It's what's on the outside that counts. At least, that's what a group of design industry professionals told the US Supreme Court this week.
More than 100 makers and educators signed an amicus brief stating that Apple is entitled to the millions Samsung paid for infringing on iPhone design patents — because it's the device's "iconic look and feel" that lures customers.
In 2012, a jury ordered Samsung to pay Apple nearly $1 billion for reproducing parts of Cupertino's iPhone and iPad design. Through multiple appeals, Samsung succeeded in getting various courts to reduce the amount to $548 million, though the company argued that even that amount is excessive.
Now, famous names like designers Calvin Klein and Alexander Wang, the Microsoft executive creative director and Bentley Motors' director of design, Wallpaper Editor in Chief Tony Chambers, and Rama Chorpash, director of the Parsons School of Design, are taking Apple's side in the years-long legal battle.
Citing an 1887 Congressional decision that "it is the design that sells the article," the group argued in favor of Apple, reminding the court that a jury found Samsung intentionally copied patents for "the most important design elements of the iPhone."
"Without question, the success of the iPhone is due to its merger of industrial design (i.e. the physical appearance of the hardware) and interaction design (i.e., ease of use and GUIs)," the group's brief said. "Without the design, the iPhone is simply a pile of electronic components and a few million lines of software code."
Early this week, Apple filed a legal brief indicating that it is tired of Samsung's multiple appeals, and wants the Korean tech titan to pay up. Cupertino argued that Congress has been clear on the issue of design patent damages, and there is no reason the Supreme Court should allow Samsung to make additional arguments.
Samsung, meanwhile, wants the Supreme Court to remand the case back to a lower court for further proceedings, arguing that design patent damages should be decided on one component of a smartphone, rather than the entire product. Apple maintains that a case involving multiple patents for parts of a single device is not what Congress intended when it designed the patent system.
Apple's refrain mirrors the approach it took against Motorola and many other smartphone makers that use Google's Android operating system, which Apple's former CEO Steve Jobs famously labeled a copy of Apple's own software design.