How the Samsung vs Apple Supreme Court battle affects Android

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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.

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This Supreme Court case is consequential. / © ANDROIDPIT

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. 

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The design of Android devices would be affected by the case. / © ANDROIDPIT

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.

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The United States must protect patents but also innovation. / © ANDROIDPIT, shutterstock

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. 

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  • Cameron Ramirez May 24, 2016 Link to comment

    Apple, and their sizable use of patents is completely idiotic. In fact, their cumbersome patent use has taken advantage of many fair mobile device competitors over the years. patents were originally meant to protect unique ideas before others could steal them. However, Apple uses them almost as a gimmick to improve their profit margins. Most patents that Apple has made have been for ideas that have already existed for years before they decided to steal them from everybody else. I'm not saying that Apple shouldn't use any patents; I'm saying that Apple shouldn't be shooting down other companies because they designed their phones with curves (I wouldn't be surprised if they tried to patent the wheel next).
    What I'm saying is, Apple is going too far and needs to be slowed down, if not stopped, in their assault of freedom. That is my opinion.

  • John Litson May 7, 2016 Link to comment

    I just wish that apple stops being such like a fucking kid and lets the companies get a fair chance to compete in the smartphone market. p.s i dont think patents are for these kind of bullshit.

  • CJ Brown Apr 24, 2016 Link to comment

    This Court Case should have been thrown out of the Supreme Court years ago (Apple crying over patent infringement, when they were prepared to ignore numerous patents just to deliver a smartphone that could run on a 4G LTE network - finally - after being two years behind the competition on this)!

    Innovation and competition coexist! If you build a product that your competitor chooses to build a better version of? Then come back with an even better product! This is Apple (a Company that couldn't deliver a smartphone with a screen size larger than 4.5 for years - then failed when they tried to deliver a phablet)!

    They may exist as a Company with a Corporate Headquarters in the United States, but please don't call yourself an American Company (and try to use that in a Court of Law) when all of your manufacturing is done in China!

    I wonder if enough Companies were to take Apple to Court (claiming a patent infringement) if this would send the right message back to them - stop being a cry baby and deliver innovation before you're bought by the Walt Disney Co. and only used for Innovation within Theme Parks / CGI Films!

    • Cory Schmidt Apr 24, 2016 Link to comment

      :D I wonder what a Disney iPhone would look like!

  • Diptangshu M. Apr 8, 2016 Link to comment

    I feel that the remark of how capitalism and free trade are so great, in a site like androidpit is uncalled for. The same thing could be phrased in a better way.

    • Cory Schmidt Apr 9, 2016 Link to comment

      Hi Diptanshu, thank you for your comment. I was trying to say that Americans are proud of our pioneering, capitalist country and that if Apple wants identify as an American company then it needs to act like one. I apologize if that was unclear. Of course there are problems with every functioning system in our world, and capitalism is no different. But that wasn't the point I was trying to make.

      • Diptangshu M. Apr 9, 2016 Link to comment

        So how do you 'copy' rounded cornered phone? Hypothetically, if another company claims to have invented square-edged design, what are we left with?

      • Cory Schmidt Apr 9, 2016 Link to comment

        It seems pretty ridiculous doesn't it. It makes me wonder what other inventions would look like if one manufacturer had patents on more of the designs. Maybe we would have rounded corner TVs and cars too :)

  • Noel Bautista Apr 6, 2016 Link to comment

    Yes it so easy

  • Eddy Pius Apr 6, 2016 Link to comment

    Samsung got to win this fight, apple is overbearing and we are tired of all this frivolities

  • Mark G. Apr 4, 2016 Link to comment


    Peace ✌

  • Ashley Apr 4, 2016 Link to comment

    What I've noticed about Apple is that they're afraid of competition!
    Loyal apple customers will continue to buy apple and me as a loyal Samsung (Android) customer I will remain! There's nothing special about the iPhone it is always the same everytime

  • Stefan Vasiljevic Apr 4, 2016 Link to comment

    Apple is behaving like kids in kindergarten. Whatever other OEM's do they go and sue them.

  • Mansoor Bozdar Apr 4, 2016 Link to comment

    Big battle is going between Samsung vs IPhone ,,, i think other companies can't beat iPhones.

    • Cory Schmidt Apr 4, 2016 Link to comment

      Well Xiaomi has a chance but it needs an opportunity to compete in the US market. If the threat of lawsuits hang over its head it will continue to hesitate. Hugo Barra said he had no plans for the US market for the Mi 5, a missed opportunity for the United States.

  • BruinGuy Apr 4, 2016 Link to comment

    Here's my question: Will SCOTUS judges that own an iPhone or an Android phone recuse themselves?

    • Cory Schmidt Apr 4, 2016 Link to comment

      Haha yes, seems like a conflict of interest. I would be interesting to find out what kind of device they own. I wonder if anyone will ask :)

  • Glostermeteor Apr 4, 2016 Link to comment

    How many iterations of a square box with a touch screen can you get? Perhaps they should spend more time actually innovating than suing.

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