In the continuing Samsung vs. Apple legal battle, Samsung plans to contend that Apple’s final iPhone design was derived from an interview with Sony designers. More specifically, back in 2006, BusinessWeek conducted an interview with Sony designers Yujin Morisawa and Takashi Ashida about the impact their competitors had on Sony and the direction they were taking their designs.
Interestingly, during that interview, Morisawa was asked how much the iPod influenced Sony’s new Walkman (NW-A1200) design and he commented:
When I started this project, that was my concern. I looked at the first Walkman [which debuted in 1979]. Then I thought, “How can I give shape to the music?” Music doesn’t have shape; it’s flowing. I was listening to music and waving my hand in the air. I thought there shouldn’t be an end to its lines. So I started drawing a round shape, and I kept moving the line.
My team had shown me their sketch: It was a square with a screen and buttons. Most other players have a screen and buttons. My first mock-up didn’t have buttons. I didn’t want buttons. With any digital-music player, the hard disk drive and chips are similar. I thought, “How can we make the layout different?” I knew what would go inside, so I could start the design from the outside. I knew how big the hard disk drive would be, how many chips there would be.
It’s based on this description that Apple allegedly had their own industrial designer Shin Nishibori create a CAD drawing and 3D model based on Mr. Morisawa’s vision:
Samsung claims that the above render, which even featured a Sony logo, was what influenced the final design of the iPhone. At first it seems like Samsung is making a circular argument by asserting that Apple copied a design which was influenced by the iPod. But the underlying reason behind this is that Samsung contends there was enough public domain prior art that it didn’t copy Apple’s iPhone because Apple itself used concepts floated by its competitors, specifically Sony in this case, to create the final iPhone design.