2001 (The Movie) as iPad Prior Art?

by Adam Philipp on September 28, 2011

Samsung claims Kubrick
Invented the iPad first;
Is it prior art?

As noted previously, Apple is engaged in litigation on many fronts against Samsung, over alleged infringement of iPad-related intellectual property rights by Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and other Android products.

Samsung has filed an opposition brief against Apple’s motion for a preliminary injunction to remove from the US market the Samsung Infuse 4G, Galaxy S 4G, Droid Charge, and Galaxy Tax 10.1, arguing that at least one of Apple’s iPad patents is invalid due to the existence of prior art.

The prior art in question appears in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.” According to Samsung’s court filings:

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 here. 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.

In order for a movie or a novel to qualify as “prior art” it must be “enabling.” This means that the average person skilled in the relevant art (industrial design, for example), must be able to actually construct the invention based on the fictional description. Thus, the holodeck on “Star Trek” would probably not be considered prior art, because the series doesn’t detail how it works. However, Samsung does have a good argument that the ornamental design of a tablet computer might be enabled by a fictional representation of one.

In 1934, science fiction novelist Robert Heinlein conceived the idea of the water bed when he was hospitalized, and went on to describe it in three of his books. This was enough to prevent the issuance of a US patent on water beds when they became popular in the 60’s.

The hearing on Apple’s injunction motion is scheduled for October 13.

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