Samsung to show off Galaxy Player iPod touch competitor at CES

Apple is suing Samsung, in part for copying the look and feel of iPhone and iPad for their Galaxy S line of phones and tablets. The suit involves both patents and trademarks. This has led to some questions and some backlash.

Should Apple not compete rather than litigate? Patents exist to offer protection; trademarks must be defended or they're lost. Apple is a public company that has to represent the interests of its shareholders. While Apple has previously brought patent litigation against both HTC and Motorola, this is the first time they've sued for trademark infringement, the first time they've alleged that their look and feel has been stolen.

Didn't Apple copy the look and feel of Samsung's F700? No, of course not. While the F700 was announced at CeBit 2006, it wasn't shown until after the iPhone debuted at Macworld 2007. Not unless you believe devices like the 2005 Palm LifeDrive didn't predate both, or that other devices used rows and columns of icons, and handheld formats going back further still. Apple's suit isn't about a rounded rectangle with a grid of apps, it's about a multitude of design decisions that they believe, taken together, cross the line into infringement.

What about Steve Jobs saying great artists steal? Jobs didn't say that, he quoted Picasso who said that. Neither were referring to copying, however. They were referring to ideas. "Make it simple" is an idea worth stealing. "Make it look like X" is not. Inspiration is one thing, the tiny details of execution another. Neither Apple nor Picasso were known to work in tracing paper.

Looking at the Galaxy S line and the TouchWiz UI skin, it's hard to argue Samsung didn't deliberately try to make their devices look like Apple's. "Knock offs" are a common strategy in many markets and across many product types. They work. Sometimes people even prefer them to the originals. However, they sometimes run afoul of the law.

Is the Samsung less a Captivate or Fascinate and more a Replicate or Duplicate? That's what the courts will have to decide.