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Samsung uses 2001: A Space Odyssey as prior art in Apple's iPad lawsuit

Did Apple invent the iPad? Or did Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke? Samsung is using the above clip as a piece of evidence in its defense against Apple's patent lawsuit over the Galaxy S and similar tablet computers.

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Samsung notes that "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." You don't actually see the actor interacting with the tablet's user interface, but plenty of other science fiction movies and TV shows have depicted tablets, including Star Trek's PADD.

Science fiction has been used as prior art in patent lawsuits before — Robert A. Heinlein described something like a waterbed in a 1930s short story, and this was cited in a successful case against someone who wanted to patent the waterbed in the 1960s. [Apple Insider]

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DISCUSSION

This is what I don't get about Apple. The iPad is an elegant evolution of established tablet technology. It combined ergonomics with established functionality to basically make the existing tablet design usable by the general public. Back in 2002 I used a Hitachi touch screen color tablet computer at HealthSouth - a medical outpatient treatment group. Their goal was a decentralized, paperless medical database. The Hitachi I used was heavy, bulky and not very user friendly. It ran Widows 2000 and was slow. But it was a tablet in every way you would expect a tablet to be.

Given that Hitachi was one of several wireless tablets that HealthSouth tried in 2002, how can Apple claim a patent on what is arguably only a consumer refinement of existing technology? I believe the Hitachi was referred to as a slate PC but it might just as easily been referred to as a tablet - I honestly don't remember. But it was a tablet PC in full functioning color well before the iPad.