August 23, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka
The Samsung vs. Apple patent fight is taking an interesting turn as Samsung suggests that a 1968 movie invented tablets more than 40 years before Apple, so the company shouldn’t be able to patent its design. Don’t laugh; there’s a method to the madness.
There’s a patent defense known as prior art. Without going too far into details, prior art basically says that if a publicly-available piece of work shows or conceptualizes an invention prior to a patent application, the patent could be deemed invalid. So if a famed science fiction work showed a slim touchscreen tablet several decades before someone tried to patent a slim touchscreen tablet, an argument could be made that the patent is invalid.
FOSSPatents points out that Samsung is citing prior art as part of its defense against Apple’s claim that the iPad is a uniquely-designed product that companies like Samsung have directly copied. Samsung counters that the iPad looks a lot like the tablets that appear in the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, which should be considered prior art. Apple has several other claims of willful duplication against Samsung, but I will give Sammy’s lawyers credit for their creativity and good memories.
I’d also like to take the time to tell sci-fi writers of the world to start filing patents as they create their work. Then you can become your own patent troll 20 years from now when technological advancements start to mirror things you dreamed-up. That pulse pistol featured in Farscape? I’m sure some defense contractor has a similar design. Plenty of writers could have made a fortune had they decided to patent the concept of human-looking robots or cyborgs and started suing companies that are actually working on such projects.
Here’s the clip showing the tablets Samsung refers to. I’m glad I saw it because I was about to patent the breakfast tray design until I realized this would constitute as prior art.
Thanks for the tip, Jalil!