SAN FRANCISCO – With billions of dollars and control of the U.S. smartphone and computer tablets markets at stake, jury selection began Monday in a closely watched trial between two of the world’s leading tech companies over patents.
Apple Inc. sued Samsung Electronics Co. last year, alleging the world’s largest technology company’s smartphones and computer tablets are illegal knockoffs of its popular iPhone and iPad products.
Cupertino-based Apple is demanding $2.5 billion in damages, an award that would dwarf the largest patent-related verdict to date.
Samsung countered that 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.
A jury of 10 people will be picked from a pool of dozens, and opening statements were expected to start early today in a trial expected to last more than a month.
The case is just the latest skirmish between the two companies over product designs.
A similar trial began last week, and the two companies have been fighting in courts in the United Kingdom and Germany.
Industrywide, an estimated 50 lawsuits have been filed by myriad telecommunications companies jockeying for position in the burgeoning $219 billion market for smartphones and computer tablets.
U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose last month ordered Samsung to pull its Galaxy 10.1 computer tablet from the U.S. market pending the outcome of the trial, though the judge barred Apple attorneys from telling the 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 Brian Love, a Santa Clara University law professor and patent expert.
Love said that even though the case will be decided by 10 jurors, the judge has the authority to 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 and director of the Stanford Program in Law, Science, and Technology.
Lemley said a verdict in Apple’s favor 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, analyst said.
Lemley and other legal observers say it’s rare that a patent battle with so much at stake doesn’t settle short of a trial.