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US jury weighs epic case between Apple, Samsung

Wed, 08/22/2012 - 8:23am
PAUL ELIAS - Associated Press - Associated Press

The multibillion-dollar patent trial involving the world's biggest smartphone companies, Apple and Samsung, was set to go to a U.S. jury Wednesday in an epic struggle over the wildly popular iPhone.

Apple Corp. argues that Samsung Electronics Co. should pay $2.5 billion for ripping off its iPhone and iPad technology when it marketed competing devices. If awarded, it would represent the largest patent verdict in the U.S.

During closing arguments Tuesday, a lawyer for Apple said Samsung was having a "crisis of design" after the iPhone launch, and its executives were determined to illegally cash in on its success. Samsung's lawyer said the South Korean company was simply and legally giving consumers what they want: Smart phones with big screens.

Samsung has sold 22.7 million smartphones and tablets using "infringed" Apple technology since June 2010 on sales of $8.16 billion, Apple's lead attorney, Harold McElhinny, told jurors Tuesday.

"The damages in this case should be large because the infringement has been massive," he said.

Samsung's counter claim seeks $399 million from Apple for allegedly using Samsung technology in making the iconic iPhone and iPad.

Apple and Samsung combined account for more than half of global smartphone sales. Apple is also demanding that Samsung pull its most popular cellphones and computer tablets from the U.S. market.

"Apple is asking what it is not entitled to," Samsung's lawyer Charles Verhoeven said during his closing arguments. "Rather than competing in the marketplace, Apple is seeking an edge in the courtroom."

Verhoeven argued that the state of technology has led most phone makers to design simple-to-use products with large, rounded rectangular faces. He conceded that Apple makes great products but said it doesn't have a monopoly on the design it claims it created.

"There is nothing nefarious about this, it's the way technology has evolved," he said.

From the beginning, legal experts and Wall Street analysts have viewed Samsung as the underdog. Apple's headquarters is near the courthouse, and jurors were picked from the heart of Silicon Valley, where the company's late founder Steve Jobs is a revered technological pioneer.

While the legal and technological issues may be complex, patent expert Alexander I. Poltorak said the case will likely come down to whether jurors believe Samsung's products at issue look and feel almost identical to Apple's iPhone and iPad.

"Most jurors will probably say they look alike," said Poltorak, who is chief executive of General Patent Corp.

In June, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh called Samsung's Galaxy 10.1 tablet computer "virtually indistinguishable" from Apple's iPad and banned its sale in the United States until the resolution of the case.

Samsung's battalion of lawyers has been arguing that many of Apple's claims of innovation are either obvious ideas or were actually stolen ideas from Sony Corp. and others. Experts called that line of argument a high-risk strategy because of Apple's reputation as an innovator.

The U.S. trial is just the latest skirmish between the two over product designs. The two companies have been fighting in courts in Australia, the United Kingdom and Germany.

The case is one of some 50 lawsuits among myriad telecommunications companies jockeying for position in the burgeoning $219 billion market for smartphones and computer tablets.

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