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Meet The Man Who Designed a Tablet Computer 15 Years Before the iPad 374

Doofus writes "The Washington Post has a profile of Roger Fidler, who 'invented' the tablet computer in the 1990s, while working as a visionary for newspaper firm Knight-Ridder. He is now embroiled in the Apple/Samsung legal war, as an expert witness. Fidler admits that other prior art influenced him, such as the tablets being used as computing devices in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Prior prior art."
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Meet The Man Who Designed a Tablet Computer 15 Years Before the iPad

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  • iPad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @04:44PM (#39313775) Homepage

    What does the iPad have to do with it? There were commercial, mass-produced, tablets way before the first iPad.
    I would think, either this guy owns tablet tech and has been making money of it for decades or has missed his chance.

  • Re:iPad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 10, 2012 @05:24PM (#39314001)

    They are suing Samsung because they think or thought they could win. Generally in cases like this the company sues someone they think they can win and then use that case to set a legal precedent. They then take that precedent and threaten other companies with it. It has nothing to do with believing in the next guy and only protecting their patents. Its all about protecting their monopoly and profits.

  • Re:iPad (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WebCowboy ( 196209 ) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @05:52PM (#39314187)

    Apple has never claimed that they invented the tablet. They claim they own the design patents of their tablet in that Samsung's phones and tablet looks too much like theirs.

    Have you even seen the 1990's video []? Nobody is disputing that tablets have been around for a long time, but when you see what Fidler's design looks like I can't see how Apple's case has any merit. Both black, flat, rounded-rectangles with a touchscreen that covers substantially the whole front of the device. Where's the novelty in Apple's design then?

    Notice that they have not sued others for design patents and they are specifically suing Samsung for certain models.

    This is how all patent trolls work. It is more about legal strategy than anything else. If you want to win a battle you stand a better chance if you don't have to fight on multiple fronts, so you pick one enemy to fight at once. Apple deemed them to be the biggest competitive threat--they had more success than any other non-Apple device on the market. Microsoft takes a slightly different approach and picks their battles based upon a candidates resolve and resources to fight vs. settle--a bit of a different strategy but they've been able to use the protection money they've shaken down phone companies for to keep their own platform afloat. Perhaps since Samsung had a supplier relationship with Apple that Jobs and Co. overestimated Samsung's willingness to settle/cooperate. I don't know exactly.

    In any case it isn't about Samsing being more of a copycat in any significant way. If that was all it was about why not pick the Motorola Xoom or the HTC Jetstream to put the smackdown on? They all folllow the same design pattern--one thought up by some Knight-Ridder researcher in the mid 1990s.

    As for the rectangular tablet thing, Apple like any claimant must describe in detail every single aspect in legalese. The rectangular tablet is one of the many details they had to spell out. They cannot say to a judge "Well look at it, it looks like our product."

    It is flat, rectangular with rounded corners and a screen that fills up the front face. There is a limit on how much more detailed you can get. The screen ratio isn't especially unique, and its exact dimensions do differ from the Samsung and other products out there to varying degrees already. Buttons on the devices are in differing locations, they do not have any user-servicable parts that can be interchanged between the products and so on. Seems that as similar looking as tablets all are there isn't a case for Apple here.

    I do believe Apple has a fantastic product in the iPad, but it is time for them to stop with the legal shenanigans and compete on the merits of their product. It is bad enough that Apple is being a patent troll. It is ovee the top coming from a company founded by a man who's mantra was "good artists copy, great artists steal".

  • Re:iPad (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kreigaffe ( 765218 ) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @05:56PM (#39314219)

    Probably because I'm fucking right here, and you're an Apple apologist.

    Just sayin.

    Samsung doesn't have their plugs and button/s in the same place as the iPad, and thus, it's not a copy.

    What's that? It looks similar?

    EVERY FUCKING LCD MONITOR IS A BLACK RECTANGLE WITH ROUNDED CORNERS AND A DISPLAY ON THE FRONT. If you remove variations in their stands, they all look identical.

    You can point out differences in where they locate their power button, or any sort of port -- but that's just reinforcing my point, as Samsung has done just that. Samsung's tablet is just as different from an iPad as an Apple LCD monitor is different from an LG monitor.

    Of course, under the design patent granted to Apple, they ARE within their legal rights to file suit.
    the problem was that the design patent should never have been granted, as it was overly broad. they basically created a cylindrical bottle with a cap on the top and are now saying that anyone who wants to sell bottled drinks has to use a non-cylindrical shape. that's fucking obnoxious, and Apple should rightfully be raked over the coals for it.

    If this was Microsoft, and not Apple, I somehow doubt anyone would be defending their position.

  • Re:iPad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Americano ( 920576 ) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @05:57PM (#39314225)

    You see, we know we don't have to take anything you say seriously because you use the phrase "iFanboy" with a straight face.

    Try making an argument that has substance, and maybe you won't be dismissed as a crank.

  • Re:iPad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WebCowboy ( 196209 ) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @06:05PM (#39314265)

    This article is absurdly stupid. What about the Newton, arguably the predecessor, dare I say it, tablet to the iPad seems to have come before this guys idea. It's even mentioned in TFA.

    Watch the Knight-Ridder video onYouTube. The fact that Apple was not the first to create an oversized PDA is not in dispute. This is a case involving industrial design--Apple accuses Samsung of copying basically the "look and feel" of the iPad specifically. K-R's "newspaper tablet" design bears a strong resemblance to the iPad--much more so than the Newton devices.

