Apple is famous for crafting beautifully designed products, but it is a little condescending to start giving design advice to its competitors. Nevertheless, this is exactly what Apple has done in a legal brief filed with their earlier request for a ban on Samsung's devices in the United States (a request which was denied by a district judge a few days ago). The legal brief from Apple describes both what their U.S. design patents cover and what the patents do not cover. The latter is especially interesting as they are essentially guidelines on what Samsung can do to avoid being sued in the future.

In its defense, Samsung argues that the design choices for smartphones and tablets are limited, that is there are only so many ways a plastic slab can be shaped and there are only so many places you can put the buttons and bezels. Apple, to no one's surprise, disagrees and provides examples of design alternatives which Samsung could employ to distinguish its products.

The Verge has provided a cogent summary of some alternative design options described by Apple:

On the smartphone side of things, the following is a list of some of the alternative design options Apple felt Samsung should have looked into further:

  • Front surface that isn't black.
  • Overall shape that isn't rectangular, or doesn't have rounded corners.
  • Display screens that aren't centered on the front face and have substantial lateral borders.
  • Non-horizontal speaker slots.
  • Front surfaces with substantial adornment.
  • No front bezel at all.

As for tablets, Apple identified a similar list of alternative designs available to Samsung:

  • Overall shape that isn't rectangular, or doesn't have rounded corners.
  • Thick frames rather than a thin rim around the front surface.
  • Front surface that isn't entirely flat.
  • Profiles that aren't thin.
  • Cluttered appearance.

Naturally, Samsung did not go out and immediately start "cluttering up" all its devices, but Apple's brief is an invaluable tool and provides Samsung with ways in which to avoid patent litigation in the future.

Samsung has already tried to differentiate its Galaxy Tab 10.1N line in Germany by modifying the form-factor slightly and stating that the modification was made "to reflect Apple's claims". However, Apple was unimpressed by the token changes and sought an injunction against the newly modified Tab in Germany. I am unfamiliar with German law, but if the changes made to the Tab 10.1N are "design alternatives", as outlined by Apple in its brief, then Samsung may have a strong paper shield in its defense.

[Source: Apple's Reply, Apple's Expert Reply, and Samsung's Opposition via The Verge]

Abhiroop Basu
Abhiroop Basu is an opinionated tech and digital media blogger. As a doe-eyed twenty-something he started his first blog TechComet to comment on anything tech-related that caught his omniscient eye. Since then he has blogged for Android Police, Make Tech Easier, and This Green Machine. In the real world, Abhiroop Basu is a resident of Singapore and the Editor of The Digit, a subsidiary of The Potato Productions Group.

  • Myria

    Apple is walking a very dangerous road here. Contrary to TV shows like Boston Legal and Harry's Law, US judges tend to have no sense of humor when litigants trying to lecture them directly or indirectly, nor, especially, overtly telling them what is and isn't acceptable. Apple has crossed the line several times now in this patent war of theirs (doctoring photos being the biggie), at some point very soon it is going to seriously cost them.

    Honestly, at this point they're going to deserve what they get.

  • sandusky

    WHAT? Front surface that isn't flat??

    Non-rectangular design?? Are you f***ing kidding me??

    Profiles that aren't thin?

    It sounds like Apple's saying, "The only way you can make a tablet that we won't sue you for is if you make it ugly."

    I can't wait till we find out that Steve Jobs was secretly a pedophile. Hope apple goes down in flames.

    • Jon Garrett

      +1 about the pedophile thing
      +1000 about apple going down in flames.

    • Matthew Jacobs

      Yep. Spherical tablets FTW!!!

  • iN00b

    Is Apple dumb ?Overall shape that isn't rectangular, or doesn't have rounded corners.

    wtf..i dont want a star shaped device in my hand !!!

    • Kim

      Mario would say otherwise. HERE WE GO!!!!!!!!!!

      • Jonathan Nguyen


    • fat fred

      No, they want to see sausage shaped phones from samsung.

    • behelit

      well, you could say sony have done something different

  • Hooolm

    And if they make octagonal tablets, the'll be sued by the rights holders of Battlestar Galactica.

  • Dragonithe

    It' interesting they didn't add. Controlling the device by other method's than touch.

  • CuriousCursor

    I want to smoke whatever the person who drafted this was smoking!

  • TouchMyBox

    Just go away already, Apple... Please?

    I was half-expecting a link to The Onion.

