Where did it all go wrong? Apple and Samsung were once the perfect couple, but it seems theirs was a marriage of convenience. A long, drawn-out, and deeply bitter divorce has seen the gloves come off, as these two tech giants trade blows in courtrooms across the globe. The patent war has been going on for so long now that you’d be forgiven for feeling a bit bored with the whole thing. But wait a minute, I beg your indulgence, have you considered what would happen if one of them actually emerged victorious? Let’s speculate wildly.

In the beginning

In the early years things were rosy. Samsung manufactured memory chips and Apple bought them. Both companies grew richer and all was well with the world. When the iPhone began to dominate the market, all the other smartphone manufacturers were scrambling for a way to compete and then Android rode onto the scene.

Samsung had always made its own smartphones and tablets. It was slightly unusual, in that it served as both a supplier of components and as a manufacturer of its own products. Apple first sued Samsung in April 2011 claiming that the Galaxy S smartphone and the Galaxy Tab tablet were too similar to Apple products. Even as late as August 2011 Samsung was still supplying the components Apple needed for the iPhone 4. The Economist published an infographic showing the breakdown and calculated that 26 percent of the component cost of an iPhone 4 was supplied by Samsung.

Everyone is copying us

Apple had an astounding success with the iPhone and there’s no doubt that it changed the direction of the smartphone market. Things veered away from enterprise-friendly BlackBerry devices for email and messaging, towards consumer-friendly touchscreen devices capable of delivering all sorts of content. The app explosion followed and no one could compete until Google and the Open Handset Alliance unveiled Android.

The new platform was available without a hefty licensing fee and it was relatively easy to develop apps for. Manufacturers like Samsung were quick to jump onboard. As we know from an internal Samsung memo from 2010, the company was keen to create something that could compete with Apple’s flagship device. The memo includes the line “The iPhone has become the standard. That’s how things are already.”

Clearly, Apple saw Android as an attempt to copy iOS and began to accuse everyone of stealing their ideas, cloning their designs, and infringing their patents and intellectual property.

Who has the stronger case?

The patent war between Apple and Samsung was started in the US by Apple and expanded to courts across the globe by Samsung. On the Apple side, it is about product and interface design. On the Samsung side, it is about wireless communication and call and data handling methods.

Apple appears to have the stronger hand, although disputes like this generally end in licensing agreements. The difference here is that Apple isn’t looking to settle. Mediation didn’t work, and it appears that Apple’s ultimate aim is actually to get Samsung products banned. Samsung is fighting back as aggressively as possible.

So did Samsung copy Apple? Yes and no

It’s pretty clear that Samsung has been, let’s say “inspired”, by Apple’s design. Everyone wants to emulate the market leader in an industry to some extent. Apple made some design choices that proved popular with consumers, you can’t expect other companies to reinvent the wheel. Apple’s designs were not plucked out of thin air either; they clearly built upon the work of others, that’s the way everything advances. The important point is about whether Samsung was aiming to fool consumers into seeing their devices as the same as Apple devices.

On one hand, you have ridiculous complaints relating to the shape and size of tablets and smartphones, which is surely not something Apple can claim ownership of. The majority of those designs are built that way to work well for humans. Rectangles and touchscreens should not be attributed to Apple. As Samsung pointed out, both Samsung and Sony had designs that looked like the iPhone before Apple released it.

On the other hand you can see how the Samsung icons are too close to Apple’s originals for comfort. Again some of them are just symbols that make sense, others seem to include elements that look suspiciously like copying.

So far the legal arguments have been going Apple’s way, with an injunction against the Galaxy Tab 10.1 being upheld. Apple also won some rulings in Europe. Samsung has had victories too. A UK judge ruled that the Galaxy Tab didn’t copy the iPhone and insisted Apple admit it. Apple also failed in an attempt to get the Galaxy S3 banned.

What if Apple wins?

If Apple wins, then it’s likely a bunch of Samsung devices will get banned from sale and the South Korean company will have to pay hefty compensation. Apple will also push for punitive damages.

Samsung would likely employ some quick redesigns and changes to get round the patent infringement. It is already doing this for the Galaxy Tab.

What if Samsung wins?

If Samsung wins, then the iPhone, iPad, and other devices found to infringe their patents could be banned from sale. It is likely Samsung would also seek compensation.

Apple would quickly redesign and make changes to get round the patent infringement.

What will actually happen?

There’s no way either company will win an outright victory, because they both hold a big range of patents and they’re probably both right to some extent. It’s far more likely that they will settle at some point.

In the unlikely event that this goes all the way, then they probably both have deep enough pockets to actually survive it, but the winner will have dealt their main competitor a major blow. An outright loss would be a serious setback and cost an astronomical amount of money.

For us as consumers this kind of patent war is a lose-lose proposition. The expenses incurred by both sides can only lead to higher costs for devices which will be passed on to us. An outright win would reduce competition and hand one of them an almost monopolistic position (can’t help feeling that’s what Apple really wants).

Just like real war there’s no positive outcome here.

Simon Hill
Simon is an experienced tech writer with a background in game development. He writes for various websites and magazines about the world of tech and entertainment. He uses Android every day and is currently permanently attached to his Galaxy Note 5.
  • Apple is seeiking world domination. But… history favors Samsung. Those who seek monopoly and world domination end up trashed. Does someone remember the Roman Empire? Yes, it’s not the same thing. But if we’re talking about technology we can see Sony as the previous Roman Empire. Does anyone remember Sony? There they are, just another gadget company who used to be the one company everyone tried to bring down because of their monopoly in technology. At the end, Apple will have to give in and get to an arrangement, not only with Samsung but with any other electronics company

    • Peterson Silva

      Yeah, but even though the Roman Empire fell they fucked everybody up until then. That’s not comforting at all.

