Bloomberg News

Ex-Apple Designer Says Samsung Phones Mimic IPhone Patent

August 07, 2012

The former Apple Inc. (AAPL:US) graphics designer who invented the smiling computer icon for the original Macintosh testified that the application screen on Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) phones is “substantially similar” to the iPhone design patented by Apple.

Susan Kare, who began her career at Apple in 1982 as a screen graphics and digital font designer, was called today as witness by the company in its multibillion-dollar patent trial against Samsung in federal court in San Jose, California.

Kare told the jury the phones are so similar that she picked one up while visiting the office of Apple’s lawyers and mistook a Samsung phone for an iPhone.

“I would usually think of myself as someone who is pretty granular in looking at graphics and I mistook one for the other,” Kare said. “In addition to my formal analysis, I had the experience of being confused.”

Apple and Samsung are the world’s largest makers of the high-end handheld devices that blend the functionality of a phone and a computer. The trial is the first before a U.S. jury in a battle being waged on four continents for dominance in a smartphone market valued by Bloomberg Industries at $219.1 billion. Each company is trying to convince jurors at the trial that its rival infringed patents covering designs and technology.

Kare’s Testimony

Apple is using Kare’s testimony to advance its claims that Samsung phones infringe the software design of the iPhone. The company started making that argument last week with with witness Scott Forstall, the company’s senior vice president in charge of iPhone and iPad software, and continued yesterday with testimony from a paid expert witness, industrial designer Peter Bressler.

Apple seeks $2.5 billion for its claims that Samsung infringed patents. Samsung, based in Suwon, South Korea, countersued and will present claims that Apple is infringing two patents covering mobile-technology standards and three utility patents. Apple, based in Cupertino, California, also wants to make permanent a preliminary ban it won on U.S. sales of a Samsung tablet, and extend the ban to Samsung smartphones.

Kare, in a June court filing, said Apple asked her to testify about “visual appearances of design” depicted in an Apple patent to support the claims, or elements, of the company’s intellectual property. She was asked to explain possible alternatives to the protected design, and the relationship between functionality and visual appearances of designs, according to the filing.

Samsung Phones

Today, when Kare was shown at least 10 Samsung phones in court, she said the application screens on all of them are “substantially similar overall” to that described in Apple’s patent.

“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.

In addition to patent infringement, Apple contends that Samsung’s copying of the look of the iPhone and iPad has diluted the values of its iconic brands. To prove infringement of the trademarked look, Apple must prove that consumers are confused as to which company makes the phone or tablet computer.

Kare is at least the second Apple witness to testify about customer confusion. Yesterday, Bressler told the jury about data in a report showing that the most common reason some Best Buy Co. customers return Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet computer is because they thought they had bought the iPad 2.

Cross-Examination

During cross-examination, Samsung’s attorney, Charles K. Verhoeven, showed Kare a Samsung phone and asked her to walk him through the steps required to arrive at the application screen she was asked to analyze. When he turned it on, “Samsung” illuminated. After it was electronically unlocked, Verhoeven demonstrated, through Kare, that a customer had to navigate the phone’s home screen to get to the application screen.

“Wouldn’t you agree that by the time the consumer turns on the phone, and goes through the steps we looked at, seeing the Samsung sign prominently for several seconds,” Verhoeven asked, “that the consumer knows it’s a Samsung phone?”

“I’m not an expert in consumer behavior, and that kind of user experience,” Kare replied. “I’m really focused on graphic user interface, so I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer that.”

Kare, now at Susan Kare User Interface Graphics in San Francisco, has done images for Facebook Inc. (FB:US) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT:US), according to her website.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City has called Kare a “pioneering and influential computer iconographer,” according to her website. Her work uses a “minimalist grid of pixels” constructed with “mosaic-like precision,” according to the site.

“Good icons should be more like road signs than illustrations, easily comprehensible, and not cluttered with extraneous detail,” Kare said on her website. “Just because millions of colors are available, every one need not be used in every icon.”

The case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., 11- cv-01846, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

To contact the reporter on this story: Joel Rosenblatt in San Francisco at jrosenblatt@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net


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