Samsung drags Stanley Kubrick into Apple patent battle

The ongoing patent battle between Apple and Samsung has taken an interesting twist – Samsung is claiming that Stanley Kubrick’s classic sci-fi film 2001: A Space Odyssey proves iPad-style tablets were around long before Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad.

In the latest twist in what is becoming a rather ugly patent battle, Samsung has told a court in California that Kubrick’s 1968 film proves prior art and that it should not be banned from selling its Galaxy Tab in the US.

According to patent expert Florian Mueller Samsung has present to the court a one minute clip from 2001: A Space Odyssey that shows two workers using what appear to be tablet computers. In the clip that Samsung highlights, which can be seen here, the pair do not actually interact with the devices at all, so it is not clear whether they are tablets or not.

Samsung seems convinced though. Its filing reads: "In a clip from that film lasting about one minute, two astronauts are eating and at the same time using personal tablet computers. As with the design claimed by the D’889 Patent, the tablet disclosed in the clip has an overall rectangular shape with a dominant display screen, narrow borders, a predominately flat front surface, a flat back surface (which is evident because the tablets are lying flat on the table’s surface), and a thin form factor."

Mueller, writing on his FOSS Patents blog, commented: "It would be amazing if the court agreed with Samsung that this constitutes prior art for that particular iPad-related design patent. Whether or not Samsung will succeed, the mere fact that they proffer this kind of evidence is remarkable."

The electronics giants are engaged in a number of patent-related battles at the moment. Earlier this month a court in German banned sales of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 across Europe after Apple claimed Samsung had copied certain iPad design and functions. The ban was later lifted in European countries outside Germany.

It then emerged that Apple had been accused of presenting false evidence against Samsung to the court. The BBC said that Apple appeared to misrepresent the similarity of Samsung’s Tab 10.1 to the iPad by changing photos of the two devices so they appeared identical in size and shape.

And in the latest development, a Dutch court issued European-wide ban on Samsung’s Galaxy S, Galaxy S II and Ace smartphones, following a complaint from Apple.

Mueller said the ban will not come into effect until October, giving Samsung time to develop a workaround. "However, regardless of how Samsung may be able to work around this decision in Europe, it’s a severe blow for Android," he said.

"In all likelihood, the winning patent is infringed by Android itself — maybe not the operating system per se, but by one or more of the applications that ship with Android and without which the usefulness of Android would be impaired in one particular area (photo galleries). Apple now has the first enforceable court decision in its hand (out of many lawsuits going on around the world) that finds Android to infringe an Apple patent," he added.

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