We all know Apple moved to enjoin Samsung in its US patent suit over the iPad (among other many things). Samsung filed its opposition brief, in which it makes a claim that makes a great forest for the trees argument. In its brief Samsung cites classic but still mostly boring movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, in support of its argument that the design of the iPad is prior art. The more I think about it, the more of a point I think they’ve got. The tablet-style computer is so ubiquitous to sci-fi that it goes unnoticed – except that the iPad and its kin have mostly exceeded the fictional capabilities of these formerly futuristic devices. The following image shows the content of page 2 of an exhibit filed by Samsung with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (click to enlarge): Samsung argues that the pic from 2001 is valid prior art for an iPad-related design patent:
Attached hereto as Exhibit D is a true and correct copy of a still image taken from Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey.” In a clip from that film lasting about one minute, two astronauts are eating and at the same time using personal tablet computers. The clip can be downloaded online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQ8pQVDyaLo. As with the design claimed by the D’889 Patent, the tablet disclosed in the clip has an overall rectangular shape with a dominant display screen, narrow borders, a predominately flat front surface, a flat back surface (which is evident because the tablets are lying flat on the table’s surface), and a thin form factor.
According to ABC News, science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke called the device in 2001 a “Newspad,” and in the book version of 2001 described how a user “would conjure up the world’s major electronic papers; he knew the codes of the more important ones by heart, and had no need to consult the list on the back of his pad.” He went on: punch in the code for a story and “the postage-stamp-size rectangle would expand until it neatly filled the screen and he could read it in comfort.” While Samsung’s argument is quite ingenious, let us not forget the true innovator here – and it’s not Kubrick, Clarke, Samsung, or Apple. As usual, Star Trek beat everyone to the punch. Star Fleet has been using these devices (known as a Personal Access Display Devices, i.e. PADDs) since the 1960s. According toMemory Alpha:
PADDs were used by such space-faring organizations as Starfleet, the Andorian Imperial Guard, Bajoran Militia, Cardassian Union, Klingon Empire, Romulan Star Empire, and Vulcan High Command.
For reasons wholly personal, I would enjoy seeing Samsung hook the court on this argument. First, it feels right, and it’s a creative argument. Second, it’s fun and, better yet, sci-fi fun. I like Apple products, but right now, I prefer Samsung’s lawyers (especially in light of Apple’s lawyers recent ethically questionable practices).