  • iHater

    So, basically, Apple claims to have invented the rectangle, the color black, and touchscreens. Lulz. iFruitcakes.

    • sriracha

      no, i think Al Gore invented those things. apple can have flat faces and horizontal slots.

      no, wait, on second thought, Tipper has that covered too..

      • Android FTW

        Hahahaha, This one really makes sense :D

      • https://plus.google.com/110084792940352260039/ Victor

        I lolled. Thanks.

      • Dan

        I just lolled and scared the cat.

  • Dieseldk

    Now wee know the secret behind the curve on the nexus phone, apple says it can't be flat

    • Mike

      That hasn't stopped them from trying to get the Nexus S banned in the US.

    • djembeman

      What about the RAZR stylings and Xyboard tablets? That somewhat cuts out the rectangular shape.

      • Bazar6

        Probably the reason why you don't see Moto and Apple in the headlines, tho I believe they are in court right now because of the Xoom and Moto's patents.

  • http://cafe-ti.blog.br Alroger Jr

    Basically absurde.

    • Justin

      COMPLETELY absurd

  • T Beiber

    I resent that. I dont consider myself an apple fanboy but i do own an ipod, iphone, macbook, apple tv, and ipad. I think Apple has the right to defend their patents and Samsung should be ashamed of how much damage they are doing to Apple's sales. You guys need to be more sensitive.

    • James

      Well, I think it's just fine to consider yourself a fanboy.

    • Pawnty

      I agree that it's fine to consider yourself a fanboy.

      I think the whole patent war is ridiculous. Apple is going overboard just because their products sell well and they are afraid of a little competition. All the power to Samsung.

      I can't wait until Apple attempts to sue for a screen in a powered off state being black.

    • Zack

      Did you really have to post this in to different posts? They do have every right to defend their patents but now its getting a little old. According to apple a screen cant be black? Are you f***ing kidding me?! Im not gunna be more sensitive to Apple because they are downright wrong here and I hope that all of this court crap from around the world will end up biting Apple in the butt. Also you said Samsung should be ahamed of diminishing apples sales? Apple should be more sensitive to Samsung for banning thier products in Germany. What Samsung should do is sue Apple for messing with thier sales. K im done going off on this fanboy.

      • JR STEF

        APPLE APPLE APPLE just need to shut up already and sue themselves for being such D!(ks. Yes the IPad sucks, I am so tired of Apples crap. Can't we all just get along. LoL ANROID for life

    • MicroNix

      Not only are you a fanboy, you are a blind one at that! Imagine Dell suing HP because HP makes a laptop with a rectangular screen and the same type of keyboard. What Apple is going for is on the brink of needing psychiatric help!

    • Zomby

      From your message, rest assured that you are definitely a fanboy. They have every right to defend their patents, but what they're saying now is basically "build ugly tablets and we won't try to sue". Samsung has every right to build a better tablet than Apple does and if it hurts Apple's sale that just means they need to build a better products. Apple is doing a lot more damage to Samsung with those ridiculous baseless lawsuits and I sure hope they end up paying damage to Samsung for it.

    • https://plus.google.com/110084792940352260039/ Victor

      Doughtnut feedz t3h tr0llz.

    • applesuxdonkeyd!k

      i dont believe they have the right to say they have patents they dont have, going to war over whether a phone is shaped the same..the color black???!! seriously!! they dont own colors or shapes crapple needs to die....apple uses other companies parts therefore i believe they are the one in violation. crapple have stole plenty of technologies the first iphail stolen and everything since then has been stolen crapple is junk and you should be ashamed you follow such an atrocious company and more so for trolling and android site just admit it android is better

  • Ray

    Attention Samsung: lower the price to $99 per device and you will no longer have Apple to worry about. I know that would be tough to do, but come on, quit fucking around.

  • jdm4u

    Apple just needs to diaf.

  • shawn

    When are the likes of Motion Computing and others going to enter this situation... They preceded Apple by YEARS on tablet design and such. Rectangle, flat and such.

  • Ahmad Fayiz

    you know what apple ? go F^^^ yourself ! ok !
    you don't instruct people how to create things ! this is a free world ! F^&* you

  • Ahmad Fayiz

    next 2 years: don't make laptops open like a book !! you know find another way !! damn you apple !! piece of junk

  • GraveUypo

    i think i'm going to patent apple (the fruit) and then proceed to sue apple (the troll)

    • George

      If you do that they will make you redesign nature!!!!!

