Apple vs. Samsung

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Chris Sprigman, professor of law at the University of Virginia and co-author of The Knockoff Economy: How Imitation Sparks Innovation, discusses what Apple's latest victory against Samsung means for technological innovation in the future.


Chris Sprigman

Comments [23]


No, Apple did not license the Xerox graphical user interface. Steve Jobs offered Xerox the chance to invest in his company, in exchange for the opportunity to visit the research facility. He saw the Xerox windows interface, took a good long look at it, and then copied a lot of what he'd seen.

And as for Edison, there has been a lot written on this. Edison got his bamboo filament working in 1880. Others had made working light bulbs as early as 1820. But the filaments would quickly burn out. Edison tried a lot of materials, but his search for a good filament was informed by what others had done before.

Aug. 29 2012 03:34 PM

And as if maligning Apple unfairly were not enough, Prof Sprigman went on to impugn no less than Thomas Alva Edison's invention of the lightbulb.

Thomas A. Edison a'tweaker'? Please...

In the period from 1878 to 1880 Edison and his associates worked on at least three thousand different theories to develop an efficient incandescent lamp.

Edison decided to try a carbonized cotton thread filament. When voltage was applied to the completed bulb, it began to radiate a soft orange glow. Just about fifteen hours later, the filament finally burned out. Further experimentation produced filaments that could burn longer and longer with each test. Patent number 223,898 was given to Edison's electric lamp.

Quotes from Edison:

"Before I got through," he recalled, "I tested no fewer than 6,000 vegetable growths, and ransacked the world for the most suitable filament material."

"The electric light has caused me the greatest amount of study and has required the most elaborate experiments," he wrote.

"I was never myself discouraged, or inclined to be hopeless of success. I cannot say the same for all my associates."

If this is what Prof Sprigman considers 'tweaking', I would be interested to learn what constitutes actual invention.

Aug. 28 2012 06:01 PM

Prof Sprigman (and jebwa sabony) may want to do a little more homework before commenting on these issues.
Yes, Apple based their GUI and mouse on concepts viewed at XEROX's Palo Alto Research Center. However even in these early days, Apple did this properly by *licensing* certain of XEROX PARC's patents covering GUI and the mouse pointing device. Payment included Apple stock.
So when Job's speaks of 'stealing' he does not mean literally. This early history is very well-known, and it was both shocking and disappointing to hear someone so grossly mischaracterize what actually happened.

Aug. 28 2012 05:47 PM

I love it.... its ok for Apple to steal ideas, but its no ok for anyone to steal ideas from Apple.

There's a good chance that this court decision will be overturned.

Aug. 28 2012 11:54 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Copying and stealing IP is as old as technology itself. As soon as the Gutenberg press was invented, illegally copying and selling books without paying royalties began in earnest.

Aug. 28 2012 11:08 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

It's all about making and keeping lawyers rich.

Aug. 28 2012 11:05 AM
Sebastien from Philadelphia

Samsung copied Apple period.
1) Apple is Samsung's main customer, Samsung should have know better.

2) There is so much room to make new different designs Samsung just failed.

3) If you look trough history of Samsung, its copied EVERY successful product from Sony, Motorola (fake razors anyone), RIM, etc.

4) Samsung literally has come up with very few new designs ever, and is very similar to other Korean & Chinese companies who first copy for years and then later make new versions. (look at Hunday it took YEARS for them to come up with the current line up that is very different then their competitors cars.)

5) Look at Microsoft and Nokia, they have come up with new products that have nothing to do with the iPhone and are really cool and powerful and have very important paradigm shifting designs, which do not copy the iPhone.

6) Samsung = whiners. (stop whining Innovate.)

7) what Samsung did with their phone is NOT synonymous to Apple's developing the MAC OS from Xerox park tech. not even close.

8) I really hope this is not overturned, but that this forces a serious effort at reforming the insanely useless and now dangerous patent system.

9) gggggrrrrr this makes me so MAD!

10) Someone has to do something about the patent Trolls!

Aug. 28 2012 11:04 AM
The Truth from Becky

I mean...There are no more original ideas, patent pending.

Aug. 28 2012 11:01 AM
The Truth from Becky

There are no more original ideas.