  • Apple is trying to exterminate Android bolts from eXistenZ….

  • Unfortunately I think that Apple will win the first round, only because the legal venue favors Apple. After Apple’s victory, Apple will push to ban the sales of Samsung smart phones and tablets in the US.

    Ultimately, Samsung will win on appeal, but it will be a long and drawn out legal fight that will favor expert witnesses and lawyers.

  • John Iorakas

    I used to be an Apple loyalist and my family as well. We don’t buy Apple products anymore and encourage our circle of friends as associates to avoid Apple as well. Its just wrong of Apple to pursue this ridiculous case. In the tech world everybody copies from everybody and that’s how we advance. Apple is no different and to copyright look and feel for these utilitarian designs is silly. Apple is sending the wrong message to its legions of fans. Don’t get me wrong I think Apple products are still great but to try to stamp out the competition like this is wrong. Apple itself have liberally borrowed and built upon the work of so many others. Ultimately this case will go the way of Apple vs Microsoft. Apple and Samsung will each win on some fronts and only lawyers will ultimately win. No clear victor will come out of this.

    • Apple and Samsung may settle but don’t look for Samsung to agree to redesigning their products. Apple has developed an adversarial attitude toward anything that even remotely resembles their products and it’s funny since most of Apple’s products were based on designs from products created by other companies in the past. Apple is also guilty of stealing the designs for the iPod, iPad and iPhone from others.

      Their motto is that it’s okay for Apple to borrow and steal from other companies but not okay for others to do the same to Apple. They have a warped view on the world of innovation and it needs to stop. By all rights, Paramount should sue Apple for stealing the design of the iPad from Star Trek The Next generation.

  • In other news.. Android outsells iOS 4 to 1…

  • Apple’s end game is honestly just bizarre, I though absolute monopolies went out of fashion in the 90’s.

  • carlisimo

    I feel like an Apple win could be good news for all the other Android manufacturers. They created their own look and had to use their own marketing, despite having smaller marketing budgets.

    Even if Samsung is shown not to have violated Apple’s patents or trade dress, they did come close enough to benefit from Apple’s marketing, and I think that’s part of why they’re doing so much better than HTC and others. I honestly don’t feel their phones are THAT much better than the other Androids out there, not enough to explain their market share and profit advantages.

    • hoggleboggle

      Interesting theory, but complete hokum. The reason why Samsung is miles ahead of every other Android manufacturer is because they, like Apple, have invested heavily in promotion and advertising – London for example is covered in ads and banners for samsung phones as a result of their tie with the olympics. Compare this to LG or HTC. The last of their commercials was for the One X, and that was rather half hearted, to say the least. Unfortunately, in this media heavy age, if you don’t carpet bomb and area with promotion you will never do particularly well, regardless of how good your product is.

  • I just want to point in to the fact that even this “news” article misrepresents the Samsung phone and the Apple phone grossly. If anyone would look at the physical size of the two phones they are actually supposed to represent, they would easily be able to tell the difference because the iPhone is MUCH smaller than most anything in the Galaxy line, but even a “news” outlet chooses to not accurately represent the two companies (or their products) accurately.

    • Simon Hill

      The image used is just illustrative of the Apple and Samsung battle, the wee yellow men aren’t real either.

      • The point was that this is the very type of image that makes people say “Oh look they ARE just the same!”

  • dynadom

    Thanks Apple for being a son of a B. I will never buy one of your products again.

  • Shreyash Nigam

    Samsung has clearly copied apple’s design and just so you know apple was the first one to come up worh the rectangular design Sony was the first one to introduce it to the market but apple created it first. And if apple wins Samsung will clearly have a loss even android ,ight have a loss but at the same time it is good news for other android tab makers

    • ItWasMyIdeaFirst

      The rectangle design goes hand in hand with the idea of a touchscreen. Touchscreens have been around forever. Apple did a great job of bringing a nice touchscreen into the phone world, but are you kidding me that apple created the rectangle design? THE RECTANGLE DESIGN!? This entire court case is ridiculous. Like someone stated above: Who invented the four wheels for a car idea? Should they ban all other car manufacturers? Should only one company get to make TVs that are shaped like rectangles? Should only one company get to make computers in tower shaped cases? Should only one website get to use this format of commenting on a news article because they did it first? If Apple does somehow win this case outright it will be a bad day for everyone in the tech industry and a huge defeat over innovation. I like Apple products, but they are using this case to stomp out competition.

  • Anonymous

    So… Who invented four wheel automobiles? He shoud be suing every auto maker in the world.
    This is nonesense. Some things can just be made one way. If you put a glass touch screen on a phone what do you expect? You can tap, you can swipe, you can double tap on … let me guess …. icons?
    Apple is just mad, because Samsung will make them reduce the hugh profit margin they’re making selling nice products to people who can afford them, by selling capable products (even better) at a better price. I say BOYCOTT APPLE.

  • Sergio D.

    I think tech companies should start making triangular smartphones, or better yet… what’s better than a star, than a star-shaped smartphone? You can have buttons on each tip of the star, and stuff.. ya’ know… /endsarcasm

    On a side note – Apple is going down the Superman, and off a rocket ship going very far away.

  • adam

    technology has always built on to existing technology. you could easily argue that apple was inspired by palmone’s lifedrive and innovated its design. either way I feel that apple is just trying to eliminate market diversity and competition.

  • garbear

    I have both a galaxy and an iPhone. I think Samsung looks at the iPhone and says “how can we do this, only better?”. They are both great products, but, I think the iPhone was copied.

  • j.simons

    Apple is naive to think rounded or square edges is the reason they are loosing business…They should do what everyone else is doing IMPROVE their productpproductwiproduct! They will