Apple-Samsung patent case goes to jury

August 21, 2012

After three weeks of arguments, the high-stakes patent dispute between Apple and Samsung is in the hands of a jury.

The nine men and women face the formidable task of sifting through thousands of pages of complex technical arguments to make a decision that could shape the future of mobile devices.

A ruling for Apple could result in a ban on imports of Samsung products and force the South Korean company to change its designs or pay licensing fees to the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant. A ruling for Samsung could damage Apple’s reputation as an innovator and lead to more iPhone look-alike designs.

Apple is asking for $2.5 billion in damages for design infringement, while Samsung is seeking $422 million for technology patent infringement.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose urged both companies Monday to settle the confusing case before it went to a jury, but a last-minute conference call between officials of the companies failed to bear fruit. Closing arguments wrapped up late Tuesday, and the jury was expected to start deliberations Wednesday.

The jury was given 109 pages outlining 84 instructions in the case. The three main decisions they must make:

●Determine whether iPads are “distinctive.” Apple has said that Samsung’s tablets are so similar that they confused users looking for iPads. Had Apple established a distinctive brand with the iPhone and iPad? Did that happen before or after Samsung started selling its tablets? The jury must also decide whether the look and feel of Samsung goods could lead someone to mistake them for Apple products.

●Decide whether Apple is an innovator. Apple has accused Samsung of being a copycat, but Samsung is essentially asking the jury to consider that Apple also has a history of copying. Samsung has argued that Apple’s products are not exactly innovative but simply the next step in the evolution of consumer electronics products. Samsung has gone to great lengths to tap experts with information on previous touch-screen devices that could be considered ancestors of Apple’s tablets and smartphones.

●Were violations “willful”? If jurors decide that there were patent infringements, they also will have to decide whether the companies committed them deliberately.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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