Samsung Versus Apple: The Design Industry Comes Out in Support of Apple

by Shikhar Srivastava 1,882 views0

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For more than half a decade the world has witnessed two of the biggest brands in its vicinity go hammer and tongs against each other. The Apple versus Samsung war of the patents and copyright infringements, which we thought we had seen the last of in December 2015, wages on.

Now the Design industry is taking a strong stance in Apple’s favor and is telling the U.S. Supreme Court that Samsung can’t be allowed to get away with violating patents. So how did we get here?

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Apple and Samsung sued each other in at least 20 countries in over 50 lawsuits more than half a decade ago. It all started with Apple suing Samsung for infringement of patents, user interface, and design of the iPhone. Samsung is a company that is no stranger to getting sued for infringement of patents and then using the now standard countersue strategy. So, Samsung sued Apple for violating some of its trademarks. However, the courts ruled in favor of Apple and asked Samsung to cough up US$1.05 billion. Samsung was awarded US$0.

A few corrections to the Jury verdict and multiple verdicts later Samsung agreed to pay $548 million to Apple. This is when we thought this ugly war between the two tech Titans would come to a halt. But true to form, Samsung has argued that a part of that amount, about $400 million, which Samsung had been ordered to pay for copying the iPhone’s design specifically, is a bit unreasonable.

Basically what the world’s leading consumer electronics brand is saying is that even though it agrees that it copied the design of the single best selling gadget of all time, it thinks paying a fraction of what it made from selling the products that copied this design is a bit unreasonable. Well played, Samsung. I only wonder if Apple’s late, charismatic Co-founder was still around, would he even be willing to settle for a compensation from Samsung? We know he wouldn’t settle for a compensation from Google on Android.

“I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong.. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”

– Steve Jobs to Walter Isaacson on Android

But that was Steve and the world has moved on from that argument (rant). Some will argue that only he could take on the current support that Samsung is getting from the Valley, and beat them at their game, or could he?

Samsung has garnered much support from many Silicon Valley companies but the Design industry is having none of Samsung’s hogwash. Top designers and brands have come out in support of Apple and have told the U.S. Supreme Court in so many words that Samsung’s claims are unreasonable and that the Samsung Town, Seoul, based tech behemoth owes Apple every penny it has been ordered to pay by the courts.

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A consortium of over 100 designers and educators has stepped up in support of Apple in the courtroom battle. And this isn’t some ordinary assemblage of designers, in fact the collective support of this group is likely to convince the court to once again rule in Apple’s favor and ask Samsung to pay as ordered previously. This group includes Calvin Klein and Paul Smith to start with. The design director of Bentley Motors and the Editor in Chief of Wallpaper magazine are also part of the voices supporting Apple.

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While ordinary mortals like you and I would assume that such public battles would be the last thing brands like Samsung and Apple would want, as it turns out, winning is everything in corporate circles. Who knew?

In an ideal world Samsung would agree to pay Apple because it is public knowledge that they copied the iPhone’s design and Apple would move on to more important things, which could include a partnership of some sort with Samsung to further its ambitions of global mobile dominance. At the moment neither of that seems to be happening. Samsung is not likely to budge and Apple isn’t willing to let Samsung get away so easy.

The design industry is arguing that the stolen design has led to lost sales for Apple and Samsung must compensate the Cupertino, California based tech company from the profits it made by selling products that were essentially based on the stolen design.

While Apple’s side of the case is strong, Samsung’s side is anything but weak. Among those standing up for Samsung are Facebook and Google. Samsung’s side is arguing the age old argument that such verdicts could lead to “diminished innovation” and may “negatively impact consumers”.

iphone galaxy

When viewed from an objective position Samsung does have a point and it is certainly not fair to let companies, no matter who they are, use patents to dictate designs that when not implemented at scale could lead to the blunting of the innovative edge, and could even go on to affect economies.

The question, however, is not whether Samsung was right in copying Apple’s design. That question has already been settled by the courts. The current debate is the degree to which a product’s design can be copied, which, to me, seems like an indeterminate argument. As a long time Apple fan and owner of multiple Samsung Galaxy products I am just hoping the two companies can put this behind them and move on to better things, like innovating all over again.

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