      • https://plus.google.com/110084792940352260039/ Victor

        Epic. Can your first design be a banana-shaped apple? Far more edible, I say.

  • Dan

    I wish apple and everyone who uses their products, would just f*****g die!...... Too harsh?

    • Sam

      Yeah, and totally uncool.

    • applesuxdonkeyd!k

      nope i agree rid the world of brainwashed or braindead f*cktards too stupid to think for themselves the world would be a better place.....i hope obama likes apple..

  • Topgun

    I hope Apple does realize that Samsung and Sony both own parts of the patient that has black around the screen to make the screen appear larger. They have held that patient for a very very long time. They might just have opened up a entire can of worms there. I see a new suit joint by Samsung and Song against Apple blocking all Apple products forcing them to change to a green border (there is another patient for white owned by some company I forgot the name)

  • Hal Motley

    This is BS, Apple!

  • PhotoSteve

    So now that Apple added a front facing camera to there tablet everyone should sue them.

  • T Beiber

    I think people fail to realize that Apple is actually the victim in this situation. THEY are they ones who brought smartphones into the public eye and they made the first successful tablet, NOT Samsung. I am not trying to argue with anyone, i just feel like some people are way too biased about things. Apple was first so they should have some way to protect their patents from copycats.

    • Topgun

      That is the dumbest comment yet. That is like saying Ford should sue EVERY else because all cars have 4 wheels. BTW that is a perfect metaphor because Apple was NOT the first smartphone maker nor was Ford the first to make cars. Ford was the first to mass market as well as Apple. But dont do something and expect people are not going to compete. All Apple is doing now is looking like a whinny 5 year old when someone makes something better than them. As do most of the fanboys out there with pathetic defenses of a company that would destroy the IT world.

      • https://plus.google.com/110084792940352260039/ Victor

        To be fair, they did say "successful tablet," it just depends on how you measure success.

    • Topgun

      Compete in the marketplace, not the courtroom. If someone where to strip iOS5 and make a exact duplicate of the hardware, ok then I would defend Apple's actions whole heartily. But suing because its rectangle and has a black background is just retarded.

    • AppleFUD

      There must be something mentally wrong with you if you think apple popularized the smartphone. Nokia & RIM were selling smartphones. . . very successful long before apple--who the f#!k do you think apple copied? You don't seriously think apple came up with an original idea on their own, do you? That would be a first!

      Apple added a capacitive touch screen. . . that is all--let's all now say they invented cell phones because they made one and then made a large version of it (ipad). . .

      No. . . nothing close to either of those existed before. . . . and Jobs didn't get the idea for a tablet form MS. . .not at all.

      Seriously, do a little research and stop being such an idiot.

    • P.S.

      Your name is Beiber...

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Can you tell the difference between a SONY, a Panasonic, Vizio, Toshiba, and other TVs when you see them at a store from afar? Can you imagine what would have happened if these patent issues were happening when TVs were being manufactured?

      Groundbreaking technology - sure, by all means. But design of the bezel and screen? Give me a break.

      • Felix Maynard

        Same with sofas...
        When someone sells a new sofa in a different colour it is suddenly "Life changing (observe the pause) Again"

    • http://www.androidpolice.com Abhiroop

      Actually patent disputes arise in relation to televisions all the time: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-10/sony-and-lg-resolve-patent-disputes-before-u-s-trade-agency.html. But, most companies (and NOT Apple) tend to settle out of court. At the end of the day all companies want is money, either through product sales or patent disputes.

      Anyway, I have to say I tend to agree with Beiber (never thought I'd say that), but I don't think Samsung is doing ANY damage to Apple's sales.

      Firstly, Apple has a right to defend their patent, that's a legal technicality as anyone who owns a patent has a right to defend it. Is the patent system flawed in the US? Perhaps, but that's not something we can change right now.

      Secondly, consider the design of the click-wheel iPod, were there any other similar mp3 players made that looked like that? Similarly, there are plenty of smartphones in the market right now (e.g. Droid RAZR) that incorporate features that distinguish it from the iPhone. Personally I find the Galaxy S2 significantly different from the iPhone, but it is Appleā€™s prerogative to litigate that point and that is exactly what they are doing. At the end of the day Apple may lose, in which case we can all agree that their suit was misguided.

      • Steven

        " Secondly, consider the design of the click-wheel iPod, were there any other similar mp3 players made that looked like that?"

