Apple successfully sued Samsung for iPhone patent infringement in 2012, but now the real battle has begun. Despite Apple's pleadings, the Supreme Court – the highest court in the United States – is reviewing the case. As this is the first patent case taken up by the court in more than 120 years, the outcome would have a massive effect on smartphone design in the future – the Galaxy S8 included.
The design of Android devices hangs in the balance
The Samsung vs Apple United States Supreme Court case could have a major impact on the design of all Android devices in the future. Samsung lost to Apple in a lower court in 2012 and was ordered to pay a US$548 million penalty. Samsung claims part of that fine – US$399 million for design patent infringement – was unjustified.
Samsung was penalized for 'copying' designs of the iPhone. These included: the iPhone's rounded-corner front face, its bezel and icons. But those were just a small part of what made Samsung smartphones so popular. Apple's real beef is the loss of its market share to fair competition, and Samsung is addressing that with this fight.
The design of Samsung devices is a small part of what makes them so popular
But Samsung is not going into this case alone. Many tech companies and industry influencers are behind them. Both Facebook and Google led them in filing a friend-of-the-court brief on Samsung's behalf. They claim an Apple win would result in more design patent lawsuits, and curb innovation.
A loss for Samsung is a loss for Android
A Samsung loss could be devastating to smartphone innovation, especially to design. A Supreme Court ruling sets legal precedence for smartphone manufacturers in the future. So if Apple wins, any company could go to a lower court and claim damages for patent infringement. The opposing company would have little choice but to pay the full amount awarded by the lawsuit.
Manufacturers come out incremental changes to the design of their flagships each year. The best of these are incorporated into the next generation of devices. They are not copied, or as Apple would say, stolen. But they are used by every company to make all phones better.
This innovation sharing is healthy for everyone creating better smartphones. Manufacturers compete with each other for our business and the prices of devices go down. If we want to keep getting cheaper, better-designed devices that build on technical innovation, then a Samsung win is the best outcome.
The United States rewards innovators and competitors
The United States of America is a pioneering, capitalist country. It thrives on innovation and competition through free trade. That's part of our culture and we're proud of it. If Apple wants to continue touting its status as an American company (though most of its products are made abroad) then it needs to start acting like one. When another company makes a higher-quality product, you don't go crying to the courts about it. You adapt and compete or go under.
If Apple wants to continue promoting itself as an 'American' company then it needs to act like one
Apple did not invent the smartphone. It also didn't invent cell phones, phones or electricity. These were built upon over generations of technological progression. Instead of building on other companies' improvements on the smartphone (like Apple did long ago with the iPhone), it used its resources to bully competitors out of the US market.
Because of Apple's litigation, manufacturers like Xiaomi hesitate to compete here, afraid of being fined over design patent infringement. We don't want this to continue. We want more competition. All we can do now is hope the United States Supreme Court does the right thing and sides with Samsung.
What do you think about this fight? Let us know in the comments.