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Ethics: Dispute Between Samsung And Apple

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Discuss about the Ethics for Dispute Between Samsung and Apple.




In the contemporary business world, there are several moral and ethical issues which arise in the business world. These ethics arise from the organization, individuals and the legal system. The business ethics can be defines as the set of standards, principles or values which governs the actions of the organizations. Most of the companies abide by these ethical laws; however, several times, there occurs moral dilemma wherein following one set of moral theory results in the breach of other. In order to regulate the business environment and behavior of the individual, several moral theories have emerged. Some of the most popular moral theories are utilitarianism, deontology, virtue and the contract theory (Birsch, 2013). The theories are conflicting in their postulations as one moral philosophy results in transgression of other theories (Waluvhow, 2003). In this regard, the moral dilemma of Samsung infringing the intellectual property rights of Apple iPhones is evaluated by different moral theories.

Apple manufactures the best-selling smartphones which have exceptional features and customer loyalty. Recently, Samsung copied a large number of features of Apple’s iPhones which violated the copyright of Apple. The lower court imposed a heavy penalty on the organization which was accountable of the sales of the all the mobile features with copied features; however, the Supreme Court reduced the penalty as and made it proportional to the profits made by the company by adding the feature (Balakrishnan, 2016). In the present case, an ethical dilemma can be identified regarding how much penalty should be imposed on the company. Although Samsung copied a large number of design features of Apple’s iPhones, they made the technology more accessible to the common people. In this regard, the present case will be evaluated according to different moral theories.

The utilitarianism theory states that the judgment regarding the rightfulness or wrongfulness of can action can be determined according to the consequences of that action. According to this theory, a person should take that course of action which is beneficial for the whole society. If an action is causing good in some people while bad for other people, the person should take actions which cause good for most of the people. According to this theory, people should look beyond their own self-interest and towards the benefit of other people (Donnelly, 2003). The ruling of the Supreme Court reduced the amount of penalty on the organization as it will result in harm to several stakeholders of the company. It includes employees and the shareholders of the company. Imposing heavy penalty will result in severe financial loss which can result in termination of the employees or reduction in the share values of the company. Moreover, imposing heavy penalty on the organization will also make other companies skeptical for innovation and product development. Therefore, it can be critiqued that according to this theory, the action of Supreme Court can be categorized as morally justified (Jacobs, 2008).


Similarly, the deontological philosophy states that the morality of an action can be judged on the basis of certain rules. According to this theory, there are certain actions which are not permissible in any moral theory. A person should not engage in these actions regardless of whether the outcomes of these actions are good or bad. According to this framework, all the people must adhere to a certain morality framework and abide by it in any case. The theory states that a person should follow all the guidelines of a certain framework; however, he is not liable for any other morality framework. Moreover, the guidelines in the ethical framework are developed according to the reasoning rather than the past experience (Oxley, 2011).

According to the application of framework, the government should impose heavy penalty on the organization as it has stolen the designs of some other companies. According to this theory, an individual or organization should not engage in wrong actions irrespective of its consequences and impact on society (Haidt, 2012). According to this theory, the ruling of Supreme Court to reduce the penalty is wrong as the company must be punished according to their actions.

Virtue ethics is another ethical theory which states that the morality of an organization or a person must be judged according to his values. It is a normative ethical theory which states that the character and the upbringing of a person are essential in forming moral values. According to this theory, an individual should not emphasize on consequences or rules but rather on the values. According to this theory, the action of Samsung is wrong (Melden, 2013). Stealing the hard work and the intellectual property of another company is morally wrong. Stealing cannot be categorized as a virtue or moral principle; therefore, it is ethically wrong action. The government and trade organizations have also developed certain ethical principles which states that the infringement of the intellectual property rights is unethical and must be punished. Therefore, according to this theory, the decision of the lower government is right and Samsung must be punished for its unethical business operations (Garber, 2008).

Another theory, which is commonly used to judge the morality of actions, is social contract theory. According to this theory, the morals of a person or individual are developed according to the contracts or agreements that a person makes with their society. According to this theory, a person or organization seeks justification of their actions through moral principles and social contracts (Farrell, 2010). An individual or organization perform certain actions and seeks its justification from the society.  This theory states that an organization or individual should work for the welfare of the society in which they are living or operating. Samsung has copied the designs of Apple iPhones; however, the organization is providing latest technology to the middle and lower class customers. Therefore, it is focusing on the welfare of the society (Rawls, 2009).  Moreover, the organization should is also developing competing mobile phones and devices. It is creating healthy competition in the marketplace and reducing the monopoly of the organization. Therefore, the present action is positively contributing to the betterment of the society. It can be evaluated that the organization is also encouraging stealing the intellectual property of others. Therefore, when the present action is evaluated in accordance to the social contract theory, it can be categorized as an immoral action (Dreier, 2009).

It can be concluded that the action of Samsung cannot be morally justified. The company stole the intellectual property of Apple Inc. When the action is examined by different moral theories, it can be stated conclusively that the action is immoral. Utilitarianism is a moral theory which states that the morality of an action can be judged by its consequences. According to this theory, any action is justified which has better outcomes for the society. The organization should follow the actions which has better outcomes for the society. According to this theory, the action of the company is justified. However, the action is not justified when evaluated with other theories. The deontological theory states that the organization should abide by some basic principles and rules. According to this theory, the organization has performed a wrong action. Likewise, the social contract and virtue ethics state that the action of the company is unethical. 



Balakrishnan, A. (2016). Supreme Court sides with Samsung in Apple patent damages dispute. Retrieved on 3 may 2017 from

Birsch, D. (2013). Introduction to Ethical Theories: A Procedural Approach. Waveland Press.

Donnelly, J. (2003). Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice. Cornell University Press.

Dreier, J. (2009). Contemporary Debates in Moral Theory. John Wiley & Sons.

Farrell, M. E. (2010). Ethics: A University Guide. Progressive Frontiers Pubs.

Garber, P.R. (2008). The Ethical Dilemma. Human Resource Development.

Haidt, J. (2012). The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. Penguin UK.

Jacobs, J. (2008). Dimensions of Moral Theory: An Introduction to Metaethics and Moral Psychology. John Wiley & Sons.

Melden A. (2013). Ethical Theories. Read Books Ltd.

Oxley, J. (2011). The Moral Dimensions of Empathy: Limits and Applications in Ethical Theory and Practice. Springer.

Rawls, J. (2009). A Theory of Justice. Harvard University Press.

Waluvhow, W.J. (2003). The Dimensions of Ethics: An Introduction to Ethical Theory. Broadview Press.

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