Apple and Samsung haggled a case before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding how much money the Korean company should pay Apple for– not patent infringement as that has already been settled– but the profits attributed to Samsung’s design theft.
What’s the value of a product’s design and what makes a design truly unique to a company’s brand, vs. a design which merely represents the natural progression of competitive manufacturing?
Here’s an example. Apple did not come out with the first flat-with-rounded-corners smartphone, but it did have the first with a full screen of application icons. Can Apple patent that design? Or, is every manufacturer allowed to create a flat slab of screen wrapped in a case much the same shape as every other device?
Volkswagen’s iconic Beetle has a distinct shape, not easily copied by other car makers without calls of obvious design infringement. Yet, most automobiles look much the same; tires and wheels at the corners, doors between the wheels, front and back designs. Ditto for earphones and headphones. Nearly every one has a similar look and feel that can easily be copied– with ever so slight differences– from whatever the originals were, and there’s no infringement.
What is Apple’s iconic iPhone design? What is it worth to Apple? Can competitors copy that design with impunity?
I’m of the opinion that Apple has settled into the basic flat-slab-rounded-corners-and-edges design much as Porsche’s 911 model has managed to transcend a few decades with the same look, but with obvious tweaks every few years. Volkswagen’s Beetle has a modernized look that captures the essence of the original models from decades ago, but is so differentiated that major manufacturers would not dare to copy that unique design.
Do intellectual property laws allow smartphone makers to create a near iPhone clone with complete impunity?
It would appear so from a hardware perspective, but what about software (which is the issue in numerous Apple lawsuits against Samsung; remember, Apple claims damages from Samsung’s obvious thefts which are mostly software, despite the obvious infringement on the hardware side.
Is Apple’s original flat-slab-rounded-corners-and-edges design intellectual property which has value, or is it merely the natural progression of how smartphones must evolve, therefore there is not protection for original design?
The Apple vs. Samsung case before the Supreme Court now will not solve that dilemma, and it’s likely that Apple will not get as much money in the reward stage as originally provided, certainly less than wanted, and now perhaps less than expected. It’s another win for Samsung v. Apple, but as noted here and elsewhere, karma has a way of correcting wrongs committed in the universe. Samsung is paying mightily now for misdeeds committed years ago.
As to Apple’s iPhone being a truly unique design that can be protected by intellectual property laws, no, it’s not.