Apple, Inc.’s (AAPL) chief executive and co-founder, Steven P. Jobs has bragged about his mastery of stealing ideas from others, stating , “Picasso had a saying – ‘Good artists copy, great artists steal.’ And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”
I. Apple Alters Reality With Photoshop
But stealing other competitors’ ideas isn’t the only thing Apple is good at. Of late it’s shown itself to be a burgeoning master of Photoshop. It was caught in Germany doctoring images (playing with perspectives and stretching pictures) to make its competitor’s product look like its own.
Now Apple has been caught yet again engaging in egregious editing images — quite literally “stretching the truth” — in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands court filing came as part of Apple’s legal crusade  against Google Inc. (GOOG) and its hardware partners. Unable to compete against Google’s Android operating system on the free market, Apple has come up with the creative solution of trying to use lawsuits to remove Google from the market altogether.
In this particular case, Apple’s victim was Samsung Electronics Comp, Ltd. (SEO 005930). Apple accused Samsung of “slavishly” copying the iPhone 4. It sued trying to ban Samsung’s widely successful Galaxy S smart phone family from the market in the Netherlands.
But it appears, in reality, that it was Apple who was “slavishly” copying and pasting the Galaxy S into Photoshop. The Galaxy S is a bit larger than the iPhone 4 (122.4 by 64.2 mm) and looked decidedly different, so Apple had its work cut out for it in order convince a judge that the phone was “copying” the iPhone’s patented look — a key claim in its case.
So it shrunk the Galaxy S down to iPhone size — 115.5 by 62.1 mm. It also cherry-picked an image of the iPhone 3G, a defunct model it has not produced since 2009, as that model had more rounded edges — like the Galaxy S — and unlike Apple’s current production iPhone (the iPhone 4).
A careful read would reveal flaws in the visual exhibit — Apple did at least admit in the text, that the Galaxy S has “some non-identical elements, such as the slightly larger dimensions.”
But consider that the claims of design patent infringement are critical to the case, and that the picture came on page 77, it’s possible by that point that a weary justice might not be reading the small print very carefully.
II. Images Played Key Role in Sales Ban
The recent incident, like the previous photoshopping, was identified by Dutch IDG publication Webwereld.nl. IDG quotes Mark Krul, a lawyer at the Dutch firm WiseMen and a specialist in IT and intellectual property law, who says the visual evidence was critical in a German court’s decision to ban Samsung’s tablet sales in the European Union via an ex parte injunction.
Mr. Krul was astonished that doctored images appeared in a separate filing, stating, “It surprises me that for the second time incorrect presentations of a Samsung product emerge in photographic evidence filed in litigation. This is not appropriate and undermines Apple’s credibility both inside and outside the court room. Apple has certainly some explaining to do, if only to clear itself from the appearance of improper behavior.”
The EU court has since changed its ruling to only banning sales in Germany. And Samsung is actively fighting to reverse that ban. A Samsung lawyer in the EU, Bas Berghuis of Simmons and Simmons, accused Apple of “manipulating visual evidence, making Samsung’s devices appear more similar to Apple’s.”
A legal expert who spoke to IDC anonymously said that in patent law cases often visual exhibits are the main thing judges look at, as they’re considered the point that the plaintiff wants to emphasize — more so than the text.
While the discovery of its “creative” alterations may be bad news for Apple’s legal chances, on the plus side its legal team may be able to find jobs for themselves as graphics designers, should they lose the case. After all, they’re building a pretty impressive portfolio of work, already.
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