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Friday, July 27, 2012, 12:00 pm PT (03:00 pm ET)

Samsung's tablets returned after buyers realized they weren't iPads

New documents made public in the legal feud between Apple and Samsung indicate among other things that retailer Best Buy had told Samsung it was processing Galaxy Tab returns from unhappy customers who thought they were getting an iPad.

The emails, internal memos and other evidence documents being exposed in the lawsuit underway in the U.S. District Court in San Jose, California is currently undergoing arguments about admissibility, with Samsung's email evidence destruction recently being admitted.

The two companies have also filed briefs where Apple brought up comments "famous designers" made to Samsung warning that its Galaxy S "looked like it copied the iPhone too much," and resembled the iPhone design "so as to have no distinguishable elements,” to the point where "all you have to do is cover up the Samsung logo and it’s difficult to find anything different from the iPhone."

Apple also cited admonitions from Google that Samsung's preproduction designs for Galaxy Tab models were "too similar" to Apple's existing products, and insisted that its Android licensee come up with a "distinguishable design vis-à-vis the iPad" for its future tablet models.

A new comment Apple hopes to gain traction with in its case, unearthed to the public by Wall Street Journal "All things Digital" blogger Ina Fried, notes that Samsung was told by Best Buy that its tablet products were being returned by customers who had thought they were getting an iPad.

It is not yet public knowledge how many of the millions of Galaxy Tab devices Samsung promoted as having "shipped" were actually sold to buyers, and how many of those were subsequently returned when those buyers realized the difference between what they had purchased and what they sold as being identical in form and features to the heavily advertised iPad.

There were apparently enough returns based on customer confusion for Best Buy to bring it to Samsung's attention, although those returns were never factored into the widely reported "tablet market share" figures that appeared intended to minimize the specific demand customers were expressing for the original iPad.

Apple's brief also focused on the overall design of Samsung's products before the iPhone was announced at the beginning of 2007, compared to the designs that began earning it market share and revenue afterward.

A notable example is the Samsung BlackJack, a popular Windows Phone device prior to 2007 that resembled RIM's Blackberry devices in name, design and features. The model was singled out for promotion at the time by Microsoft's chief executive Steve Ballmer as a cheaper device with greater potential than the then-new iPhone.

Samsung Phones

Apple illustration of Samsung phones pre- and post-iPhone. | Source: Apple trial brief


Samsung has responded by arguing that it had phones and prototypes with a prominent display prior to the iPhone, and dismissed Apple's iPhone design as having nothing more an a series of features that were in "widespread use" prior to its launch.