Watts Martin of Coyote Tracks has an interesting piece titled “Iconic” that discusses the idea of trade dress — the reason why Apple doesn’t have any branding on the front face of the iPhone:
You don’t need to see the name plate on a Ford Mustang or a Corvette or a Porsche 911 to recognize one. Or a Coke bottle. Or, once you’ve seen one, a Tivoli Audio tabletop radio. Or a McIntosh amp. These products have a design language that’s become part of their brand identity […] That’s what Apple wants, too: products that look like Apple. They’ve nailed it. You can look at a computer or a tablet or a phone being used in a coffee shop and you can immediately tell Apple or not Apple even if you can’t see the logo. And this is virtually unique in their industry: you’ll usually need the logo to know exactly what the not Apple product is.
This is why trade dress battles are so important to Apple. Try introducing a soda in a container that’s easily mistaken for a Coke bottle and see how far “har har har, you can’t patent curved glass!” gets you as a defense. If somebody makes a product that can be easily mistaken for an Apple device, then Apple is going to do whatever they can to get that product either off the market or changed.
DSLRs are pretty uniform in their appearance, so we don’t see much fuss about trade dress in that sector, but it’s interesting that there isn’t more tension between Leica and Fujifilm — two companies that both offer cameras without front branding.