Are lawyers becoming part of the design process for smart phones?
We have been hearing about the on going war between Samsung and Apple over patent infringements between the two companies. This has been happening all over the world between the 2 companies. And in a strange twist, Samsung still provides Apple with components for their devices. All of this has seen a lot of injunctions being filed between the two companies and most recently a court ordered mediation in California between the companies in an effort to settle the long running dispute. Apple has claimed on multiple occasions that Samsung has literally “copied” their technology and designs to create the Samsung models we are seeing. It is those kinds of claims which cause legal departments to inject themselves into the creative process.
And that may well be the case with the recently announced Samsung Galaxy S3 which was announced this past week. While it appears that Samsung (S Voice) has been adding features which mimic what Apple has provided on the iPhone (Siri), the actual design, or shape, of the phone has changed from what we might have expected. It raises the question of why Samsung would have made a design change and it did not leak out to match the final product. All of this may be explained because the Galaxy S3 was designed by lawyers or so goes a great article at Android Police where they lay out the facts and draw the conclusions. Given the growing spate of lawsuits we are seeing around the world, it does not surprise us that lawyers have been involved in the design of a smart phone.
So Samsung, was it worth it? Your product won’t sell as well, but you won’t piss off one of your biggest component customers either. I understand the motivation, but I still feel like you’ve sold your soul.
Back in April of 2011, Apple filed a laundry lists of infringements made by Samsung for their smart phones which were taken from the iPhone. While that is a legal matter, the article takes to task a number of specific items listed in the infringements and lays out how Samsung made sure to not tread on them in the latest Galaxy S3. And for each item, they show just what lengths Samsung supposedly went to so as to avoid the listed items and protect them from further patent infringement claims from Apple. Will this be enough to stop infringement claims against Samsung? Probably not, as companies bring out an army of lawyers for more than patent infringement, but to attempt to hold off the competition.
While you may not believe the claims that lawyers designed the Galaxy S3, there is evidence that they were involved in the process. The rounded corners of the phone are far difference from the Galaxy S II and do not add to the design of the phone. Instead they take away from the smart phone look. When I first saw the phone, I thought something looked strange about it and soon realized they have rounded the corners in a strange way. After reading the story about the lawyers designing the phone to avoid more suits, I realized what was so strange. The rounders corners at the top are different than the rounded corners at the bottom. It is that difference that seems to make the phone look funny. And, it addresses one of the infringement complaints from Apple back in April 2011.
The other item the story revealed was that the space above and below the touch screen was not the same. The vast majority of phones have the top and bottom area of the phone being exactly the same size. The Android Police article is suggesting the difference is to satisfy the lawyers so as to not infringe on Apple’s claims from previous smart phones from Samsung. And that may well be the case as it does not add to the phone, but rather takes away from how it looks. The top area is 16% smaller than the bottom area and that is enough to throw the eyes off when looking at the phone. The only plausible explanation for this is because the lawyers wanted to make sure to not repeat the designs which Apple is complaining about.
Given Steve Job’s design extremes for perfection, this one would have driven him crazy. Looking at it continues to bother me and that is not a good thing. I was very hopeful that Samsung would deliver a fantastic product and take a larger share of the smart phone market. With this most recent design, it appears they have missed the mark which may cost them some sales in the end. They have opened the door for Apple and the iPhone 5 which is a mistake.
It sure does look like the lawyers had a definite hand in the design process for the Galaxy S3. Do you believe the lawyers influenced the final design of the Galaxy S3?