Debunked: Samsung ‘2001 Space Odyssey’ as iPad Prior Art [Analysis]

Wednesday, August 24, 2011
By OP Editor

Samsung uses Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 science fiction film as evidence against Apple’s intellectual property infringement lawsuit.

2001 Space Odyssey tablet TV

In the fight against knockoffs, in July Apple filed motion for preliminary injunction against Samsung phones and tablet in California courts.

Florian Mueller at Foss Patents reveals Samsung is now countering in a newly filed opposition brief using science fiction film:

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.

Here’s the exact low-resolution YouTube video Samsung submitted as evidence:

Samsung Prior Art Argument Does Not Make Sense

ObamaPacman: Samsung claims that the movie prop is a personal tablet computer. How does that stack up to reality?

“Personal” Tablet Computer: Interaction / User Control

“Personal” tablet claim: if the device is personal, why are both devices playing the SAME TV broadcast? How come the characters do not interact with their “personal” devices? Movie demonstrates tablet “use”:

  • Mouse control? None.
  • Stylus input? None.
  • Touch screen? None.
  • Voice input? None.
  • Personal interaction? None.

The prop has keys from 0 to 9 but no one touched any key. Instead, the prop acted similar to a TV. There was zero user interaction or “personal” control of the device, which displayed only a BBC TV broadcast.

BBC TV tablet, 2001 Space Odyssey

Samsung seems to believe that a fictional, non-moving device that acts as a table top TV = tablet. So Samsung must think these wall mounted monitors are tablets:

TV wall + Hal 9000, 2001 Space Odyssey

Portable Device

If the Space Odyssey movie prop is supposed to be a portable tablet computer, why are the astronauts using paper? (When You can draw on iPad tablet.)

Paper no tablet, 2001 a space odyssey

If a tablet computer can reduce the need for paper and bring real time information everywhere, why would you use paper clipboard instead of a tablet computer?

Astronauts no tablet, 2001 a space odyssey

Maybe the movie doesn’t show device interaction? But wait, the chess game with Hal 9000 computer is controlled by voice recognition:

HAL 9000 voice controlled computer chess game, 2001 Space Odyssey

At other places in the movie, characters use physical buttons to control computers. No mouse (which Apple popularized year later), and the movie does not show interaction with “tablet”.

Keyboard input, 2001 Space Odyssey

More interaction with hardware button. Still no tablet with a touch screen!

Hardware key input, 2001 Space Odyssey

Tablet “Design”

And finally, how cheap is Samsung? The blu-ray disk for 2001: A Space Odyssey is only [$12.49 on Amazon] and the lawyers only submitted a low-resolution screenshot of YouTube video as evidence? Obviously, the Korean based Samsung did not want to pay even the meager twelve dollars to a US movie company to help its legal defense. Unfortunately, if Samsung did spend a few dollars to buy a high quality version, they would have known that the movie prop is of a different design than the Apple iPad.

Here’s ObamaPacman’s quick illustration of the Space Odyssey “tablet” (made on iPad in a minute):

2001 Space Odyssey tablet movie prop

Assuming that the device is not an installed TV, there are major design differences between the movie prop and iPad:

  • Bezel size: The movie prop bezel is much thinner than the Apple tablet. In contrast, the iPad’s thicker bezel design provides enough room to hold the Apple tablet without triggering touch display.
  • Screen not centered
  • Much larger device. Not as portable as iPad (maybe iPad design is obvious)
  • 10 number keys on bezel (0 to 9 keys): perfect way to select a TV channel on the tele
  • In addition to protruding number keys, side view shows angled lip on the bottom. That surely makes the device flat. (Maybe in Samsung’s silly world).

Well, maybe Samsung’s silly science fiction excuse for making knockoffs of Apple’s market leading tablet will fool fandroids. But unlike Android fans, the judge isn’t gullible.

In reality, is it more likely that Apple reversed engineered a movie prop with no working parts (which doesn’t even look like the iPad) to create the iPad, or that Samsung reversed engineered the market leading Apple tablet?

