, competitors like Samsung felt they had no choice but to add it themselves, perhaps not expecting to wind up in their current state of lengthy and expensive litigation.
The patent infringement trial between Apple and Samsung is now nearing the end of Apple’s witness phase, which should conclude by early next week. Samsung will then have the opportunity to present its own witnesses over the course of the coming week or two.