Samsung Designer Denies Referencing Apple, Apple Shows Otherwise

A Samsung designer testified on Tuesday that she did not copy, or even reference Apple’s icon designs when designing the icons used in some of Samsung’s Android smartphones. Under cross examination, an Apple attorney then showed the court several documents with her signature that included side by side comparisons of Apple’s iPhone with Samsung interfaces.

Jeeyuen Wang is professional designer working for Samsung on the company’s smartphone user interface. According to her own testimony as reported by Forbes, she helped design the icons used in some of Samsung’s smartphones. She is also up for consideration as designer of the year within Samsung, an honor that includes a 100 million South Korean Won (approximately US$88,442) award.

When questioned by Samsung’s lead attorney, John Quinn, Ms. Wang testified about several aspects of how she and her team of designers developed some of the icons used on Samsung devices. This is relevant to the case because Apple has accused Samsung of “slavishly copying” Apple’s own look and feel, industrial design, and the company has pointed to similarities in the icons of both devices as proof of this copying.

There’s Designing and There’s “Designing”

For instance, this slide presented by Apple surfaced earlier and shows Apple’s icon for the phone app, with icons from eight different Samsung phones that Apple says were deliberate copies.

Apple Samsung Phone Icons

Apple Phone Icon Slide

Ms. Wang testified that the angle of the phone in Samsung’s icons (an angle that does differ slightly from Apple’s) is the angle of a phone in use.

Similarly, Samsung uses a flower for its photo-viewer icon (like Apple) because flowers have been used to represent landscape mode on digital cameras for many years. Apple also uses a flower, but the two icon implementations do not otherwise resemble one another.

Rounded corners on the icons? Ms. Wang testified that rounded icon corners were in use on Samsung’s feature phones.

All of which are excellent ways to show the jury that Samsung’s design work followed conventional norms rather than Apple’s lead, but then we get to the crux of the testimony.

Samsung’s attorney asked Ms. Wang if she copied any of Apple’s icons or the layout of the iPhone’s home screen. She testified that she did not.

Check. That’s the right answer to give, for those keeping score at home.

Samsung’s attorney also asked if she referenced Apple’s icons during the design process. “We did not,” she said, according to Forbes.

Check. That’s the right answer to give, unless of course it’s not true and the opposition can prove it…

Body Blow!

…which is what Apple appears to have done. Under cross examination, she was asked by Apple if it was true that she hadn’t referenced Apple’s icons. She replied, “Yes, that is correct.”

The attorneys then produced a Samsung document called “Production Information” that lines up Apple’s icons and Samsung’s icons, with each corresponding icon next to one another. Ms. Wang’s name is on that document.

A document called “Mobile Icon Design for 2011” lists Ms. Wang as the custodian of the company’s icons. In the appendix of that document is another side by side comparison of iPhone screenshots placed next to Samsung screenshots.

A third Samsung document titled “iPhone Human Interface Guidelines” includes yet more side by side comparisons of iPhone and a Samsung device.

In other words, it appears as if Apple has definitely shown that Ms. Wang herself and her company as a whole specifically referenced Apple’s icon designs as part of the design and approval process, which is—give or take a bit—roughly the opposite of not referencing Apple’s icon designs.

What the…?

The whole thing begs the question of why Samsung put Ms. Wang on the stand to begin with. Clearly having the jury hear that Ms. Wang didn’t copy Apple or reference Apple’s icons is a great message for Samsung to deliver, but that’s a message that couldn’t possibly stand up to cross examination.

The Samsung documents in Apple’s possession were either provided by Samsung during discovery or revealed to Samsung during discovery. Those documents appear to easily and handily refute any assertions that Samsung wasn’t deliberately copying Apple, which is not a message Samsung should be facilitating delivering to the jury.

Of course, we aren’t attorneys and we weren’t there, so it’s very possible that things aren’t as they appear, but this seems to us to be a blunder of grand proportions on the part of Samsung.