Is Apple's iPad Copied From '2001: A Space Odyssey'? (Video)

Samsung defends itself against Apple's patent claims by citing "prior art" in Stanley Kubrick's 43-year-old film.
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Who's more of a visionary -- outgoing Apple CEO Steve Jobs or legendary film director Stanley Kubrick?

The question is more than academic. This week, Samsung challenged Apple's patent claims over tablet devices by pointing to a scene in Kubrick's 1968 classic film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Samsung is defending itself against a lawsuit brought by Apple that alleges that its competitor's line of various Android smartphones and mobile tablets infringe the design patents for iPhones and iPads.

Apple has asserted that Samsung's products will confuse consumers as part of a push to stop the sale of Samsung's allegedly infringing mobile devices. Already, Apple has scored some court victories, most notably in Europe where earlier this month, a district court in Düsseldorf, Germany granted Apple's preliminary injunction against the EU sale of Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Now, Samsung has struck back by asking a California District Court to consider the question of whether an object in 2001: A Space Odyssey that looks like a tablet computer can be classified as "prior art."

According to Samsung's opposition papers:

"Attached hereto as Exhibit D is a true and correct copy of a still image taken from Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film "2001: A Space Odyssey." In a clip from that film lasting about one minute, two astronauts are eating and at the same time using personal tablet computers. The clip can be downloaded online at 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."

Below is the clip in question. (Hat tip: Foss Patents)

It looks to our admittedly laymen eyes as "non-enabling prior art" that wouldn't allow anybody skilled in the art to build such a device, but then again, if a patent holder can sue a science fiction film for infringement, as was the case in 2009 for makers of the film, Knowable, perhaps the sci-fi world can return the favor and protect its own turf. Are movie studios missing out on a potentially lucrative new revenue stream by failing to be aggressive at the USPTO? OK, probably not.

Twitter: @eriqgardner