Samsung felt huge pressure to deliver a groundbreaking product after the iPhone made its debut in 2007. Even though leaked documents suggest that Samsung had been pursuing the popular full-touchscreen handset industrial design before the iPhone made its debut, it knew that it needed to push those products out fast. When it took a look at the iPhone, it found that the device was “easy to copy.” That much we already know from the ongoing trial between the two firms.
However, JK Shin, Samsung’s head of mobile communications, saw the device as an immediate threat that represented “a difference between Heaven and Earth” when compared to its own devices. Samsung, at the time, had been trying desperately to compete with Nokia and didn’t see Apple’s ability to become a threat to its handset business as quickly as it did. At the time, it was focused on candy-bar style smartphones and clamshell devices. We would have too. In fact, before the iPhone made its debut in 2007 the Motorola RAZR was one of the most popular handsets in the U.S. mobile market.
“Influential figures outside the company come across the iPhone, and they point out that ‘Samsung is dozing off.’ All this time we’ve been paying all our attention to Nokia, and concentrated our efforts on things like Folder, Bar, Slide,” Shin said in an email. “Yet when our UX is compared to the unexpected competitor Apple’s iPhone, the difference is truly that of Heaven and Earth. It’s a crisis of design.”
“Let’s make something like the iPhone,” Shin said in the email. Oof — that’s certainly not a quote that Samsung’s legal team wanted to see the light of day, especially since Apple has accused Samsung of infringing on its design patents and creating copycat products. Shin said the iPhone’s design had become the standard almost immediately and even said that the company’s flagship Windows Mobile product, at the time, was “difficult” to use. “When you compare the 2007 version of the iPhone with our current Omnia, can you honestly say the Omnia is better?” Shin wrote at the time.
Samsung’s legal team needs to prove that Samsung didn’t intentionally copy Apple’s products, and it needs to sway the jury to see that angle. We’re obviously not on the jury, so we can’t take a stance either way, but it certainly looks like the firm’s legal team has its work cut out for it. After all, there’s already a convincing argument that Samsung copied Apple’s icons and, as you can see in the image above, several of its smartphones certainly resemble the iPhone.
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