Samsung Cites “2001: A Space Odyssey” as Prior Art Against iPad Design Patent. Via fosspatents blog.
Apple owns a design patent on the appearance of the iPad, and is attempting to enjoin Samsung from using a similar design for its Galaxy tablet.
For a design patent to be enforceable, it must be for a novel design. Part of Samsung’s defense against Apple’s design patent is that the iPad design is not novel – the design appeared in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
As with the design claimed by [Apple's 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.
Will this work? The definition of “Prior Art” is broad, but not all encompassing. “The scope of the prior art is not the universe of abstract design and artistic creativity, but designs of the same article of manufacture or of articles sufficiently similar that a person of ordinary skill would look to such articles for their designs.” Hupp v. Siroflex of Am. Inc., 122 F.3d 1456 (Fed. Cir. 1997).
I’ve never seen a movie prop cited at prior art for a design patent, but there’s no reason it can’t be. A design patent only covers the ornamental appearance of a product, and the fact that the inner workings of the 2001 movie prop are non-functional shouldn’t affect the design patent analysis.
We will have to wait and see if the judge buys the argument. In the meantime, I’m going to rewatch 2001.
Edit: as Prof. Tushnet points out, Samsung should have looked to StarTrek TNG, where the props look more like ipads than do the props from 2001.