Samsung cites Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ movie as prior art against iPad design patent

“Late last night, Samsung filed its opposition brief to Apple’s motion for a preliminary injunction in the United States,” Florian Mueller reports for FOSS Patents.

“Ever since Apple started to assert the design of the iPad against other manufacturers, many people have been wondering whether there’s actually prior art for the general design of the iPad in some futuristic devices shown in sci-fi movies and TV series,” Mueller reports. “And indeed, Samsung’s lawyers make this claim now in their defense against Apple’s motion for a preliminary injunction.”

This is how the related declaration explains why this movie picture is valid prior art for a certain iPad-related design patent:

Attached hereto as Exhibit D is a true and correct copy of a still image taken from Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey.” In a clip from that film lasting about one minute, two astronauts are eating and at the same time using personal tablet computers. The clip can be downloaded online at [YouTube]. 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.

Read more in the full article here.


  1. You have got to be kidding me.

    Doesn’t prior art need to be registered in the PTO somehow? And does it include fictitious implements in works of fiction?

    Can I invalidate patents on some future device just by imagining it and then claiming prior art?

    1. Seriously! Just about everything in popular culture (meaning non-military and non-university) can be traced back to the original Star Trek series. Namely the cell phone – or communicator – and especially the computer – personal, mainframe, you name it. If any credence were given to this ridiculous claim, Gene Roddenberry would’ve owned everybody’s ass.

    2. Nope. There’s prior art for both “the wheel”, and “camp fire”, which is why you can’t patent them.

      And yes. Imagining is inventing. You’d have to imagine (and document) enough of the invention to show how it works — thus you’ve actually “invented it”.

      That could invalidate someone’s future patent, but you’d have to also file a patent if you wanted to prevent that someone from using it.

      1. Despite what can be considerea a “Prior Art” is vague, in real practice Prior Act has to be real, not imagined product.

        But even if somehow iPad design patent will be invalidated, then other patents can be not (related to multi-touch GUI and gestures on capacitive screens on mobile devices), since there is no film that would show that behaviour of a “tablet”.

      2. The wheel was invented thousand of years before the Industrial Revolution. Yet there are millions of patents being granted based on the concept of the wheel. If the basic wheel concept was given a broad patent, then there would be no Industrial Revolution because many applications and inventions incorporating the prior art of the wheel would not be possible.

        Samsung has no credible defense to stand on and is desperate to hang on to this childish tantrum. Apple produces a substantial and actual product and not a fictitious one. Everybody can have dreams but until they are translated into reality they are just fantasy. Get it, Samsung!

        1. Not so. Just before Moses was to show the masses what these tablets could do, their Android based OS crashed. Out of sheer frustration, Moses hurled them at the closest object – a golden calf. True story. 🙂

      1. except there are not ten commandments
        if you bothered to read the bible, it is quite unclear about the number of commandments but its more like 20 commandments.

        1. Lol! I tend not to read fiction. And depending on which version of history you subscribe to, there’s argument that suggests that only 10 of the commandments were used on the tablets – five and five.

          I believe Moses called them the iCommandments, but my Hebrew translation may be a bit shoddy.

    3. Actually, public domain is part of “prior art.” Patents are not supposed to be granted for inventions which are “obvious.” Apple appears to be charging Samsung more in terms of a “trade dress” infringement than a real patent case. It’s more about “look and feel” than any specific technology. So Samsung is trying to point out that the “look and feel” of the iPad is not entirely original. It will be up to the court to decide. But – yes – works of fiction can be included if the claim is that an original idea is being infringed upon in order to prove the idea is not original.

    1. And one crucial question Samsung doesn’t answer: If the idea for “tablet” computers has been around for that long, and has been visualized differently by different science fiction writers and movie-makers… how, then, did Samsung end up almost exactly copying Apple’s specific rendition of the “tablet” computer?

      You’d think with so much science-fictional prior art, they’d have been able to come up with their own unique take on it, instead of merely copying Apple’s specific variation on it.

      1. Another bit of problematic evidence, this time real-world – a picture of what “tablet” computers looked like before & after the iPad:

        So with such a wide variety of both past science fictional and real-world tablets, Samsung’s tablets somehow ended up closely copying only Apple’s successful variation on the theme.

        A lot of Samsung defenders keep repeating that the iPad’s design is “obvious” – anyone can say that in hindsight. It sure sems to me, from both fictional and real-world examples, that this particular design was hardly “obvious” pre-iPad.

  2. Hell… if they’re looking for a good argument ..
    why not point to the “tablet” Nurse Chapel use to hand Captain Kirk (on the bridge) for his review ?

    Something tells me that this was the real inspiration for the iPad !

