It’s like “fighting over rectangles,” Samsung’s Chief Product Officer Kevin Packingham has said of the Apple vs. Samsung patent litigation. In an interview with Wired, the executive details Samsung’s frustration over the seemingly endless attack against their Galaxy line of Android smartphones and tablets, with some arguments bordering on the trivial.

Apple and Samsung have been biting at each other for alleged patent infringements, with lawsuits spanning ten countries on four continents. Apple initiated the offensive, as the Cupertino, CA company claims that Android (and companies running the platform) have “slavishly” copied the iPhone and iOS. As such, Android smartphone makers have had to bear the brunt of lawsuits, chief among them Samsung, which is Apple’s main rival in the mobile business today.

Just Rectangular Pieces of Glass?

While the two companies were given a chance to reach a potential out-of-court settlement, the discussions went nowhere, and this Monday has marked the start of actual courtroom hearings. These early discussions have shed light to the plethora of Apple iPhone prototypes, which have included various shapes and form factors. Prototypes that would not make it past mockup stage can be described as anything from unwieldy to downright ugly. But there’s one thing in common: they’re mostly rectangular.

This seems to be Apple’s main argument against Samsung’s smartphones and tablets in question, which has put Samsung on the defense. “For us, it’s unreasonable that we’re fighting over rectangles, that that’s being considered as an infringement, which is why we’re defending ourselves,” said Packingham.

The product chief discussed how it can likewise be frustrating to both deal with Apple as a litigant and as a component customer, with Samsung supplying memory chips and screens that power the iPhone and iPad. However, he contends that just like any other electronics business, Samsung also sources chips from other suppliers, as well.

Form vs. Function

Samsung’s complaint against Apple involves mostly 3G-related patents, and Apple has eschewed responsibility, saying these are supposed to have been standards-essential patents, which should come with a lower licensing fee. However, Packingham feels these arguments are more relevant, from an engineering standpoint.

“Logically, as an engineering and manufacturing company, it makes more sense to focus on the things that are really relevant and we think are truly intellectual property,” Packingham said. “They are truly unique, and have come intrinsically out of the investments we made in R&D.”

Samsung products happened to have been marketed in the shape of rectangles, although the art and science behind these creations are in the underlying technology, and not just in the rectangular shape, he stressed.

If companies are fighting over rectangles, then perhaps the patent system is, indeed, broken. Of course, we can argue that the generic shape and form factor of product design is one thing, and the functional design behind these products is another. But the big question now is whether Apple will  be able to convince the judge and jury that  they really do own intellectual property rights to all those rectangular pieces of glass with touchscreens.

J. Angelo Racoma
J. Angelo Racoma has written extensively about mobile, social media, enterprise apps and startups. Angelo develops business case studies for Microsoft enterprise platforms, and is also co-founder at WorkSmartr, a small outsourcing team that offers digital content and marketing services.
  • Androiduser84

    Apple is insane, so what are they going to do, get some idiots to claim that they mistook a galaxy tab/S2/nexus for an ipad/iphone?!?! It takes no genius to differentiate between an android product and an apple 1:
    – Apple products have their logo on their devices, while Samsung has Samsung’s… How hard is it to figure that out? I don’t think that you even have to know how to read to tell the difference!!
    – Apple’s devices have the 4:3 aspect ratio, while androids have a 16:10/16:9. So just looking at the screens, it is obvious which is which… of course it is more obvious if you try the device at the store!!
    – I had a Nokia smartphone back in 2005 (forgot the model number), it had a rectangular shape and a touch screen… So Apple obviously did not invent rectangular smartphones with touchscreens, those existed way before the iphone.

    It would be much better for apple to spend the money they are spending on lawyers to innovate and create better products that would attract people other than the iclowns/apple fanatics. I personally would consider an apple product if it had a bit more depth to it, maybe more options and if it was more customizable.

    On the other hand, as an android user (Gnexus, Xoom, Nexus 7, and many others in the past), I wish Google would spend a couple of their millions in developing more apps that are unique to android. I mean Google throws millions on idiotic projects and on stuff like Google+ which seems like another failure, instead of getting a couple of programmers to develop proper and unique android apps… which is the only thing apple does better than Google. Also Apple has mamanged to make all their content available on itunes worldwide, while the playstore is limited to apps in many countries… which is stupid.

    • SamsaraGuru

      Apple is a company whose character embodies that of its founder.

      Meaning if they don’t like it then its their way or the highway – especially if they can figure out a way to claim – regardless of how utterly, totally, absolutely ludicrous their claims may be, that they “invented it”.

      This is what happens when people and corporations have more money than brains; more avarice than creativity in their hearts and minds.

      Apple is already in its death throes but just doesn’t know it yet.

      A truly creative person or corporation focuses itself on creating – not trying to pretend it created something even an idiot would recognize they did not; but, my guess is that they look at it this way. They have more money than they will ever need and “it makes no never mind” to their bottom line whether or not they spend a few billion funding lawyers who are only too happy to take the money and run straight to court and “sue baby, sue”.

      Well, let us hope consumers start to take notice and take action – OH I FORGOT, they HAVE, they are buying infinitely more Android devices than they are overpriced, outdated, fanboy “I’m sexy and I want you to know it” products made by Apple.

  • It’s like Coke vs Pepsi both comes in a cylinder can same shape, same size both have the same color beverage but taste different.