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Speaking of Rectangles with Rounded Corners, What About Soylent Green's Tablet? ~pj Updated 2Xs
Friday, August 17 2012 @ 12:11 PM EDT

When Harry Harrison recently died, it reminded a Groklaw member of the movie Soylent Green, which came out in 1973. One scene has a tablet, in the euthenasia scene with Edward G. Robinson. Except for the detail that it used a sylus in the scene, it is certainly thin and it's a rectangle with rounded corners and a minimalist simplicity. If you go to YouTube, you can see the tablet, and I have some screen shots of what the tablet looked like. Is this prior art, perchance, foreshadowing the iPad and/or Samsung's tablets? If not, it surely speaks to obviousness, doesn't it?

Why are companies suing each other over an idea this old and this obvious?

Update: One reader insists this looks nothing like an iPad, that the corners aren't that rounded, etc. So I went to look at some pictures, to see if he's right. Judge for yourself, a white iPad2:

I don't know about you, but it looks like an iPad to me. Of course, what really matters is does it look like the patent? Here's Apple's drawing, taken from Samsung's graphic used in its opening statement, on page 24 of the PDF, but you can find the same drawing at the USPTO, Apple's design patent D618,087:

None of the devices seem to actually match the patent, to my eyeballs.

Update 2: Another reader mentions a 1936 movie, Things to Come, about stopping progress "before it's too late", and there are two tablets in it, both used for media. Here's the first one:

As you can see, you could use it in either portrait or landscape view. Note the rounded corners.

And here's the other tablet, used in the movie so that a character giving a speech can be viewed by the entire world, according to the futuristic script, on their tablet, here shown docked:

Say, time to dig into more science fiction, no? Comic books count too, by the way.


  


Speaking of Rectangles with Rounded Corners, What About Soylent Green's Tablet? ~pj Updated 2Xs | 157 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Off Topic goes HERE
Authored by: fredex on Friday, August 17 2012 @ 12:46 PM EDT
Hah! check out today's joyoftech!

[ Reply to This | # ]

What about Star Trek?
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, August 17 2012 @ 12:49 PM EDT
Several different examples

[ Reply to This | # ]

Devil's Advocate ?
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, August 17 2012 @ 12:50 PM EDT
It's been forever since I've seen that movie (and I haven't
viewed the youtube link), but in the captured pics the corners
don't look very rounded?

Still seems like a very obvious technology and device to me,
in any event.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Why are companies suing each other over an idea this old and this obvious?
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, August 17 2012 @ 01:04 PM EDT
Because the law and courts allow them to do so, and they have too much money on
their hands. If either of them did not have enough money to fight, the one with
more money will win by default even before this reached a court (which most
likely would be bad for all of us, but too few seem to care). If the law and
courts did not allow them to do so, then at least those smart enough can defend
themselves without needing a huge war chest and a army of lawyers,
"experts" and other advocates.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Speaking of Rectangles with Rounded Corners, What About Soylent Green's Tablet? ~pj
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, August 17 2012 @ 01:10 PM EDT
Or this : a (blackboard) tablet from the 80s. Clearly with rounded corners and a bezel for holding.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Speaking of Rectangles with Rounded Corners, What About Soylent Green's Tablet? ~pj
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, August 17 2012 @ 01:23 PM EDT
Oh for crying out loud, give it up already!!!

The design patent is not on a rectangle, nor rounded corners, nor a rectangle
with rounded corners,
nor black, nor thin.

It is on a very particular overall look, which encompasses a large number of
details, and the way they
work together. And Samsung copied the whole thing slavishly.

I mean good grief, that tablet in Soylent Green looks nothing at all like an
iPad. So instead of
supporting your point, it actually defeats it, because it demonstrates how it is
perfectly possible to
work within the parameters of "flat, rectangular, no sharp corners",
and come up with something that
is very different than an iPad, yet still (in my opinion) very good looking.

I've been reading Groklaw since it first started, before you had even made up
her mind about the SCO
claims, and this is by a vast margin the silliest, most off-the-mark post I've
seen in that entire time.

Sorry to say, but you've really gone off the rails lately. There were 5-10
high-end Android phones
released about the same time as the Galaxy that's being litigated about, and
every other one of them
obviously went to substantial effort to try to be distinctive because they,
UNLIKE SAMSUNG, did not
want to be confused with the iPhone--nor with each other. Radius of the corners,
shape of the rim,
bezel width, trim colors & finish, markings, button shapes & icons, on
and on--they all worked to
come up with their own "look". Only a single manufacturer copied
somebody else--just the one.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Speaking of Rectangles with Rounded Corners, What About Soylent Green's Tablet? ~pj
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, August 17 2012 @ 01:25 PM EDT
Anyone know if Hollywood depictions are enough to invalidate trade dress or
design patents?