Aug. 28 2012 11:01 AM
Tom from UWS

My first cell phone, about 12 years ago, was black and rectangular - a shape that came to be known as the 'candy bar'. Not as flat as the our smart phones, but completely rectangular. My current cordless land line phone is rectangular. You should not be able to patent geometry. Does someone hold the patent on "listen at the top and talk at the bottom" of the phone? Patents are out of control, in tech and in phrama and beyond.

Aug. 28 2012 11:00 AM
John A

"Software patents are a problem lets talk about that ... "

Agree that that is definitely the bigger story.

Aug. 28 2012 10:58 AM
RBC from NYC

I still don't know what the big deal with Apple is. Their products are still only great for people who need to do things with graphics since the operating system runs so few tasks. Other than that, there's no real reason to buy an Apple unless you want to be "cool" and spend 2-3 times what everyone else is spending on similar computing products.

Aug. 28 2012 10:57 AM
MrD from NYC

There was a report that one of the jurors was a patent lawyer who advised other jurors on patent matters during deliberations.

Aug. 28 2012 10:56 AM
Eric Bartoszak from Holtsville newyork

Maybe car companies should also start suing each other fr similar wheel designs steering wheel designs similar grills, similar seat shapes, how does apple expect the competition to shape a smart phone.. Maybe in the shape of a triangle? My opinion is that Apple is seeking a monopoly.

Aug. 28 2012 10:56 AM
jebwa sabony

Apple is the king of stealing technology, the foundation of the company is based on ripping off xerox.

Aug. 28 2012 10:55 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

After our defeat in Vietnam, we tried a different strategy to contain communism in Asia. We decided to make the nations surrounding China RICH by allowing those "Asian Tigers" to illegally copy hundreds of billions of dollars worth of US consumer technology, and looked the other way.

I bouoght my first Apple II computer in 1981 for $3,400 (1980 dollars), which included the Apple II, a Fortran card, and a printer. Over a year later I went to live in Israel, and by 1984 Israel, and indeed the entire Middle East and Asia was FLOODED with Taiwanese knockoffs for the Apple II computers, selling for about $1200 dollars! And I had paid $600 customs tariffs to bring my own 2 year old Apple II into Israel! And they were doing a favor keeping the customs tariff so low for me :)

But my point is, Apple tried to get the US government back in the 1980s to go after these copycats in Asia, and we looked the other way. Apple never got over that, and was definitely determined to keep its products CLOSED from thereon in!

By contrast, Microsoft, which produced the operating systems software, was happy to see as many copies of the IBM PCs come out as possible, to sell their software with them. But was HIGHLY protective of its software.

Now the US has FINALLY become protective of its own companies now that China and Asia are genuine competition and no longer under the threat of communism.

Aug. 28 2012 10:53 AM
Sean Pisano from Brooklyn

It looks to me that Apple is showing it's soft underbelly.

Aug. 28 2012 10:52 AM
John A.

No problem with many parts of this lawsuit. That MS-Win 95/97 stole heavily from Mac and won that lawsuit - well this balances it somewhat. Still don't understand winning over use of the slab shape however.

Aug. 28 2012 10:51 AM
MC from Manhattan

Software patents are a problem lets talk about that ...

Aug. 28 2012 10:50 AM

This case should be thrown out on appeal. The jury took less than 3 days to go over a decision which included 700 questions, the jury instructions alone were 100 pages. Some of the statements made by the jurors after the fact are downright frightening.

"The foreman told a court representative that the jurors had reached a decision without needing the instructions." for more information.

Aug. 28 2012 10:47 AM
oscar from ny

I prefer windows. apple is limited, ive worked with conputers almost all my life and i dont know how best to xplain whats the difference but hopefully youll get it.
Apple is like a huge rich building filled with anything anyone needs but the doors are closed so its very protective to let anything in or out.
Windows is a regular building with the doors open where anyone can go in or out from the streets.
I prefer an open door (window) because it easyer to steal things from the outside and bring it in or hack esyer.

Aug. 28 2012 10:30 AM
Peter from Manhattan

If Samsung copied Apple, then Apple copied Braun: Good design is often derivative. Let's fix the patent system and focus on making great stuff instead of suing the competition.

Aug. 28 2012 10:26 AM
John A

It's been said that the next release of Samsung phones will be free of these legal issues. Won't it take them some time to "write out" the Apple features, and delaying them a few months at least?

Aug. 28 2012 09:57 AM

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