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Apple vs. Samsung: Shaping the Mobile Battlefield

By on July 30, 2012

On July 9, a British judge named Colin Birss ruled that Samsung’s tablet computers were unlikely to be confusedwith Apple’s iPad because they’re “not as cool.” In the often-bizarre world of intellectual property law, this was bad news for Apple (AAPL).

The two companies, along with several other rivals, are battling it out in what can appear at times like a globe-spanning courtroom free-for-all over who invented what in smartphones and tablets. In fact, there is a shape to the struggle for domination in the booming $312 billion mobile device market: Apple has gone after HTC and other competitors that it sees as proxies for another foe—Android, the operating system Google (GOOG) gives away to manufacturers. Google’s open approach threatens Apple’s pitch to consumers that its exclusive, “walled garden” offerings are different and better.

While everyone in the tech business wants to be seen as hip, Judge Birss’s determination, in the U.K. front of the IP world war, meant the Korean company’s products were distinctive (uncool) enough not to infringe Apple’s registered designs. Score that round for Samsung (005930)…

(Between them, Samsung and Apple control almost half of the smartphone market; Apple alone has more than two-thirds of the tablet business.)

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