Android started out as a Blackberry Clone. Eric Schmidt was on the Apple board. Android ended up (upon consumer release) as an iOS clone. (And yes I realize it wasn't yet called iOS). Arguments against this show at least as much bias as I'm sure people will claim that I'm showing, and I'd argue more. Apple was, I personally think, understandably unhappy about this fact. Android gained a foothold because it blatantly copied paradigms popularized by iOS. (Don't link to the LG Prada, I've seen it. We all know it existed. Nobody cared about it and Android most definitely wasn't aiming to be the next LG Prada. Saying the LG Prada was comparable to the first iPhone is ridiculous, and anybody who takes a minute to think about it realizes this to be true.)
Steve Jobs especially seemed to feel that Eric Schmidt abused his location on the Apple board to steal ideas from Apple. I'm wont to agree, but I realize that just saying that probably makes me a "fanboi" in the eyes of many, so I'm sure I'm wasting my breath.
Jobs is pissed. Again, this is understandable from my point of view. Jobs doesn't like being stolen from sothermonuclear it is.
Time passes, Android begins to largely look and function very differently from iOS, unless you're Samsung, in which case that whole "looking different" thing is really, really new. But current Android is not the point. How Android became a force in the world of smartphone OSes is.
So, the newly created (i.e., in the last year or two) differences do not excuse the fact that Android built its popularity and based its technology on the iPhone and iOS. It's important to remember that when the iPhone was released multitudes of people, especially here on /., were chiming in claiming that it was a worthless toy. "No hardware keyboard? What a joke!" was a popular refrain. Funny how you don't hear that any more.
The entire smartphone landscape today is a result of the work that Apple did to popularize (note: not invent) this modality. For some reason there's this belief that Apple deserves no credit for this, that good ideas should be free for all. I'd be pissed too if people claimed that what I did was "common sense" once it became popular after spending so much time shitting on the work that I'd done.
Should Apple be suing? Well, looking at the landscape today they probably shouldn't. But looking at the landscape when most of these lawsuits were filed? Hell yes they should. You can't compare ICS or Jellybean to the state of Android when Apple filed suit. Google's done a ton of work to differentiate in that time, and this work is almost certainly a result of the fact that they knew they'd copied iOS.
So, Apple feels cheated. They feel like they put a lot of time and effort into developing both an idea and a platform that they should have had, at the very least, a year or two to monopolize. No one else should have even had a clue what was being cooked up inside Apple's labs. But there was Eric Schmidt, coming along to spoil their party. Who else was able to respond to the iPhone so quickly? Why do you think that is? Were RIM and Microsoft caught with their pants down because they don't employ intelligent people? Or because they didn't have an inside man? I'd argue the latter.
So now they're suing. They're saying, "Hey, wait a minute. All of this popularity that Android is experiencing has nothing to do with hard work. It has to do with the fact that they copied our ideas and were able to GIVE THEM AWAY because, in reality, smartphone OSes do not contribute to Google's bottom line, search does. So they screwed us. Eric Schmidt screwed us, and that's not the way the world's supposed to work. He stole our stuff so that he could give it away for search revenue. Google didn't do any R&D on Android's touch screen interface. They stole ours. We're going to destroy these guys! Android doesn't deserve to exist."
This is an eminently reasonable position, and I support Apple's fighting for their ideals. Do I like the way that they're doing it? No, I don't, but what choice do they have? These are the tools our legal systems have provided them. If they're going to protect the work they did, it has to be with ridiculous patents. Besides, when they point out how blatantly Samsung in particular copied their aesthetic it gets reduced to "a rectangle with rounded corners" by the idiots who don't take time to think about what's actually happening.
So now Apple's in a position to be fighting against an Android that is largely different from iOS, but probably wouldn't exist at all in any popular form if its original incarnations had not so closely mirrored the iOS experience. It's quite a shitty position to be in if you think about it.