re: Apple Worked A Broken Patent System
There is copying, and then there is copying!
What was that famous remark on p0rnography.... 'I can't define it, but know it when I see it?' I think this was a case something like that. The, admittedly broken, patent system was the only legal way to fight back.
re: "... or creating such a conscious, copycat duplication that one product can be confused with another ..."
This is EXACTLY what Samsung was trying to do! They weren't copying a successful market trend, they were trying to make their product look, feel, and be marketed, as much like Apple's products to steal a piece of their success pie. Does anyone remember the news articles which uncovered the Samsung booths that actually were using the iPhone app icons to cover the walls?
Going to the car analogy... what if Ford made a car which looked almost exactly like the BMW you mentioned, but also implemented a number of fairly unique BMW mechanical features nearly identically? Then, they took BMWs ads, pulling segments of the image and video footage and creating one of similar style with them?
I agree that the patent system is broken in this regard. I also agree with many of the details you point out in the article. I even agree the WAY in which this all played out is dangerous as future precedence. However, I also have to say that Samsung is 100% guilty as charged in the spirit of the law, if not the letter of it if the patent system were fixed. It was obvious to anyone paying attention, exactly what Samsung was doing. And what they weren't doing was playing fairly or innovating. Note: there are many other smart-phones on the market which have moved towards the iPhone and it's success, but didn't so blatantly copy.
Also, maybe I'm not remembering history correctly, but in the case with M$... I'm pretty sure M$ actually utilized the code from Word and Excel (wasn't it even licensed to them?), which Apple helped them build using their substantial research into UI design, to create the first version of Windows. That was even more blatant copying.