Prior Art…

September 5, 2012



As Apple revels in its recent victory over Samsung, demanding that a range of Samsung’s “look-like-Apple’s” products be banned from sale in the U.S., let us ponder Apple’s own precedents…  in particular, its debt to the great Dieter Rams and his range of designs for Braun.


21 Responses to “Prior Art…”

  1. Huge difference between inspiration and a rip-off. These are clearly inspirations. They aren’t even the same sort of tech.

  2. teco221 Says:

    I hate to say this but those are NOT even the same products. Samesung is crating identical product to compete with Apple. You know how many times I look at Best Buy flyers and I thought its an iPhone on the page but all turn out to be Samesung phones?? HTC can crate phone that doesn’t look like iPhone so does Motorola or LG or Sony except Samesung. That is STEALING.

  3. It’s obvious that Jonathan Ive was influenced heavily by the Bauhaus aesthetic; he has said as much. However, to conflate “influenced” with “slavishly copying” (aka “samsunging”) is disingenuous at best. It’s one thing to stand on the shoulders of giants; it’s quite another to pretend you are the giant.

  4. marskoko Says:

    I agree its somewhat similar…but i believe the difference is braun didnt patent their design, whereas Apple did. Whether its right or wrong to patent designs is an entirely different matter.

  5. jay Says:

    Yet another clueless windbag.

  6. […] Daring Fireball, this shows a comparison between the designs of Dieter Rams and Apple/Jony […]

  7. LW Says:

    Thanks for all of the responses. FWIW, I agree that there’s a material difference (both in the fact and in the degree of acknowledgement by all parties) between the Apple-Braun and Apple Samsung cases. But I do believe that, in the heat of litigation, the important but sometimes subtle distinction between “homage” and theft was lost… so that resemblance came to be seen as evidence of theft… In my experience/observation as in several of yours, every innovator “stands on the shoulders of giants.” As Steve Holland suggests, pretending to *be* one of those giants is plainly wrong. But it seemed to me worth remarking Apple’s own example of building not just on, but with, some else’s prior designs– it’s not a critique of Apple’s use of Rams’ inspiration; rather a reminder of how important it is that this kind of use can continue.

    • eduo Says:

      I don’t think the distinction was lost. “Similar looks” were never the point but the intention behind them.

      The first step is to agree there’s an obvious similarity. From there the intent is rooted depending on things like using the same design for the same technology and functionality, not taking things here and there but whole swathes of the design, even when each part can be used separately and, ultimately, whether you’re trying to pass your work as someone else’s (literally or figuratively, by trying to rub off the respect earned by other’s work for yourself).

      There’s absolutely no doubt that the Kia Opirus is trying to rub off some of Mercedes’ brand recognition by copying their E-Class cars. This is not different.

      On the other hand, Apple has acknowledged its influences even taking them as far as thanking the original designer (Rams, usually) that’s used as inspiration, with several differences already mentioned:
      -Inspiration used in different realms and with different purposes (not competing with the sources of inspiration, not a trivial point)
      -Inspiration separated decades from the new designs (in most -if not all- cases the original designs are classics but are not manufactured any more).
      -Inspiration acknowledged openly by the new designers and the original designer, going as far as being praised by the latter.

      Apple being inspired by Braun’s designs (or Ive by Rams) is not different than this table being inspired by the Cube Mac:

      Inspiration, Copy and Rip-off have colloquial connotations. The table above is inspiration. These two tables are design copy (meant to extend the design metaphor, but not passing off as the original):

      (safe because it’s not only not-competing but also clearly made as an extension to the extreme of the original design, and especifically plays on the recognition of that original design)

      Samsung tried to take advantage of the design created by someone else (as well as its brand recognition and marketing) and pass off their own devices as the same. Not by touting them as the same but by making it look the same.

  8. Design patents also have a term of, I think it’s 14 years. There is no patent involved, since most of these designs are from the ’50s and early ’60s. Patents up in 1975-80, approximate.

  9. What is wrong with you people? It is not and never has been about the hardware. Apple is a SOFTWARE company.

  10. “Today, you find only a few companies that take design seriously, as i see it. And at the moment [2009], that is an American company. It is Apple.”
    -Dieter Rams

    FFS. if you’re going to accuse Apple of ripping off Mr. Rams and comparing their designs to the slavish copying done by Samsung, at least have the courtesy to mention this minor tidbit.

    There is a difference between engaging the heart of a girl, and harassing her. If she sings your praises and kisses you, its not harassment.

  11. Though the intentions of this post may be to recognize that great designers build off the work of their predecessors, conflating Apple’s homages to Braun with the Apple v Samsung lawsuit will surely confuse the design layperson.

    It would be a different matter if Braun was still selling the products in question and especially if the Apple products were sold in stores next to the Braun products. But Apple did not borrow the design of Braun’s calculator because the company claims it was the obvious or inevitable way to design a calculator app, nor do they deny that their Calculator app copies the look of Braun’s calculator. They did it specifically as an homage to Braun, and I would imagine that if Braun was not appreciative, Apple would simply change the design of the app, not try to defend it in court.

    Apple v Samsung, on the other hand, is about one company purposefully trying to ape the designs of another in order to steal customers. One would think that proof of willful trade dress infringement should of been enough to win the case for Apple, but the current U.S. court system seems to require the use of patents to win a lawsuit centered around design.

    Unfortunately, the graphic in this post will make the rounds on the Internet and the author’s original purpose for creating it is unlikely to tag along with it.

  12. you will note that all the comments above, apart from your own, are within a very tight timeframe. Just another processional attack from the Gruber faithful. The idea that Apple’s designs ideas are pure inspiration is absurd as illustrated by the above images. Everybody is influenced by everybody else, end of, and folks need to get over it.

    • kenmcall Says:

      It’s interesting that you’ve chosen a “It’s all Gruber’s fault” strategy rather than actually engaging head-on with the many intelligent, well-thought out points above. “Get over it” doesn’t really cut it.

  13. […] de succès, d’Apple contre Samsung (breveter le principe du rectangle aux coins arrondis, fallait quand même le faire…), pour s’en persuader. Une fois encore, l’irresistible tentation des industriels pour […]

  14. townsendharris Says:

    I, I can’t *believe* it! Apple sold its 2007 iMac to people looking to buy Braun LE1 speakers!

  15. Not a rhetorical question:

    If someone manufactured a non-computing, but Apple-inspired product, such as a toaster or stereo, would anyone — Apple included — care?

    Are we talking about the ethics of a consumer electronics manufacturer mimicking a _direct_ competitor to exploit their success?

    Or is this about the deeper, longstanding issue of one artist standing on the shoulders of another?

    Does the “for profit” nature of the former preclude discussion of the latter? (And if so, what about artists explicitly motivated, in part, by profit?)

  16. lykalush Says:

    Braun? I don’t actually know that. Haha! Sorry.

  17. Rip-off Says:

    […] 2012 at 10:02 am. PTWritten by Jim Dalrymple People have been comparing the similarities between Apple products and older Braun products. However, there are big differences between that and what Samsung has done.John Gruber:But to me, […]

  18. […] [アップルに対する Braun の影響をどう見るか:image] […]

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,667 other followers