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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: July 9, 2012 @ 4:20 pm

    Sci-fi loving Samsung wins easy cool points from high court judge

    Laura Slattery

    Spot the difference: a Samsung Galaxy tablet 10.1 and Apple's iPad. Clue: the one on the right is apparently not as cool. Photograph: REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak/Files

    Yes, yes. A judge has declared that Samsung’s Galaxy tablets don’t infringe Apple’s registered design because they aren’t “as cool”.

    In the seemingly damning point 190 of a 191-point ruling, the judge notes: “From the front they belong to the family which includes the Apple design; but the Samsung products are very thin, almost insubstantial members of that family with unusual details on the back. They do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design. They are not as cool.”

    But is this really the Pyrrhic victory it first seems? Can Samsung survive such a slapdown? Of course it can. Since when has a high court judge ever been regarded as the arbiter of cool? Since never. As a group, they are notorious for their tenuous grasp of popular culture, and as for their fashion sense, well, who really knows what’s going on underneath those gowns? (Other than a sneaky game of Words With Friends during the more boring witness testimonies, of course.) Consumer psychology suggests Samsung will now see its appeal in certain trend-conscious circles rocket in comparison to the court-approved iPad – an added bonus to the fact that it has actually won its case.

    In any event, Samsung’s relative uncool in the eyes of Judge Colin Birss wasn’t the only thing that helped the South Korean company emerge victorious from court. Its expert technical witness, Itay Sherman, also called on the science fiction canon to argue that Apple didn’t invent the tablet computer, and therefore all hands are legally on deck.

    Point 70 of the ruling reads: “Considering the design corpus generally, Mr Sherman explained that the idea of tablet computers has existed for a long time, and pointed out they had been imagined in science fiction, referring to Star Trek (from 1966 onwards) to 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968).”

    Sherman, on behalf of Samsung, asserted that the “optimal design principles for tablet computers had been commonly understood for a long time and by 2004 it was understood that any tablet computer should offer unfettered views of electronic media by means of a large display screen and that the screen would be the main element in the design of any tablet”.

    The judge accepted this evidence, though which episodes of Star Trek he watched in order to confirm Samsung’s argument is not recorded. Neither, sadly, is his verdict on whether Starfleet’s Personal Access Display Device is as cool, cooler or not as cool as the iPad’s model of “extreme simplicity”.

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