Apple and Samsung Electronics hurled strong statements at each other in the opening rounds of their Silicon Valley patent trial on Tuesday, kicking off a case that could result in billions of dollars in damages.
In a packed federal courtroom in San Jose, Calif., attorneys for each company led the jury through numerous patent infringement claims and laid out what they believe their evidence will show. Though both companies claim the other infringed their intellectual property, the bulk of the presentations on Tuesday revolved around Apple's charges against Samsung.
Apple sued Samsung in April 2011, charging a long list of patent violations involving both designs and software features of the iPhone and iPad in Samsung's Android devices. Samsung countersued days later, alleging that Apple infringes some of its patents. The cases have since been consolidated. Both companies' claims have been pared down significantly on orders of Judge Lucy Koh, who is hearing the case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Tuesday's opening statements, each about 90 minutes long, were the start of what will be just 25 hours for each company to make its case. The jury trial is expected to last several weeks. Both sides also face the challenge of making some highly technical arguments understandable to jurors.
Apple painted itself as a trailblazing company that has seen its inventions stolen by a latecomer. Samsung claimed to be an innovator itself, pointing out that it supplies many of the components that go into Apple's products, including the vaunted iPad Retina display.
Apple took a risk when it entered the smartphone market with the iPhone in 2007, said Harold McElhinny of Morrison & Foerster, Apple's lead attorney in the case. "They were literally betting their company," he said.
When the product succeeded to the point of transforming the mobile phone business, Samsung copied it, McElhinny said. "It's easier to copy than to innovate. It's far less risky," he said.
The centerpiece of McElhinny's presentation was a set of images of Samsung phones from 2006, followed by one from 2010. He argued that the 2007 introduction of the iPhone transformed Samsung's phone designs and that the South Korean company's later products, starting with the Galaxy S i9000 in June 2010, used Apple's patented design elements.
"Samsung decided simply to copy every element of the iPhone," he said.
The features Apple claims Samsung copied include user-interface elements such as the ability to zoom in and out by pinching, and scroll through a document using one finger, as well as the basic design of the iPhone and iPad. The key design elements of a plain rectangle with rounded corners, a neutral border, a thin bezel, and a flush glass surface are all described in design patents, which Apple charges that Samsung violated. McElhinny dismissed the idea that such designs were necessary for how a smartphone or tablet is used.
"Just because a product has a function ... doesn't mean that there is only one way to design it," McElhinny said.