        Yes, yes there were. Though they weren't mp3 players, more like music players, but whatever ;)


        Apple should stop playing the victim, because they're definitely no saints either. Not by a long stretch. They have everyone buying into their "we're so innovative and we think of all our own ideas" crap that nobody bothers to actually check whether they're telling the truth.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com Abhiroop

          I meant anything that was visually identical in shape and design to the iPod. I personally cannot think of a single MP3 player.

          I don't buy into their "we're so innovative" line and I believe most others don't either. But, people appreciate good design and owning an Apple product (to most) is like owning a BMW or a Gucci bag.

    • E Hore

      @T Beiber... Are you a complete idiot, I have a Palm circa 1996, an HP Jornada Circa 1998 and an HP Tablet Circa 1999.

      Research it mate, I was thinking you were just a troll, but you are an idiot and a troll.

  • pawces

    This is getting pathetic. If apple ever makes a car, its wheels better not be round and black and made of rubber.

  • reuben

    mmmm I think you will find psion were the first to release a tablet. Then there was the case that apple ripped off creatives user interface..... I cant see how anyone can copywrite what is basically a photoframe shape ! apple change the colour of their devices from black to white after a while to squeeze more money out of their users. oooh must have a white one of those!

  • AndroidJes

    You can make a toaster but please don't put slots in it for the bread to go in.

  • T Beiber

    The sarcasm in these comments is amazing. If you guys spent half of the energy put into bashing Apple into something productive, we would have a much better world. I would also like to reiterate that i did not say Apple invented the smartphone, they just made it mainstream. This is why i say they deserve patent protection so every Joe and his mother cant go monetizing their innovation.

    • https://plus.google.com/110084792940352260039/ Victor

      I think you have to iterate at least once before you can re-iterate.

    • Astria

      a smartphone need not have touchscreen to be one...

      i still have a Nokia N95 8GB lying in my room, one of the best smartphone that Nokia ever made...

      all Apple did, is build on top of watever Nokia and RIM has done in the past... Apple has outdone the 2, and i give them credit for that... but i ve yet to see Nokia and RIM whinning around... now Apple gets outdone by Google and they re crying foul? wat kind of logic is that?

      so once iTV is out, i juz hope the legal team of Samsung, LG, Sony, Toshiba, Sharp, Panasonic and the likes are ready...

    • Naomi

      So you're saying that even though they didn't invent it, they have a right to completely own it because they're popular?

      Your logic... it, it hurts me...
      I could understand the OS, but...the physical design which is so mindnumbingly basic that it's funny? Whining about the shape and color? This is all so childish that it's disgusting.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com Abhiroop

        Arguably, how many examples of iPhone looking devices were there before the iPhone? The closest example I can find of a full touch screen device before the iPad would be something like this: http://www.mypdaaccessories.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/pda-cell-phone.jpg.

        It doesn't really matter if the device is mindnumbingly basic. Someone came up with that design and then got the rights to own it (through a patent).

        • MindFever

          actually you cant really patent a shape or anything that is so basic (if that were true any company could patent a type of colours...) ...technically Samsung phones have bigger screens, rounder corners or whatnot and are in general larger devices,so they are not the same dimensions ...hence,the shape is somewhat different.
          But same could be said for Apple ... they didnt invet that squared shape for a smartphone. I had my P800 from Ericsson and Nokia had smartphones that were rectangular shaped long before my P800 (may it rest in pieces)

        • http://www.androidpolice.com Abhiroop

          Actually MindFever, the whole point of a design patent is things like shapes. In fact you can own the rights to a particular colour as well. I used to work at an intellectual property law firm and we helped companies register TRADEMARKS (not patents) for particular colours.

          I had a look at the P800, the point is it's vastly different to both the iPhone and SGSII. Both the SGSII and the iPhone are slabs with a single screen, speaker grille, and a home button that's it.

        • It’s all the lawyers fault

          This whole thing isn't so much caused by Apple/Samsung/Nokia etc. so much as it by the retarded judges.

          Judges get far too much respect and power, they are nothing more than lawyers who were so scummy and good at playing the system that they managed to slither their way to the top of the pile. Brains doesn't come into it to the same degree as general dishonesty and devious ambition.