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Tags: Apple, iPad, Legal, Myths, Video

18 Responses to “Debunked: Samsung ‘2001 Space Odyssey’ as iPad Prior Art [Analysis]”

  1. Turned that that RDM just published a great article with similar thoughts:
    http://www.roughlydrafted.com/2011/08/23/samsungs-digital-picture-frame-was-no-ipad/

    OP also has some great new graphics on the topic, coming today or tomorrow.

    1
  2. Anon

    Wrong. Samsung is fighting a design patent. A design patent only protects the ornamental look of an object. Any use or non-use of that object is not relevant to a design patent. So the fact that none of the actors interacted with the devices matters not one bit as to whether it shows the “look” of a tablet device.

    2
    • Anonymous ‘Anon’ says: “A design patent only protects the ornamental look of an object.”

      As the author illustrated, the video playing object does NOT have the ‘look’ of any iPad, or Samsung rip-off there of. (Your other points are well taken as ‘not relevant’).

      I’m not sure Samsung’s lawyers could have better expressed their desperation. Their new courtroom absurdity belongs in ‘Believe It Or Not’. I can’t imagine the court is amused or impressed.

      (BTW OP Editor: Please get a vector illustration app. Your freehand drawing is as good as mine, which is to say that it’s awful).
      :-Derek

      2.1
    • Tony

      The purpose of a design patent is to prevent the situation where one product so closely resembles a patent-protected object that an “ordinary observer” might mistakenly purchase it, thinking that it was the patented item.

      So this is where the use or non-use of the items come into play. If obvious differences in functionality/application demonstrate that an “ordinary observer” would not confuse the items, there can be no infringement.

      Therefore, It would seem that prior art related to a television would have little or no bearing on a tablet computer if the “ordinary observer” is able to tell from apparent use that one is a television and the other is not.

      In this case, the video makes it quite clear that we’re dealing with a television.

      2.2
    • Anon

      Derek Currie said: “As the author illustrated, the video playing object does NOT have the ‘look’ of any iPad, or Samsung rip-off there of. (Your other points are well taken as ‘not relevant’).”

      Except that it is not the “look” of an Ipad that the design patents cover, it is the look in the line drawings illustrated here: http://www.applepatent.com/2011/04/apple-v-samsung-design-patents-egyptian.html

      The three black and white line drawings marked ‘D677 Patent, ‘D790 Patent, ‘D016 Patent, those drawings are what the patents cover. So whether the ‘2001 pad looks or does not look like an ipad is irrelevant. It is whether the ‘2001 pad looks similar enough to these line drawings to invalidate the patent. And in that case, there is a very high likelihood that the look is similar enough to knock out the patents.

      2.3
    • Anon

      Tony said: “So this is where the use or non-use of the items come into play.”

      Nope, not at all when dealing with design patents. The court’s ruling is:

      “if, in the eye of the ordinary observer, giving such attention as a purchaser usually gives, two designs are substantially the same, if the resemblance is such as to deceive such an observer, inducing him to purchase one supposing it to be the other, the first one patented is infringed by the other.” (Gorham Co. v. White, 81 U.S. 511, 528 (1871)) (From http://www.applepatent.com/2011/04/apple-v-samsung-design-patents-egyptian.html).

      Fully observation based. No “is it used the same”. One could be an ipad with touch interface, the other could be a 0.5″ thick television with no touch interface, if the “resemblance” is close enough, then they overlap. Manner of use has zero effect in design patents.

      2.4
    • Tony

      Anon wrote: “… if, in the eye of the ordinary observer, giving such attention as a purchaser usually gives, two designs are substantially the same, if the resemblance is such as to deceive such an observer, inducing him to purchase one supposing it to be the other…”

      And what do you suppose “giving such attention as a purchaser usually gives” really means if not noticing whether you’re buying a TV or a tablet computer when in the market for a television?

      The use of the item is what would make the distinction clear to an “ordinary” person who is “giving such attention as a purchaser usually gives.” A purchaser usually says, I’m looking for a TV, and then consciously eliminates those items that are not TV’s. If that’s not considered “giving such attention as a purchaser usually gives,” I do not know what is!

      Furthermore, based on functionality and use a TV is likely to be grouped with the stock that’s identified as TV’s, while computers are grouped with computers. This is the sort of thing that an “ordinary observer” tends to notice when purchasing under usual conditions.

