Samsung Didn't Steal Apple's Design, Just Borrowed It for a Bit
Vanity Fair - June 2014
In the June 2014 issue of Vanity Fair, Kurt Eichenwald reports on "The Great Smartphone War," Apple's legal battles with Samsung, which began after Apple's designers had studied, in mid-2010, Samsung's Galaxy S, which they concluded was outright piracy, a copy of Apple's iPhone:
The overall appearance of the phone, the screen, the icons, even the box looked the same as the iPhone's. Patented features such as "rubber-banding," in which a screen image bounces slightly when a user tries to scroll past the bottom, were identical. Same with "pinch to zoom," which allows users to manipulate image size by pinching the thumb and forefinger together on the screen. And on and on.Could be coincidence. Apple didn't think so, and took action on August 4, 2010:
Jobs decided to take the gloves off. Hence the meeting in Seoul. The Apple executives were escorted to a conference room high in the Samsung Electronics Building, where they were greeted by about half a dozen Korean engineers and lawyers. Dr. Seungho Ahn, a Samsung vice president, was in charge, according to court records and people who attended the meeting. After some pleasantries, Chip Lutton, then Apple's associate general counsel for intellectual property, took the floor and put up a PowerPoint slide with the title "Samsung's Use of Apple Patents in Smartphones." Then he went into some of the similarities he considered especially outrageous, but the Samsung executives showed no reaction. So Lutton decided to be blunt.Samsung didn't agree, and apparently had nothing to hide. Nothing in particular:
"Galaxy copied the iPhone," he said.
"What do you mean, copied?" Ahn replied.
"Exactly what I said," Lutton insisted. "You copied the iPhone. The similarities are completely beyond the possibility of coincidence."
One day in March 2011, cars carrying investigators from Korea's anti-trust regulator pulled up outside a Samsung facility in Suwon, about 25 miles south of Seoul. They were there ready to raid the building, looking for evidence of possible collusion between the company and wireless operators to fix the prices of mobile phones.Pure coincidence. The activity was just in line with Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee's long-standing advice that Samsung employees change everything except for their wives and children. Obviously, they were changing with the times.
Before the investigators could get inside, security guards approached and refused to let them through the door. A standoff ensued, and the investigators called the police, who finally got them inside after a 30-minute delay. Curious about what had been happening in the plant as they cooled their heels outside, the officials seized video from internal security cameras. What they saw was almost beyond belief.
Upon getting word that investigators were outside, employees at the plant began destroying documents and switching computers, replacing the ones that were being used -- and might have damaging material on them -- with others.
As for stealing Apple's design, that is better described as "borrowing," for as Eichenwald points out, Samsung's corporate strategy was to "countersue [Apple], . . . [t]hen, as the litigation dragged on, snap up a greater share of the market and settle" out of court after "develop[ing] new and better phones throughout the litigation to the point where . . . the Korean company is . . . a strong competitor on the technology and not just a copycat anymore."
See? Not stealing. Just borrowing.