[ Reply to This | # ]

So obvious....
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, August 17 2012 @ 01:28 PM EDT
This movie clip renders the iPad design so obvious that it took 35 years for
anyone to produce it. However, once Apple did produce it, it is the only design

anyone uses. Yep. Definitely obvious. Apple did not do anything but the
obvious.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Better not try.
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, August 17 2012 @ 01:40 PM EDT
I'm unclear iuf it's off topic, but shouldn't the lawyers
have forcefully and loudly replied "Excuse me your Honor but
is that a threat?"

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Better not try. - Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, August 18 2012 @ 02:51 AM EDT
Speaking of Rectangles with Rounded Corners, What About Soylent Green's Tablet? ~pj
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, August 17 2012 @ 02:04 PM EDT
What about the tablets in 2001 A Space Odyssey that the astronauts are using at
their meal?

No Youtube link, sorry. I've just seen it hundreds of times.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Old and obvious patents are the most valuable
Authored by: ailuromancy on Friday, August 17 2012 @ 02:16 PM EDT
  • Patent lawyers can crank them out by the hundred.
  • People are far more likely to accidently infringe something old and obvious than something novel and expensive to research.
  • Income = (Cost of defence) x (Number of defendants) x (Number of invalid patents)

PS: Harry Harrison must have copied Apple and used The Technicolor Time Machine to release his book before his source material went on sale.

[ Reply to This | # ]

F/X - the series
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, August 17 2012 @ 03:40 PM EDT
They had a quite fancy PDA in the TV-series F/X, the main
character was Rollie Tyler. His PDA was quite exotic. This
series was done in the late nineties

[ Reply to This | # ]

Speaking of Rectangles with Rounded Corners, What About Soylent Green's Tablet? ~pj
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, August 17 2012 @ 03:43 PM EDT
"I don't know about you, but it looks like an iPad to me."

Not even close. Unless you really think square yellow bumpers look just like a
round white surface. Sheesh.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Speaking of Rectangles with Rounded Corners, What About Soylent Green's Tablet? ~pj
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, August 17 2012 @ 04:08 PM EDT
If it is prior art of a rectangular tablet with rounded corners your looking for, then th is example on the BBC history web site may be of interest. ;-)

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Beer Rations - Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, August 18 2012 @ 04:47 PM EDT
Corrections Thread
Authored by: bugstomper on Friday, August 17 2012 @ 04:12 PM EDT
Please summarize in the Title box error->correction or s/error/correction/ to
make it easy to scan see what needs to be corrected and to avoid duplication of
effort.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Wasn't Soylent Green a "Magic Slate"?
Authored by: betajet on Friday, August 17 2012 @ 04:20 PM EDT
It's been a few years since I saw Soylent Green ("Now with more Girls!") but as I recall it the tech used a "Magic Slate" -- the old-fashioned plastic film you wrote on with a stylus and then pulled the top layers up to erase it. It was a poignant metaphor for the low value placed on human life in (what was then) the future, with the particulars of a man's not worth saving even for a few minutes. So I see essentially no resemblance between it and computer tablets in 2001 - A Space Odyssey or Star Trek.

[The Simpsons had an episode that took place partly in the future. There was a box of breakfast cereal on the kitchen table labeled: "Soylent Green -- Now with more Girls!". Utterly hilarious throw-away joke for aged P's like yours truly who remember the film and how it too itself so seriously. Edward G. Robinson's last and best. RIP]

[ Reply to This | # ]

Wiping the Slate Clean
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, August 17 2012 @ 04:31 PM EDT
That Soylent gadget looks just like, and seems to be used like,
an "Instant Wipe" child's slate popular about that time.
Write on the clear plastic cover with an inert stylus and the
(usually gray) substrate darkens with the pressure. A pull
tab at the top draws the substrate thru an "ironing" slot.
Push it back in and there's a clean slate to write on again.

I'm having a hard time reconciling the shape, color or function
of this device with any of the devices in dispute before Judge Koh.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Does Apple have design patents on the iPod?
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, August 17 2012 @ 06:36 PM EDT
I ask because, they copied its design aesthetic from a German 1958 transistor radio product.

