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Apple, Samsung face off in critical patent court battle

First Published Jul 30 2012 11:40 am • Last Updated Oct 30 2012 11:34 pm

Apple, armed with partial victories in the battle to protect key patents related to its popular iPhone and iPad, faced off with rival Samsung in a landmark patent case in Silicon Valley on Monday.

U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh presided over the San Jose courtroom as jury selection began. Last month, she awarded Apple a preliminary injunction that could force Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet computer from stores pending the outcome of the trial. Jury selection began Monday. Opening arguments could start as early as Tuesday.

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In court documents, Apple alleges that its iPad and iPhone are being copied by Samsung and wants the products pulled from stores and the South Korean company to pay $2.5 billion in damages. Samsung, in its filings, calls Apple’s request for damages an "absurd windfall" at the expense of consumers, saying that iPhones run on its wireless technologies and, therefore, Apple should pay it royalties.

Samsung and other mobile-device makers, in part, serve as proxies for Google because they run on its Android mobile operating system software. Apple’s relationship with Google turned bitter when the late Steve Jobs learned that the search giant was coming out with its HTC Nexus smartphone. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt had been serving on Apple’s board but resigned.

"I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product," Apple co-founder Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson. "I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this." Apple sued over the likeness of the HTC Nexus to its iPhone.

"That was the seminal case for this wave of disputes," says independent legal analyst Florian Mueller.

The trial comes as Apple has scored five preliminary injunctions against Samsung, two against Motorola and two against HTC, he says.

Google is expected to be closely watching the case with lawyers all around the trial.

Apple is waging war about similarities in hardware design, software functions and packaging, according to court documents.

Apple’s key allegation against Samsung relates to an Apple patent that covers touch-based dragging of documents, as well as pinch-to-zoom and twist-to-rotate capabilities. Apple is also staking a claim on the tap-to-zoom function that makes text or images pop up larger. The company says Samsung infringes on its scrolling patent as well.

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Consumers could notice some differences if mobile-device makers are forced to alter their products. Still, if Apple prevails, it wouldn’t be long before these companies would create technology workarounds, legal experts say. Samsung has already devised technology workarounds to keep some of its devices in the market.

"Apple has had some wins in court," Mueller says. "But what may be even more important: Its intellectual property enforcement has discouraged many companies in the industry from building products that bear too much of a resemblance to Apple’s gadgets."

Samsung may have an issue of trust with the jury. "Samsung set their e-mail system to automatically delete e-mails," says Michael Barclay, a fellow at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "This is just terrible."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal ruled last week that Samsung allowed e-mails to be deleted that were relevant to Apple’s infringement claims and said that Apple had the right to inform the jury.

"In effect, Samsung kept the shredder on long after it should have known about this litigation and simply trusted its custodial employees to save relevant evidence from it," Grewal wrote.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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