By Mina Kim and the Associated Press
Jury selection began Monday in the latest legal battle between the fiercest rivals in the world of smartphones, with Apple and Samsung accusing each other, once again, of ripping off designs and features.
The trial in Silicon Valley marks the latest round in a long-running series of lawsuits between the two tech giants that underscore a much larger concern about what is allowed to be patented.
“There’s a widespread suspicion that lots of the kinds of software patents at issue are written in ways that cover more ground than what Apple or any other tech firm actually invented,” Notre Dame law professor Mark McKenna said. “Overly broad patents allow companies to block competition.”
The latest Apple-Samsung case will be tried less than two years after a federal jury found Samsung was infringing on Apple patents. Samsung was ordered to pay about $900 million but is appealing and has been allowed to continue selling products using the technology.
Dozens of attorneys gathered in U.S. District Court in San Jose for the latest legal skirmish in which the Cupertino company, Apple Inc., accuses Korean-based Samsung of infringing on five patents on newer devices, including Galaxy smartphones and tablets.
The first case between the two companies focused largely on the overall look of the phones — similar shapes, rounded corners, icon design — but this case revolves largely around software. Some of the features in question include: Autocomplete, tap-from-search and “Slide to Unlock” functions.
Mark Lemley, a law professor at Stanford University who teaches patent law, believes instead of suing Samsung, Apple could have gone after Google; the maker of the Android operating system running on Samsung’s phones. So why not sue Google?
“This is where the money is,” Lemley said. “The Android OS is open source, Google doesn’t sell it to anybody. Samsung makes a lot of money selling phones, and it’s much easier to persuade a jury to force Samsung to give up some of its phone revenue than it is to go after a company that has given away open source software for free.”
In the suit, Apple demands that Samsung pay a $40 royalty for each Samsung device running software allegedly conceived by Apple. Lemley thinks that is a “very aggressive” number.
“It’s hard to say that having ‘Slide-to-Unlock’ and Autocomplete and a couple of the features are really responsible for what could easily be 20 percent of the entire value of the phone,” Lemley added.
If Apple prevails in the case, the cost to Samsung could reach $2 billion. The figure is more than five times more than the amount sought in the previous trial and well above other precedents between smartphone companies.
Lemley believes the litigation is in part because of Apple’s worry that competitors are eroding their market share — competitors that are all using Android OS.