See images of the 1958 Braun T3 transistor radio.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Speaking of Rectangles with Rounded Corners, What About Soylent Green's Tablet? ~pj
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, August 18 2012 @ 05:10 AM EDT
You've got similar (even closer to iPad) rounded rectangle
pads in Andromeda the TV show. Touch screen and everything -
- no stylus. Colour screens. Glossy. They get used the
same way iPads get used in TV shows.

If it's rounded rectangle electronic semi-computers you want,
there's a ton of prior art in sci-fi. There's so much it's
not even funny.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Who are you, and what have you done with the real PJ?
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, August 18 2012 @ 09:41 AM EDT

(Before we get started, quick doff of the hat in memory of Harry Harrison, author of "Make Room! Make Room!" on which Soylent Green is based, and who died recently).

Seriously, how about some intelligent discussion of whether or not Apple's patents are valid or enforceable (I'm quite capable of contemplating that notion) rather than this juvenile "oooh, look here's a photo from an old SF movie that looks vaguely like an iPad if you squint" nonsense?

Once in a while you might get "prior art" turning up in SF literature (e.g. Robert Heinlein and the water bed) - but more likely in novels where the device is described in sufficient detail to be actually buit (as was the case with the waterbed). If you can come up with a passage in "Make Room! Make Room!" that describes the operation of the tablet in detail then you might have something approximating a point, but a grainy photo from a movie - don't be silly.

I'm not a huge fan of patents (software patents even less so) but while they're here even I don't think the eventual inventor of the warp drive or matter replicator should be denied a patent because of Star Trek (speaking of which, didn't someone successfully get a patent on the "flip phone" concept?)

Also, what's with these silly comments on newspicks articles conflating Apple licensing its cosmetic design patents with Samsung/Motorola licensing their standards-essential FRAND patents.

C'mon PJ, you know the difference between a patent that you can work around with a slightly different-shaped bezel, and one that you *have* to license in order to work with an industry standard.

If Apple has a valid patent then, for better or worse, they''re entitled to license it on a "take it or leave it" basis. Samsung/Motorola have got their patents incorporated into industry standards, so "leave it" is not an option, hence their obligation to offer fair and reasonable terms.

Is anybody covering this bunfight who isn't rabidly pro- or anti- Apple?

[ Reply to This | # ]

That was fiction: I have a clipboard my wife's father used ...
Authored by: PTrenholme on Saturday, August 18 2012 @ 12:47 PM EDT

in his business (farming) a century ago that has rounded corners.

Maybe the lawyers should show up at the next hearing with with their papers in clipboards, and show them to the jury.

As an aside, I note that my spell checker acknowledges "clipboard" as a word.

---
IANAL, just a retired statistician

[ Reply to This | # ]

Speaking of Rectangles with Rounded Corners, What About Soylent Green's Tablet? ~pj
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, August 18 2012 @ 03:09 PM EDT
Although it was panned pretty much by critics over the years, the movie
"Things To Come" (1936) has always intrigued fans of futurism, the art
of theorizing what things will look like and be like in the future.
The movie foretold people moving urban sidewalks, inner city monorails, flat
screen TV and video, urban helicopter taxis, even (listen carefully to the
description of the space gun) magnetic propulsion, ie rail gun technology.
The movie can be found on YouTube in ten parts. Part 08 of 10, at
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hgvr9IgGLGU&feature=relmfu
has a scene at 7:33 into the segment. Look to the right of the technician at the
video control console. Other similar video screens and devices are also in the
movie.
I can't tell from the low resolution if the corners of the screen are rounded,
but I think many of the devices in the movie at least show that some ideas are
are very old and have been around for a long time.
I think Science Fiction holds more prior art, in the form of futurism applied to
set decorations and props, on modern devices and patents than any other media or
format.
I haven't checked the likes of Dark Star, Alien, Space 1999, any of the Gerry
Andersen or Irwin Allen programs but, I think with enough looking and checking,
it would be surprising the extent of prior art that can be found.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Doesn't the Apple *design* patent require symmetry?
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, August 18 2012 @ 03:31 PM EDT
I seem to recall from earlier discussions, that the Apple
design patent was for the combination or rectangle, 4
*identical* rounded corners, and *same distance* from screen
to device edge at both sides, and maybe a few more
requirements.

This means that any prior art missing just one property on
the list won't be cancelling out the patent and that any
such design done today would not violate the patent.

