Apple vs Samsung - what does it mean for design?
Apple’s copyright victory over Samsung sets a precedent for the ownership of interaction design, according to design industry commentators.
Over the weekend Apple was awarded £665 million in a landmark victory over Samsung, which was found guilty over intellectual property infringement.
This included infringements over the look of individual phones, and the way they display icons and text.
In the judgement Samsung was found guilty of both software and design patent infringement as counter-claims by Samsung were rejected.
Nike Roope, founder and executive creative director of interactive consultancy Poke says that the case ‘draws attention to the battleground of interaction design IP, which there is perhaps less focus on compared to traditional engineering patents.
‘As a broader consequence there might be more recognition and understanding of good interaction design,’ he adds.
From an ethical perspective Roope feels that ‘Samsung’s behaviour shows flagrant disregard for the original design and it’s obvious they were copying.
‘Anyone with any design sense knows those precedents didn’t exist before Apple created them.’
However he counters, ‘You shouldn’t grant ownership for fundamental interactions. It’s a grey area.’
Roope recalls the case of Amazon’s one-click buying patent, registered in the US in 1999. ‘I think you need to accept that there’s an inevitability that as ecommerce becomes more efficient, everybody is going to end up at one click.’
The impact of Apple’s victory in the short-term is their pursuit of seeing several Samsung phones banned from the US market. This leaves an uncertain future for other phones that, like Samsung’s, run on Google’s Android operating system. And indeed most smart phones, which arguably owe some debt to the development of each other, and Apple’s iPhone.
One uncertainty is whether other smartphone developers will design with restraint or caution.
‘If you’re going to be making smartphones, you have to engage through interactive systems and it would be counter-intuitive to do otherwise, but risk aversion may cause some companies to withdraw from the market,’ says Roope.
Matt Wade, designer and co-founder of interactive consultancy Kin says, ‘I don’t think smartphone design is dead because of this case with Apple. Phone designers will have to continue to think what is most useful for people, their changing needs through time, and how the design fits with other cultural objects.’
Wade makes the point that while there is an infringement on Samsung’s part there is ‘a history of design language becoming an industry standard’ – for example Apple’s obvious design debt to Dieter Rams and his work for Braun.
Samsung’s reputation has clearly taken a knock, indicated by its share price plummeting by more then £76 million, as Google (which operates the Android operating system) saw its share price close with a 1.4 per cent loss yesterday.
Meanwhile Apple shares rose by 1.9 per cent.
However, Wade says, ‘Apple has got to be careful as it is looking very aggressive but used to feel like a friendly brand.’
While brands like Apple and Samsung continue to compete in a global market, it is worth noting that the ruling has been imposed by a US court for the US market.
Aaron Wood, head of trademarks and brand protection at intellectual property lawyer Briffa, notes that the Apple Samsung case was kicked out of UK courts.
‘In the UK there aren’t software patents, so Apple pursued design law, and there wasn’t seen to be a Samsung design law infringement,’ Wood says.
He adds, ‘Samsung has made a clear infringement - but I expect there to be a challenge from them.’