Apple-Samsung patent showdown begins

SAN FRANCISCO — Two tech titans square off in federal court Monday in a closely watched trial about control of the US smartphone and computer tablet markets.

Apple Inc. sued Samsung Electronics Co. last year, alleging the world’s largest technology company’s smartphones and computer tablets are illegal knockoffs of Apple’s iPhone and iPad products. It demands $2.5 billion in damages, an award that would dwarf the largest patent-related verdict to date.

Samsung argues Apple is doing the stealing and that some of the technology at issue, such as the rounded rectangular designs of smartphones and tablets, has been industry standards for years.


The trial is just the latest skirmish over product designs. A similar trial began last week, and the two companies have been fighting in courts in the United Kingdom and Germany. The case is one of about 50 lawsuits as myriad telecommunications companies jockey for position in the burgeoning $219 billion market for smartphones and computer tablets.

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In San Jose, US District Judge Lucy Koh last month ordered Samsung to pull its Galaxy 10.1 tablet from the US market pending the outcome of the trial, though the judge barred Apple attorneys from telling jurors about the ban.

‘‘That’s a pretty strong statement from the judge and shows you what she thinks about some of Apple’s claims,’’ said Bryan Love, a Santa Clara University law professor. Love said that though the case will be decided by 10 jurors, the judge may overrule their decision if she thinks they got it wrong.

‘‘In some sense the big part of the case is not Apple’s demands for damages but whether Samsung gets to sell its products,’’ said Mark A. Lemley, a Stanford Law School professor.

Lemley said a verdict for Apple could send a message to consumers that Android-based products such as Samsung’s are in legal jeopardy. A verdict in Samsung’s favor, especially if it prevails on its demands that Apple pay its asking price to certain transmission technology it controls, could lead to higher-priced Apple products.


Lemley and other observers say it is rare a patent battle with so much at stake is not settled before trial. Court-ordered mediation sessions attended by Apple’s chief executive and high-ranking Samsung officials failed to resolve the dispute, leading to a highly technical trial of mostly expert witnesses.

It is expected to be a four- week trial.

Lemley, Love, and others say it appears Apple was motivated to file the lawsuit, at least in part, by its late founder’s public avowals that companies using Android to create smartphones and other products were brazenly stealing from Apple.

To that end, Samsung’s attorneys made an unsuccessful pitch to have the jury hear excerpts from Steve Jobs’ authorized biography.

‘‘I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product,’’ Jobs is quoted as saying in Walter Isaacson’s book ‘‘Steve Jobs,’’ published in ­November. ‘‘I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.’’