Some examples of iPad/iPhone like designs that don't include
the full list of properties required by the patent (if it
says what I supposed above it says):

- The Soylent Green tablet: Left and right border are not
the same width.

- HP/Compaq iPaq: The top and bottom corners have very
different rounding radii.

- Samsung Galaxy III: Rounding radii not the same at top and
bottom, sides are not completely parallel.

As for those saying fiction doesn't count: This is a design
patent, it only covers the looks, not how it works.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Speaking of Rectangles with Rounded Corners, What About Soylent Green's Tablet? ~pj
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, August 18 2012 @ 03:44 PM EDT
Oh, and one more thing. Who can talk about the topic of patent validity, even
one or two specific patents, ignoring the matter of concept? Apple didn't
originate any of the concepts amalgamated into any of its physical or software
design art. None of it. Yet, it is claiming sole ownership over what is
essentially a collection of works of different designers, programmers and
artists. It's not only bogus, as each specific instance of Apple's design claims
is preceded by prior art, it exposes Apple's callous disregard for the hard work
of others years before the existence of its i-devices.

[ Reply to This | # ]

ROFL
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, August 19 2012 @ 05:00 PM EDT

That is truly hilarious. As I've often said the entire Patent System is
wrecked. Here we have Hardware prior art from before the birth of probably
all of the Samsung and Apple employees involved in development.

Judge Koh is going to freak if either Samsung or Apple bring this up. I think
we need someone to file an Amicus Curae to set the record straight. My
personal feeling is that Groklaw as a whole should file the Amicus Curae,
but that might not be practical.

Ideas anyone?

Wayne
http://madhatter.ca

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • ROFL -- typo - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, August 20 2012 @ 12:20 AM EDT
    • ROFL -- typo - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, August 20 2012 @ 01:47 AM EDT
      • ROFL -- typo - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, August 20 2012 @ 01:51 PM EDT
  • RotFL -- is boring? - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, August 20 2012 @ 12:25 AM EDT
D'087
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, August 20 2012 @ 02:36 AM EDT
Is it 618,087 or is it something else (593,087)?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Speaking of Rectangles with Rounded Corners, What About Soylent Green's Tablet? ~pj Updated 2Xs
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, August 21 2012 @ 07:22 AM EDT
I still don't get the confusion claims. I have many Samsung products, including
the original Tab 10.1. My Galaxy Tab has the company name on the front and back,
the box was clearly marked with the brand name, the warranty paperwork and
owner's manual all has the company name prominently displayed, and the display
at the store had the company name in large form above and below the display
model. Even my store receipt shows I purchased a Samsung Tab and not an Apple.
If an end user is incapable of reading and comprehending these clear and
separate displays of the Company logos and name, how is that the company's fault
in any way?
With all the talk about similarity between car models, if a consumer goes to a
Chevrolet dealer and drives off with a vehicle they think is is a Ford Taurus,
the problem is obviously the intelligence of the person involved. Even with an
unscrupulous dealer, the branding on the vehicle should be enough for anyone
intelligent enough to pass a drivers test in the US.

[ Reply to This | # ]

From the world of Comics.
Authored by: celtic_hackr on Tuesday, August 21 2012 @ 12:12 PM EDT

Iron Man the movie began filming on March 12, 2007 and was in development since 1990. The script was written by 2004. Lots of gadgetry there. Including pinch and zoom, swiping, voice interaction. Of course for voice interaction with computer systems. Iron Man 2 has a rounded corner see through phone (granted 2010 release date, filming in 2009). One thing to notice there is this rounded smartphone is an LG phone, not an Apple. Oh and look! It uses at least two of Apple's Holy IP Icons: the phoneset handpiece and a globe for the Internet. Granted of course none of this is really much in the way of "prior art". More of a collective consciousness. Now, I'm not privy to all the production data on the special effects, so can't speak to what influence the iPhone might have been on the pinch and zoom techniques, or the use of the handset and globe for the Internet.

Apple may not remember it, but I remember Dragon Dictate. Researching a design for a voice activated application was part of one of my independent study projects in college. Dragon Dictate's algorithms were a part of that design. They are also the gradfather of every solution involving voice aware systems today. All built from that pioneering work. That was 1992. Sorry Siri just isn't that innovative. It's just a function of processing speed, intelligent systems, and advanced mathematics like Fast Fourier Transforms (FFT). Always has been.

[ Reply to This | # ]

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