The lawsuit between Apple and Samsung is definitely interesting and raises a lot of questions about Apple. If Apple is redefining 'Emulation' as 'Stealing', it should look at itself. Apple 'Emulated' the GUI from Xerox Parc in the early 80s when Steve and Bill visited the campus and discovered the GUI. Without this emulation, Apple would not have been a successful PC vendor and this success allowed Apple to invest in R&D that created iphone, ipads etc. Does this mean they owe Xerox Parc a multi-billion dollar royalty?
" we can all agree that it is fundamentally unjust for anyone to blatantly rip off and profit from the genuine innovations of other" -- this is false. We do not all agree. Most libertarians are opposed to IP on principle, including me, a libertarian and practicing (EE) patent attorney. There is nothing wrong at all with competition, emulation, learning. Patent and copyright law should be completely abolished. The are state-granted anti-competitive monopolies that violate property rights and are counter to the free market. They distort and reduce innovation and societal wealth, give rise to oligopolies, and so on. For more see http://c4sif.org/resources.
@weflynnJr- you make a good point. Before the iPhone existed, Apple conceived of it and made it a reality. As is pointed out in this forum, the various technologies all existed in some form (and I have no doubt that when it decided to launch a smartphone, Apple took a detailed look at the products that were out there--including those made by Samsung). But Apple put it altogether and did it with typical Apple flair, creating a beautiful product that took the world by storm. It was great work, a homerun by any definition. And Apple has profited handsomely.
To your point: Yes, Samsung could have (and probably did) try to think about how to leap over Apple. I don't know enough about the specific handsets, but by all accounts Samsung did not necessarily raise the bar. But they did create a product that could compete with the iPhone. I was only arguing that once Apple turned the smartphone business on its head with the iPhone, Samsung would be foolish not to look at the product, what people liked about it, and try to create something that would have that appeal.
Also, I am not attempting to argue that Samsung did or did not cross the line and steal Apple's intellectual property. I don't know enough about the facts of the case to have an opinion on that (I'm only reading the excellent first rand reports from our Rick Merritt). I am simply arguing that anyone who wants to compete with a product that is dominating in the market would be foolish not to take a real hard look at that product and why it is so successful. In my opinion, that's fair game and common sense.
The iPhone was evolutionary, not revolutionary. We had touch screens in other products like HMIs, information kiosks and special purpose CRT monitors. I cannot believe that at the time there weren't many engineers in the field world-wide dreaming of putting one in a 'phone.
So Apple had the cojones and resources to do it. Full marks for that. BUT, it was going to happen anyhow. I bet, even, that there exist several science fiction stories describing such a device - Prior Art!
Apple deserve a commercial benefit for being first. They have that.
When I was an engineering student (in Australia) I was taught that you could patent a physical means-whereby, like a process or a mechanism. You can't patent an equation or a shape shape (unless it's central to the invention, like the shape of the cogs on a gear wheel). IMHO, the iPhone could attract copyright, which could cover icon designs and possibly screen layouts and fancy scrolling effects. But a patent? No way!
Now, I believe you have "design patents". That sounds like some pure BS cooked up by a bunch of lawyers to stifle progress and make them richer.
OTOH, I understand Samsung have patents on some of the core signal processing technology. Now THAT's a patent.
I think the real contribution that Apple made with the iPhone was actually in the iPad. That is the multi-touch gesture oriented GUI. Of all the things talked about in this thread, that I think is the patentable technology. If Apple patented that, they could keep Samsung from copying based on the fact that they used multi-touch gestures for control. If they didn't, I don't think they have a leg to stand on. None of the rest makes sense. It is either obvious or already done under another name.
I guess one of my problems is that I don't see much that is "disruptive," even when others rave about it. Mostly what I see is an obvious evolutionary path.
There were PDAs and cell phones before smartphones. PDAs didn't seem disruptive, and it seemed rather obvious that eventually one could browse the web with them. Same with my first 3G smartphone. Except for the tiny screen, why would anyone be amazed that a fast enough wireless phone could browse the web? I didn't rave about PDAs, Blackberries, or iPhones. It just seemed like natural progression.
Touch screens weren't invented by Apple. They existed long before the iPhone. The use of a touch screen on a PDA-style device seems as obvious as it is limiting.
I have a really hard time raving about apps. I have tons of "apps" installed in my PC, no one ever called them "apps," but that doesn't make them less useful.
Store clerks, UPS delivery guys, and rental car companies, used pad-like devices for a long time before the iPad came out. So Apple comes up with a shiny pad that can browse the web, and that's "disruptive"?
People need to get real. Especially engineers, who should know what's behind these things.
"How hypocritical of Apple?" Excuse me?
Read a little about the actual history of Xerox and Apple. Xerox had little interest in marketing and developing further the limited GUI in their lab. Apple saw the potential and made a deal worth millions in stock. What Xerox had was a stepping stone and Apple paid for it and advanced it in the Mac. Proof that Xerox management couldn't see the potential of this GUI was the fact that a number of Xerox engineers jumped ship and joined Apple in working on this GUI, as they knew it had a future there.