Samsung's legal dispute with Apple took an unusual turn on Tuesday after the Korean manufacturer cited a tablet design used in Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey as proof of 'prior art' for an iPad-related design patent.
Much of Samsung's opposition brief to Apple's motion for a preliminary injunction, filed in a US district court, has not yet gone public, but the reference to the Kubrick masterpiece was revealed.
It refers to a minute-long clip from the film in which two astronauts are sitting at a table eating, while watching some kind of video playback on a tablet computer.
"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," the filing states.
It remains to be seen whether this strategy will work, as it has virtually no precedent in similar patent infringement cases.
"Ever since Apple started to assert the design of the iPad against other manufacturers, many people have been wondering whether there's actually prior art for the general design of the iPad in some futuristic devices shown in sci-fi movies and TV series," said patents expert Florian Mueller.
"It would be amazing if the court agreed with Samsung that this constitutes prior art for that particular iPad-related design patent."
The dispute filed with the US District Court for the Northern District of California is just one of several between Apple and Samsung.
The companies are both requesting that the US International Trade Commission ban imports of each other's devices owing to the alleged infringement of hardware and operating system patents.
Apple appeared to gain the upper hand in Europe when a German court ruled in favour of an immediate European ban on Galaxy Tab 10.1 sales. However, the ruling was overturned and the ban limited to sales within Germany.
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