    • Topgun

      You have yet to show a rebuttal. So what they made it mainstream that gives them the right to all of a sudden depict the entire market by saying they own anything rectangle or has a black border or rounded edges? If you stop drinking the koolaid for a minute you would see how pathetic and harmful that is. What if Ford pulled the same thing back in the early 20th century. We would ALL BE DRIVING ONLY FORD. The truth is something that a lot of hard core apple followers cannot swallow. Apple has done NOTHING to innovate. Look at 4gs and iOS5. ITS A STRAIT COPY of features of Android. If Apple would come out with something new, I would support that. If they did something that pushed technology farther I would be completely behind that. But they are not. They are throwing pointless lawsuits around and doing shady things in the process (See photoshopping the Galaxy tab in court papers to make it look more like the ipad) Thats shady.

  • Tashlan


  • http://About.me/DarknesSx DarknesSx


    This might actually be the first time i actually LOL in real life while reading a news!!!! xDDDD

    Apple, you impress me every time..!

  • Ryuuie

    I want to see someone actually make a device with these specifications!

    It'd be horrible. :P

  • Yushaun

    Pink Spherlet lol ..

  • L boogie

    Unbelievable, the folks of good artists copy, great artists steal are giving design lessons on how to uglify tablets/ smartphones. Well while I'm getting high on magical unicorn juice, can I be informed when Justin beiber becomes the next u.s president while also preparing to be revolutionized by iPad 3 or 2s and iphone 4gs or 5? Seriously, last time I checked, competition brings better innovative ideas that benefits all and Apple's my way or the highway approach via patent lawsuits (looney tunes-like) would only belittle the freedom of consumer choice.

  • Eddie

    Apple didn't invent the tablet computer; they created their own version. The ipad was not the 1st rectangular device with a touch screen, narrow as technically possible black bezel & 1 or more buttons on the front. Apple is just a marketing & litigation company.

  • Reuben

    this is so ridiculous to the point of hilarity. Is apple saying that they invented the rectangular design, the rounded corners the black front, and the centered screen??
    don't forget there were touch screen smartphones before the iphone, all of which had these features.
    what a load of crap.

  • Ellipsis

    Are Apple fucking kidding? Their designs aren't anything special at all. They are basic as shit just like their cheap UI. You can draw an iPhone in like 2 minutes in Paint using the preset shapes. What a joke.

  • Garry

    I dont know how to defend it but if you have ever seen Galaxy S2, u know it looks very much similar to iPhone.

    • E Hore

      So does my HP Jornada, circa 1998. HP should sue Apple.

      Well, lets hope not.

      Even the new All-In-One PCs are a copy of POS machines that have been around for years.

      The menus on Apple OS have been around since Windows 3.1, actually, 2.0 if you include shareware that Microsoft eventually purchased.

      I am so disgusted with Apple, I have 4 tablets, 3 Android one Win7. I have an iPhone (never had a sim in it as I dont like Apple having my credit card numbers and I got the phone for free. Makes a good MP3 player though), and the whole family have iPods.

      But all my family (wife and kids) use Android phones, mainly cause we dont want to give out credit card numbers.

      I do not find my Galaxy Tab looks anything like an iPod, and I mainly use it landscape and not portrait.

      My Galaxy x-Cover looks nothing like an iPhone.

      To the main point, my Galaxy S and my wifes Galaxy S look nothing at all like a god damned iPhone, not the 3g or 4g.

      So seriously, go pick one up. Have a look at it. They are completely different.

  • Daniel Sch.

    This kinda screams for the banana phone!!

  • http://earth.com gohn joksefsenson

    Haha just letting everyone on earth knowing my opinion because its important.

  • T Hebert

    Design trends/aesthetics tend to cycle - Apple needs to take care that something 'out of fashion' today (i.e. sharper corners) doesn't become the accepted thing next year - at that point the legal sword they're hacking away at Samsung with becomes double-edged..

  • Renee Marie Jones

    It is sick that our corporate society is so corrupt and greedy that Apple would even *think* that it could patent such trivial things. It is even more sick that the corrupt patent office just rolls over and grants whatever nonsense a company files for.

  • RPenner

    Here's an example of a less-iPhone-like smart phone, and a pretty ad.


  • Tom

    Unfortunately for Apple, I have a Samsung device that is flat, thin, rectangular shaped with rounded edges and a very thin frame around a centered screen. It's called my television, and I've had it much longer than Apple has had ipads. It sounds like Apple is using "Prior art" and imitating a small television monitor. Case thrown out!!!