      Often, the apparent utility of an object is enough to ensure that an ordinary person observing under usual conditions as a purchaser will not be deceived. So how can it be eliminated as possibly being a part of the determination?

      2.5
    • Tony

      Addendum:

      Often the design itself lends functional clues. If the implied function removes the possibility of deception/confusion, then apparently recognizing the use or non-use of a product can play a part.

      2.6
    • @Derek,
      I’ll compete for the most awful freehand drawing contest. When’s the match?

      @Anon,
      You do realize the device shown in this science fiction movie looks nothing like the iPhone design patent?

      @Tony,
      Exactly. Trade dress is typically classified by product industry.

      2.7
  3. Tony

    The purpose of a design patent is to prevent the situation where one product so closely resembles a patent-protected object that an “ordinary observer” might mistakenly purchase it, thinking that it was the patented item.

    So this is where the use or non-use of the items come into play. If obvious differences in functionality/application demonstrate that an “ordinary observer” would not confuse the items, there can be no infringement.

    Therefore, It would seem that prior art related to a television would have little or no bearing on a tablet computer if the “ordinary observer” is able to tell from apparent use that one is a television and the other is not.

    In this case, the video makes it quite clear that we’re dealing with a television.

    3
  4. Don

    In other words Samsung is: Desperate!

    4
  5. Tony

    Anon wrote: “… if, in the eye of the ordinary observer, giving such attention as a purchaser usually gives, two designs are substantially the same, if the resemblance is such as to deceive such an observer, inducing him to purchase one supposing it to be the other…”

    And what do you suppose “giving such attention as a purchaser usually gives” really means if not noticing whether you’re buying a TV or a tablet computer when in the market for a television?

    The use of the item is what would make the distinction clear to an “ordinary” person who is “giving such attention as a purchaser usually gives.” A purchaser usually says, I’m looking for a TV, and then consciously eliminates those items that are not TV’s. If that’s not considered “giving such attention as a purchaser usually gives,” I do not know what is!

    Furthermore, based on functionality and use a TV is likely to be grouped with the stock that’s identified as TV’s, while computers are grouped with computers. This is the sort of thing that an “ordinary observer” tends to notice when purchasing under usual conditions.

    Often, the apparent utility of an object is enough to ensure that an ordinary person observing under usual conditions as a purchaser will not be deceived. So how can it be eliminated as possibly being a part of the determination?

    5
  6. Maria

    Looks like OP Editor aspires to Xkcd style freehand drawing. To each their own :-]

    6
  7. Zunguri

    Apple’s patents are about the forest, not the trees. Samsung has shown other forests existed before the orchard was planted. These actions show that the fruit is going bad.

    7
    • michael

      Wow. Maybe Samsung’s crooked copycat forest made some people blind?

      Science fiction prop =/= real

      7.1
  8. Overmod

    There’s a great deal of ‘whoosh’ about all these “arguments”.

    Did anyone actually go back and read what Arthur Clarke wrote about these things?

    They’re “Newspads” — and the paradigm is very different from either a ‘tablet’ or a TV per se: on the other hand, let’s just say I hope Jeff Bezos isn’t planning a similar defense strategy for the Kindle…

    The thing is a reading device, intended for what would constitute requested push content (say, an ‘edition’ of s ‘newspaper’). The keys let you navigate between pages, and perhaps (touch sensitivity not allowing gestures) moving a virtual larger newpaper page so you can read different sections at high default magnification. Moving images were subsidiary to the newspaper metaphor: illustrations with some TV-like character. There is a scene in the movie (during the Pan Am trip to orbit at the beginning, ISTR) where we see a NewsPad working as a newspaper (in black-and-whitish display) with moving illustrations…

    Running the thing as a portable flatscreen television is a different thing (and, assuming bandwidth exists, would be a logical “gee whiz!” thing that a forward-looking person in the ’60s might imagine his newspaper would turn into someday. But keep in mind — it would be far more ‘interactive’ than a typical TV metaphor, as you could select any number of running video windows within the ‘book’ or ‘paper’ you were reading. Not single-window push like broadcast TV at that time…

    RME

    8

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