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Samsung uses Kubrick defense in iPad infringement case

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Apple and Samsung are currently engaged in numerous legal battles in nine countries, and one of them is in California, where, in a design-patent dispute, Apple is claiming that Samsung copied its tablet design from Apple's iPad. In an opposition brief filed on Monday, Samsung put forth an interesting defense using a clip from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey as proof of "prior art," prior art being a common legal maneuver used to invalidate patents.

Samsung's lawyers are essentially saying that the idea for the iPad came from the head of Kubrick, years before Steve Jobs and Apple filed their patent for the device in 2004, when it was science fiction itself, waiting for technology to catch up. A Samsung lawyer wrote:

"In a clip from that film lasting about one minute, two astronauts are eating and at the same time using personal tablet computers. 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, and a thin form factor."

Samsung also included images of a similar-looking tablet device from British TV show The Tomorrow People. And if they really wanted to pour it on, they could have added clips from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek movies that feature thin tablet devices as well.

Although there have been successful cases of using sci-fi prior art in the past, like one where the writings of author Robert Heinlein were used in the 1960s to prevent the patenting of the waterbed, I don't believe Samsung will prevail here, as the Skypey "IBM Tele Pad" featured in the film doesn't exactly scream "iPad." And it's ironic when you consider that Steve Jobs is a self-admitted Star Trek fan, and once stated in a 1994 interview, "Picasso had a saying, 'Good artists copy, great artists steal.' And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas."