Opinion

What if Samsung's Kubrick Defence had succeeded?

Samsung's attempts to use 2001: A Space Odyssey in its defence against Apple in a German court have come to naught. The Korean giant had sought to overturn an injunction against the sale of its Galaxy Tab devices in Germany by arguing a sequence in the film which showed characters eating a meal and looking at a flat screen device constituted prior art for Apple's iPad.

A lot of companies are probably sad that what MacObserver dubbed The Kubrick Defence didn't succeed. If it had, everyone would have been given a free hand to just rip off any invention or technology immediately after it appeared. Instead of employing large pools of engineers, companies would just let them all go and bring in people with an encyclopaedic knowledge of science fiction films who could dig out a blurry image of someone using something that looked slightly like the invention they were trying to rip off.

Instead of shortages of people with technical skills, the world would suddenly suffer from a famine of geeks who had spent far too much of their youth watching old sic fi movies. Companies would get into bidding wars over their services. CVs would include huge lists of films prospective employees had viewed. Universities would overnight establish business courses devoted to the study of science fiction movies, good and bad, to prepare graduates for careers in the corporate world.

Mind you, if things depicted in movies could be established as prior art, might the film makers have a valid claim for a patent on such devices? They wouldn't need to have done any actual engineering or to have created something that actually works. Somehow, I feel that's the most important point Samsung missed in deploying the 2001: A Space Odyssey defence. Just because something's in a movie that doesn't make it real.

This was first published in September 2011

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