    Besides that, everyone knows Alan Kay invented the tablet computer design in the 1960's. I personally don't believe the iPad design is patentable and it was a mistake to grant those design patents in the first place.

  • Re:iPad (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kreigaffe ( 765218 ) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @06:10PM (#39314301)

    I can't tell the difference between any two brands of jeans.

    I can't tell the difference between any two brands of mechanical pencils.

    Hell, most people can't tell the different between a Harley and a Honda.

    Certainly if a brand were to distinguish itself from the rest -- unique stitching or something in jeans -- that would stand out, and copying that would be emulation.

    But.. making a pair of pants out of blue denim with a zipper and button on the front, with 2 back pockets and 2 front/side pockets likely with a smaller pocket for a watch on the right side?

    You can't fucking patent that design, because it's the basic design of all things we call "jeans".

    That is precisely what Apple's doing with their iPad design. You're simply an Apple apologist. If this was Microsoft, not Apple, you'd be calling for heads to roll.

    Have you LOOKED at Apple's design patent? It IS for a "rectangular tablet, rounded corners, bevel, screen on front".

    The design patent was overly broad, should never have been granted, and Apple is behaving like a boorish asshole by trying to enforce it. These = facts.

  • Re:iPad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Americano ( 920576 ) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @06:51PM (#39314511)

    I see. So you're saying you don't think that the lead counsel for the defendant being unable to distinguish between the two products at a fairly close distance is a pretty strong argument that the two devices are at least flirting with the defendant's device being a knockoff?

    You don't think it would have been relevant for them to spend time poring over both devices and highlighting the similarties and the differences, so that they could identify which device was which, and demonstrate in court how different the devices clearly were? At best, the lead counsel was woefully unprepared and handed Apple a victory. At worst, the devices are knockoffs, and the lawyers are scarecely able to tell the difference, but are attesting under oath that they are clearly different devices.

  • Re:iPad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by _xeno_ ( 155264 ) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @06:54PM (#39314539) Homepage Journal

    What I'd like to know is how Samsung's lawyers could be unable to tell the difference [] between an Apple and a Samsung product from ten feet away, yet you assume that the casual viewer will totally know the difference.

    I'm pretty sure that's bullshit, because:

    At one point during the hearing, she held one black glass tablet in each hand above her head, and asked Sullivan if she could identify which company produced which.

    They were most likely off, meaning you couldn't see the user interface. And depending on how they were being held, you could probably block off the home button and other identifying characteristics so the only thing to go on would be the aspect ratio, which while entirely different, is something you'd need to know ahead of time.

    So, here's a challenge for you: Go into a big box store, and find the TV section. From far enough away that you can't see the logos, I want you to identify by brand each TV. Can you do it? Because some people certainly can, but most people would just see a bunch of black rectangles on the wall, all showing the same video.

    Yet, TV manufacturers don't sue each other over the "trade dress" despite the fact that all the large black slabs look basically identical. You know why? Because form follows function. It's a TV: it's basically all display with a little bit of structure around it and a few controls beneath the screen. They all look the same.

    The exact same thing applies to tablets. Visually, they're just a touchscreen, with a few buttons around the display. They all look identical to the casual observer. But if you hand one to someone and ask them who made it, unless they can't read, no one will mistake a Samsung for an ASUS. Let alone an iPad.

  • Re:iPad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kneo24 ( 688412 ) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @07:23PM (#39314721)

    Their argument does have substance if you ignore the rhetoric. They even impolitely told you to do as such. Real life is not a true/false statement where if one part of the sentence is false, the rest must be, and thus invalidates their entire point. In case you wish to not look past their rhetoric their point is:

    Apple is suing Samsung to set a precedent where if they win, it gives the ability to go after other manufacturers who have similar designs and demand licensing fees with a threat of a lawsuit if those companies don't pay for the licensing fee.

    Apple never has been, nor will they ever be the only company to do this. IMO, any company who does this is run by jerks. I realize companies exist to maintain profit for their shareholders, but that doesn't mean you have to be a jerk at every opportunity.

  • Re:iPad (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 11, 2012 @03:17AM (#39316593)

    - a company must always apply maximum of what it can to beat the competition, every single thing, if it means that some people think they are jerks, it means they are doing it right.

    That logic applies only to sociopaths. A company is simply a group of people working together. Any ethics that applies to the individuals within the company applies to the company as a whole. There is no ethical get-out-of-jail-free card.

  • Re:iPad (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @04:54AM (#39316835) Homepage Journal

    if you can't design a product that looks different enough from your competition's product such that your lead counsel in the lawsuit can't tell the difference without help and a close inspection, perhaps there's something to the charge that your product is a little too similar.

    Ever heard the phrase "form follows function"? As a consequence, modulo decorative & aesthetic aspects, things that do the same job are more likely than not to look pretty similar. It even occurs in nature, but you don't hear the pigs suing the tapirs.

    Jeans will often have two legs, for example. Several companies produce round wheels. Mugs all over the world take the form of a cylinder open at the top with a handle on the side.

  • Re:iPad (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @02:34PM (#39318903)

    Samsung really did make their product look identical to Apple's, whether it was on purpose or not.

    Actually I think Samsung's tablet design is a copy of the digital picture frame they released in 2006 []. Given that was released nearly 4 years before the iPad, if anything I'd say Apple copied Samsung's design. Apple is just safe in that regard because tablets and digital photo frames aren't really competitors. But there's something seriously wrong if Apple can copy Samsung's picture frame design for use on an Apple tablet, then sue Samsung for using their own design on their own tablet.

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault