What's Apple design worth? $24 a phone say the lawyers

Apple doesn't allow other companies to use its patented industrial design, but if it did it would expect royalties of around $24 apiece according to details from the company's latest anti-Samsung blast. The figure is no back-of-envelope guesstimate, either; according to Apple's filing today with the California courts, it conducted several studies into perceived value of different elements of smartphone and tablet design and closely calculated exactly how much each of its various patented features was worth to the target audience.

The figures will no doubt be contested by Samsung, but if the courts permit them – and find, in Apple's favor, that Samsung has indeed been willfully infringing the Cupertino firm's intellectual property – then it could mean a big payout from Samsung's purse. However, if the ruling doesn't go exactly the way Apple hopes it will, it could also mean an unusual royalty system with the company forced to license out its technology.

That balances on whether Apple is granted a permanent injunction against the Samsung products in question, or if the court decides that is not called for. A permanent injunction, FOSS Patents suggests, would thus mark an end to any infringement; if that's not the final ruling, however, then Apple would likely be rewarded with ongoing damages, "which has the effect of a compulsory license" to Samsung.

According to Apple's sums, $24 is the going rate for use of the company's design patents or trade dress rights. Other, software-related interface systems, such as bounce-scrolling, are worth less, in the region of $2-3 apiece, though it would all add up given the scale of Samsung's sales.

Ironically, Apple would rather Samsung didn't pay it $24 on every phone or tablet it sells: the company is far more keen to keep its industrial design to itself, and instead work on blocking Samsung products from the marketplace. Apple is also demanding $2.52bn in damages from its Korean rival.