I haven't read the entire thread, but if it hasn't happened yet, there will be a car industry analogy.
Ok, if there hasn't been one yet, I'll do it.
So, the automotive industry builds autos. Right? Ok. So there are a lot of different cars out there and many of them have design elements that look similar to other completely different cars of different makes and models. Maybe there are lawsuits and litigation, but I really don't hear about it. I think everyone is pretty much in the school of thinking that says that all cars generally need 4 wheels, an engine, a transmission to put the power from the engine to the wheels, a chassis and suspension to control the power and keep things grounded, and a body or frame of some kind to protect the occupants. This is basically the phone industry's series of FRAND patents. A car needs all those things to be a car (generally speaking). A phone generally needs a lot of things to in order to be a phone...or rather a smartphone.
However, the auto industry finds ways to make their products all look different enough and priced competitively enough that there isn't likely someone going home with a Kia Optima (the old ones that tried to look like the old bug-eyed Benz's) and thinking they got a Mercedes C-Class. You really can't mess that up no matter how much one car company might emulate some design cues from a higher-priced higher-class car company.
Phones prior to the iPhone were more like this analogy of the car industry. Some phones looked similar, but ultimately there were pricier and better quality models and they were all sort of different enough that one couldn't easily be mistaken for another. Now, of course there are the people who say the LG Prada was there first. Sure, maybe thats true but who's still using one? That's like the biggest cop out now..."iPhone blah blah blah Samsung copied yadda yadda yadda" "oh yeah well the Prada was announced before the iPhone so who copied who?" Nobody cares. Do you see LG giving much of a shit? Supposedly they were pissed and had been threatening legal action but they haven't followed through. They're probably thrilled that Apple is spending mega bucks on their panels and probably make more money off that then actual sales of phones. Maybe they realized that trying to look a gift-horse in the mouth while it's pissing money in your hand isn't a good idea (if that even made sense). Maybe LG is just waiting for the iPhone to succeed...oh...wait...hmmm...ok maybe they are waiting for the iPhone to...oh...uh...maybe they're just waiting like everyone else year after year for some unknown reason to sue Apple for infringement when they could have done so within the first year or so of iPhone releases. That would make sense, but nah. Who knows?
Anyway, back to the case here...
So phones prior to the Prada (happy?) all looked drastically different. Then the Prada comes along and...ok I can't keep doing that. The Prada only lasted two generations. Nobody cares about the Prada. Where was I? Ok, the iPhone comes along and not only does the entire industry drop deuce and start making phones that looked like an iPhone but Android followed suit and took their Blackberry clone and made it look like an iPhone because of how popular the form factor was. Then everyone followed the Android bus. The WinPhone7 1990 Dodge Caravan is chugging along trying to keep up with the Android Bus but some licensing pays for the gas money needed to keep the Caravan running. Tablets before the iPad were all generally thick chunky slabs loaded with buttons nobody really wanted to use. After the iPad, Android and Win7 tablets all basically became super thin and nearly buttonless...and nobody really wanted to use them either. At least not until the Nexus 7, but it still remains to be seen whether that will really chew into Apple's tablet share. The Kindle Fire...well nobody really likes the Kindle Fire...no matter how many were sold.
In any case, Samsung ultimately took copying Apple to a whole other level when they made USB charging adaptors that look almost exactly like Apple's little cube adaptor, the product packaging looks like Apple's, and the products themselves very nearly look like Apple's offerings. This is like the Kia trying to look like the Benz only a much more successful level. South Korean companies as a whole seem to love copying much like a lot of Chinese knock-off brands. Samsung claims that Apple is restricting the use of a very important design cue that is necessary to the function and operation of a smartphone. To all the people claiming Apple is making a big deal about rectangles...its much more than that. If people are actually going to Best Buy and leaving with what they think is an iPad when really they went home with a Galaxy Tab...that's a problem. Samsung and others can easily make (and I would argue that they are now) phones and tablets like they used to and design like they used to before the iPhone/Prada.
Whew. Yes, I know its long-winded and I'll get comments that nobody read it. Thats ok. I just wanted to get the car analogy out there in case it wasn't already. It just so happens that I went off on a super-tangent along the way. Carry on.