"The key thing to know about wireless standards is that if someone managed to shut down all adopters of such a standard, users of one phone could no longer connect with others," said Florian Mueller, a patent activist and analyst who writes the FOSS Patents blog. "They wouldn't even be able to connect with their mobile network."
A patchwork of decisions
There have already been several developments in the various legal fights.
In Europe, Apple got a preliminary injunction against Samsung's Galaxy Tab. That decision, which originally stopped sales of the device across the European Union, was later scaled back to cover only Germany.
Also in Europe, Apple won an injunction against selected Samsung smartphones running Android 2.2; that decision takes effect on Oct. 15.
The aforementioned offer from Samsung -- eventually rejected by Apple -- to remove features from the Galaxy Tab was made in order to avoid a ban on the tablet's sale in Australia.
The outcome ahead?
"The German court's weighing up of the factors in deciding to grant a preliminary injunction in this case may not be followed by courts in other European countries," warned Kazi.
Legal experts expect that the legal dramas now playing out in nine separate jurisdictions across the globe could drag on for years, but they think both parties will eventually broker a peace deal.
"The likely outcome is that Apple and Samsung will eventually settle with a cross-license one way or the other for an undisclosed amount [of money] after a succession of press releases and sideshow battles, and after the lawyers have assessed the overall picture and commercial teams have weighed up the costs and benefits of the continuing battle," Kazi said.
That Samsung's heavyweight legal teams have been unable to prevail against Apple's litigation is most telling, said Carani: "In my opinion, design patents can have teeth if they are prosecuted in a learned and strategic fashion."
Jonny Evans is a Computerworld blogger who writes extensively about Apple. You can follow him on Google+ and on Twitter at @jonnyevans_cw.