août 11

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Apple hammers ‘copycat’ theme with more internal docs

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Another pair of internal Samsung usability reviews have been unearthed that show the company had its eye on Apple’s features.

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Additional internal Samsung documents suggesting that the company looked to Apple to enhance the features in its mobile devices, were made public today.

During the testimony of Ravin Balakrishnan, a professor in the department of computer science at the University of Toronto today, Apple brought out two of Samsung’s internal usabilty studies — one for a smartphone, and another for a tablet — with direct instructions to mimic Apple’s software features.

One dealt directly with Samsung’s Vibrant smartphone, then codenamed the « Behold 3. » The other focused on a pre-production model of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab device, with comparisons to Apple’s iPad 2. Both reference a particular gesture behavior, a « bounce back » effect, something outlined in Apple’s ’381 patent. In its complaint, Apple has accused Samsung of directly infringing on it.

In his testimony, Balakrishnan said that was, in fact, the case with 21 of Samsung’s devices.

« It’s very clear to me from the documents that Samsung studied this problem, recognized limitations of its current design in comparison to what iPhone and iPad were doing, and recognized that iPhone and iPad had a better solution, » Balakrishnan told the court. « In subsequent versions of those phones in the market, that exact same functionality has been implemented. »

While questioning Balakrishnan, Samsung demoed a handful of videos that showed some of the accused devices without the behavior, at least in certain applications. Balakrishnan said that much of the infringement was found in the gallery application, the one that let users view and manipulate photos, and sometimes went to others, including the Web browser and contact list.

The documents are the latest to suggest Samsung evaluated Apple’s technology for some of its features to add to its own devices. A previous example covered a pre-production version of Samsung’s Galaxy S1 phone, and had a similar format with side-by-side shots of the two interfaces, and a special section at the bottom of each page with « directions for improvement. »

In this case, some apps got more attention than the others for their viability to use the feature. Apple’s attorneys pointed to one page in particular, where adding a bounce back effect to the Web browser was marked as « serious, » with another app labeled as « critical. » In another part of the document, there’s even a sidenote that there were plans to add it.

« In other words they intend to look at the functionality, » Balakrishnan said.

Balakrishnan noted that the ’381 patent had been an important feature and addition to manuvering on touchscreen devices since it solved two problems « elegantly. » That included what Balakrishnan referred to as « freezing, » and « desert fog. » Freezing was when a user would believe that there was something wrong with their device when attempting to scroll beyond an area that was no longer scrollable, whereas desert fog was when users would end up scrolling outside the boundaries of an image, and unable to find their way back.

Balakrishnan’s testimony is Apple’s third witness today. The company has said it intends to run through the rest of its witnesses by the end of the day, or early next week. After that, it’s Samsung’s turn to take the offense with its own witnesses. So far the company has burned up nearly 10 hours of its allotted 25 cross-examining Apple’s witnesses.

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