Apple vs Samsung: an explanation and an in-depth look with the latest updates

Since Apple sued Samsung in the US in April last year — and Samsung sued Apple in return in Japan, Korea and Germany — the Apple vs Samsung feud has been under keen watch in tech circles around the world.

While we have, inevitably, seen people taking sides, we have also seen several funny memes and other, more serious, discussions for both sides. And there are enough grounds to justify all of them.

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Apple sues fridge for looking like an iPad
Image courtesy, original artist/s: as seen on TechlineInfo

In this article we will take a look at what exactly the biggest lawsuits are all about so you can make an informed decision before picking sides (you know you want to!) We will see what Apple and Samsung are fighting over, in common man’s language; what is at stake here; and how, as the two biggest technological companies in the world battle it out, the rest of us turn out to be the biggest losers.

If you are legally inclined, you can also read the latest lawsuit filed by Apple, Inc., but it’s alright, because we will be talking enough about that right here!

Here is a nice quote of the late (and awesome) Steve Jobs, to begin with:

We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas

– Steve Jobs, ex-CEO of Apple

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How it got here: a very brief but interesting history

Back in April of 2011, Apple, Inc. moved a North California district court against Samsung Electronics Co., on three (among other) major charges: trademark infringement, unfair competition and unjust enrichment (meaning Samsung was benefited technologically — yes, we all know they really mean monetarily — by the efforts that Apple put in because Samsung copied Apple.)

As you can see, these are pretty huge accusations and Samsung was not one to keep quite. CEO Lee Kun-hee of the South Korean electronics giant led the charge and his company filed suits against Apple in Japan, Korea and Germany less than a fortnight later. They would eventually go on to with two of the cases and lose in Germany.

However, by then Apple had lost their first case as the evidence they had supplied was proved to have been tampered with. It included two images, one of the old iPhone 3GS and one of its contemporary Galaxy S, side-by-side; but the image had been resized to make them look exactly similar in all ways.

A couple of months later, Samsung filed more lawsuits: they had approached the British high court, the Delaware district court and the US International Trade Commission (ITC) by June of 2011.

At the heart of all these cases was really a simple truth: the United States being the largest consumer of gadgets from either company, it mattered little who won a case elsewhere. The verdicts that mattered had to come from courts in the United States and Apple had a clean upper hand here (although no juror would like to confess to this,) what with Apple being an American company.

It soon turned out to be true and Samsung began losing a whole slew of cases in the US, one after another. But what exactly were these companies fighting about?


Apple vs Samsung: Design patents

There are several things from its devices — hardware and software alike — that Apple seems to strongly believe Samsung has knowingly copied. Let us take a look at the most important of the lot.


Body design

Apple Patent Body Design_VHBelvadi
Fig 1

This one has perhaps been making the biggest circles around the internet.

Apple has a patent that protects a doodle they made about their iPhone (see Fig 1.) Perhaps it isn’t a doodle, and is more of a fairly accurate design, but the factors in play here are that this level of depiction is all the patent office needs and this actually patents a lot: the shape, the corners, the steel rim and the button layout.

And below it you see the Samsung Galaxy phone they have filed a case about (Fig 2.)

What is the moral of the story? If you are ever making a phone, make sure it is not rectangular, longer lengthwise, does not have rounded corners, does not have steel surrounding it anywhere, and, not to mention, no buttons at the bottom centre. Right now, Apple owns exclusive rights to all that courtesy of an ingenious US patent office.

Apple Patent Body Design Samsung_VHBelvadi
Fig 2

I am not an Apple-hater, and you can feel free to erase out the last bit you read, but that is the hard truth in lay man’s terms. Refer Apple’s D790, D016 and D677 patents for a legal version of what I just said.

It gets worse from here on.

[P.S. We will talk more about body design in the Trade Dress section of this article later.]



Another important ground on which Apple is suing Samsung is its use of icons. Once again, like the body design, there seems to be an outright grant of exclusive rights here too.

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