Apple, Samsung trial opens with no common ground

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. delivered one common message to a federal court jury here on Tuesday — when it comes to their competing claims of patent rights in the world of smartphones and tablets, they agree on absolutely nothing.

During nearly a day of opening statements, lawyers for the two warring tech titans offered their conflicting views of what will unfold for the seven-man, two woman jury in the next four weeks.

To Apple’s lawyer, the case is about Samsung’s rampant copying of the iPhone and iPad, which he told jurors has cost the Silicon Valley icon billions of dollars that it will seek in damages.

"At its highest corporate levels, Samsung decided to simply copy every element of the iPhone," Apple attorney Harold McElhinny said at one point. "Samsung had two choices — accept the challenge of the iPhone … and beat Apple fairly in the marketplace, or it could copy Apple. It is easier to copy than innovate."

To Samsung’s lawyer, the trial will expose how Apple has overstated its innovation in the hotly competitive smartphone and tablet market. Samsung flatly denies copying Apple, insisting it has merely done what scores of companies have done — evolve with its own products.


"It’s not just Samsung," Samsung attorney Charles Verhoeven explained about why smartphones exploded into the marketplace. "The entire industry moved this way. Is that copying? No. It’s competition."

The case has brought the two giants in the smartphone and tablet wars into a federal court trial that is attracting international attention. At stake is not only billions of dollars but also the prospect that Samsung could be blocked from selling some of its products in the United States at a time when it has reached the top of the heap in smartphone sales.

Apple’s lawsuit alleges South Korea-based Samsung "slavishly copied" the iPad and iPhone in its products. Apple plans to show the jury internal Samsung exchanges that allege the company’s executives and designers sought to replicate the iPhone after its January 2007 release, and then did the same with the iPad.

"Samsung copied every detail," McElhinny told the jury, putting up slides showing internal emails, such as one that said: ‘Let’s make something like the iPhone."

"Samsung," he continued later, "refuses to stop using Apple’s intellectual property."

Samsung, however, told the jury that it was Apple that violated its basic patents in a host of products. Verhoeven, Samsung’s lawyer, also disputed Apple’s claim that Samsung only filed patent claims against Apple after Apple accused the company of copying the iPhone and iPad.

Apple is one of Samsung’s largest customers in the component market, some of which are in smartphones and tablets, and Verhoeven said Samsung is not in the "business of suing its business partners."

"Samsung hasn’t done anything wrong," he said. "Samsung is an innovator, a competitor."


Apple presented its first witness Tuesday: Christopher Stringer, one of the company’s lead designers who worked on the original iPhone and iPad. Stringer’s scrawled original sketches of an iPhone were shown to the jury.

Stringer told the jury that Apple’s designs have been "ripped off, it’s plain to see. Especially Samsung. It’s offensive."

The trial resumes Friday with more Apple witnesses who will testify on their product designs.

Meanwhile, Samsung continues to have a rough time with U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, who has presided over the case. She has rejected many of Samsung’s attempts to bar some of Apple’s evidence, prompting the company to release a statement Tuesday that some of her rulings damage Samsung’s ability to prove it "did not copy the iPhone design."

Koh has issued injunctions against the Galaxy 10.1 tablet and Nexus phone, indicating she supports Apple’s allegations of patent violations in those products. An appeals court is reviewing those rulings.

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