    1. Not quite the same. The iPad is very akin to the devices they used to have in Babylon 5’s MedLab though. Dr. Franklin can even be spotted playing Angry Birds in one episode.

      OK, so I made that last bit up.

      1. As much a B5 fan as I am, the full-size PADDs used in Star Trek: The Next Generation are closer to the iPad than anything they used in B5. In fact, I believe CBS/Paramount has released an official app that does actually turn your iPad’s display into a PADD.

    1. Agree. I always read that scene as “tv” screens permanently mounted into the table. Maybe I’ve forgotten that they pick them up or move them on the table, but if they do, why not show THAT clip??

  3. Oh, really? What about the Star-trek series and all the stuff that was made “real”, because it was first shown on that TV series?

    Fiction eventually became fact, but nobody in their right mind could possibly use that as a basis for “Prior Art” for defending patents!

    Screen shots (color paper on cardboard cutouts) and studio props do not make a concept device “real”.

    Has the Justice System gone completely crazy?

    Just wait until we get a Star-trek transporter or Stargate activated..

    1. “Oh, really? What about the Star-trek series and all the stuff that was made “real”, because it was first shown on that TV series?

      Fiction eventually became fact, but nobody in their right mind could possibly use that as a basis for “Prior Art” for defending patents!”

      Doesn’t that tell us a lot about the Korean mind grasping at straws for having done wrong on the international scene?

      Now, would not the appropriate punishment be that Samsung may not engage in international trade among civilized people until they clean up their flawed business culture?

    2. You should remember here that we are talking mostly about DESIGN patents. I do not think you need to describe too much of the working guts of an object for a design patent. These are different from patents of actual inventions:

      “In the United States, a design patent is a patent granted on the ornamental design of a functional item. Design patents are a type of industrial design right. ”

      As opposed to UTILITY patents:
      “The additional qualification _utility_ patent is used in the United States to distinguish it from other types of patents (e.g. design patents) …”

      So here, prior art of designs from movies might have a bearing. I may not agree with the Samsung lawyers, but I sincerely doubt they are idiots.

    1. HeeHeeHeeHeeHeeHee…!
      I think I wet my pants.
      Hanna-Barbera are owed a hell of a lot of royalties.
      Like I said here last week, we’re living in a brave new
      Flintstones World
      where people seriously believe
      that cavemen and dinosaurs coexisted
      before Noah’s Arc.

      Can I leave now? Please?
      I’m entirely sick of this Tard BS.

  4. So Arthur C. Clarke owns the patent on communication satellites?

    Also, I sure wish iTunes would offer 2001 in HD to buy.
    (a very influential movie and book in my younger daze)

        1. Isaac Asimov says in a story pubished in 1970, give or take two years (it’s in my library, but I can’t remember which paperback) that Clarke said he didn’t think to patent the idea and that he wished he had.

          But since Clarke published the idea in 1945, by the time communication satellites existed, wouldn’t the patent have run out? Though I suppose he could have patented it much later.

    1. I know it is commonly held that Clarke “invented” the communication satellite, but I believe all he did was describe the use of three geostationary satellites 120 degrees apart to give world coverage. Other space pioneers decades earlier described geostationary orbit and satellites, but we rarely hear about them. Likewise, the waterbeds on the market are nothing like the design originally described by Heinlein, yet he is often credited with “inventing” the waterbed.

  5. I guess all those cell phone patents are out the window since I’m sure I saw a world flip-phone on Star Trek back in the 1960’s!

    Forget patenting warp drive or phasers! Jim Kirk beat you to it!

    1. Gene Roddenberry… beat him to it.
      Roddenberry envisioned it.
      The character Kirk only used it.
      Scotty and Spock made even better use of it. They were the resident techies.

      Just sayin’.

  6. The iPad is just a screen, but when a competing product copies an iPad right down to the software interface, then Apple has a case. Nowhere in “2001” do we see an interface. For that matter, the “tablets” might have been part of the table for we never see astronauts Bowman or Poole handling the data pads. (The props had to be rear-projected from under the table.)

  7. Interesting.
    These “2001” tablets do indeed look like the iPad.

    However, if I was Apple’s law team, I would ask why Samsung felt it necessary to copy almost exactly the iPad edge design and bevel, instead of adhering more closely to the look of the fictional “2001” tablet.

    Another way;
    If Apple mimicked the design of the fictional tablet, why did Samsung copy, exactly, Apple’s copy?

    1. Absolutely agree.

      If Samsung had made its Galaxy similar to the 2001 babes, then I’d be saying ‘Cool’ and would buy one in a heartbeat.

      Instead, Samsung simply copies the iPad and iPhone.


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