Originally Posted by frugality
Smartphones all pretty much look the same, since they're almost all screen.
They do now but why do you think that is? Just because everybody uses the Olympic rings, it doesn't make the logo royalty-free.
Smartphones are a little different from appliances too as you tend not to drag a microwave around with you where the aesthetic appeal might act as marketing for another potential buyer. A smartphone is comparable to clothing design. An icon of its maker and a marketing tool for futher sales:
2007: In a statement released Tuesday, Polo Ralph Lauren said, "As a company with a strong brand identity, which owns unique intellectual property and recognizes the importance of protecting its valuable trademark rights, Polo Ralph Lauren takes this subject matter very seriously."
Also, there are times when innovation in appliances can create such a shift that it can also be protected:
You could argue that bagless was an obvious solution to a common problem but nobody else thought to do it.
Think of the scenario where everybody gets away with plagiarism and all devices look the same. You might suggest that's great for the consumer as it creates a competitive space where companies can evolve their designs to a common goal feeding of everyone's innovation. But it ignores the fact that some people invest more in it than others. Apple redefines the entire smartphone industry in more ways than I can efficiently describe. Then they add a notification panel and all of a sudden the give-take relationship with Google is evened out? Nah.
If I had the meeting with Schmidt instead of Steve where he offered the money to pay for Android's plagiarism, I'd have said keep the money but put a label on the home screen that says 'inspired by ' so that every Android user would know where it came from.
In the case of Samsung, this goes beyond the shape of the phone. They copied the 30-pin port, the cabling, the box design, the store marketing, the UI AND the shape. Then they try to claim that all they did was make a rectangle. Nah.