Nick Bilton on Apple’s Secrets

by jscariati

Nick Bilton of The New York Times likens the ongoing legal battle between Apple and Samsung – in which Apple has revealed numerous prototype iPhone and iPad designs – to a magician whose trademark illusion was explained in public:

Back in the early 1930s, a magician by the name of Horace Goldin went to court to defend his signature illusion: sawing a woman in half.

Mr. Goldin filed a lawsuit against the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company for using this magic trick in an advertisement and explaining how it worked. According to an article in The New York Times from March 1933, Mr. Goldin, who had won a patent for the illusion a decade earlier, asserted that the ad had adversely affected his ability to get people to see his shows.


Although the federal court threw out Mr. Goldin’s claim in 1938, the damage had already been done.

Although it’s an interesting analogy, I don’t think it really applies in the case of Apple vs. Samsung.

The whole allure of a magic trick is that you don’t know how it works; once that’s revealed, the “magic” is gone and the trick ceases to be entertaining. On the other hand, the fact that we’re now aware of some of the earlier designs that Apple experimented with has no bearing on the utility or the quality of the final products that we have today. Is my current iPhone worthless because I now know that Apple experimented with a version that resembled a large iPod Mini? Of course not. A magic trick, however, is worthless if you know the process behind it.

Also, don’t forget that Apple is the one that filed this lawsuit against Samsung – so it isn’t like they were unaware that their prototypes would be shown and discussed, or that they’re doing so against their will. Rather, as Jim Dalrymple speculates, they’re doing this intentionally in order to (if they win) prevent Samsung and other competitors from copying additional products in the future.