Samsung: Apple 'vastly overstated' scope of patents

A Samsung attorney argues that just because the company is asking for much lower damages than Apple -- $7 million versus $2 billion -- doesn't mean it doesn't respect patents.

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James Martin/CNET

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Apple "vastly overstated the scope of its patents" and is asking for an unreasonably high amount of damages, Samsung argued Tuesday during its opening arguments in a court here.

"The suggestion seems to be if you're not asking for billions, you don't take patents seriously," Samsung attorney John Quinn said.

Almost two years after Apple and Samsung faced off in a messy patent dispute, the smartphone and tablet rivals have returned to the same San Jose, Calif., courtroom to argue once again over patents before federal Judge Lucy Koh. Apple is arguing that Samsung infringed on five of its patents for the iPhone, its biggest moneymaker, and it's due $2 billion for that infringement. Samsung, the world's largest mobile phone maker, wants about $7 million from Apple for infringing two of its software patents.

Quinn said Apple's Steve Jobs declared a "holy war" on Android after the mobile operating system started taking off with users and posing a threat to the iPhone. He added that "it's not a holy war" but is a "simple economic transfer" that should be worked out between the two companies.

He noted that Samsung wants $6.78 million in damages for its '239 patent that covers video transfer and could have implications for Facetime. For its other patent related to camera and folder organization, Samsung wants $158,400 in damages.

"We at Samsung don't ordinarily sue over patents like this," Quinn said. "In the pre 'holy war' days, what would happen in this industry is companies would get together and enter into cross-licensing for their entire portfolios."

Quinn added that Apple lawyers are arguing that Samsung is taking sales away from Apple because it implemented features people want. However, he said Apple doesn't actually use most of the patented innovations. At the same time, Quinn argued that Apple's patents are invalid. Apple attorney Harold McElhinny said during his opening argument earlier Tuesday that it's not acceptable to steal an innovation just because it hasn't yet been used in an Apple product.

"Apple wants you believe these claims are worth over $2 billion even though they're not valuable enough for Apple to use," Quinn said. "Apple is seeking massive damages on fictitious lost sales because of very small features you'll learn didn't have an impact on sales at all."

Apple and Samsung have accused each other of copying features used in their popular smartphones and tablets, and the jury will have to decide who actually infringed and how much money is due. This trial involves different patents and newer devices than the ones disputed at trial in August 2012 and in a damages retrial in November 2013. For instance, the new trial involves the iPhone 5, released in September 2012, and Samsung's Galaxy S3, which also debuted in 2012.

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Samsung says Apple's Facetime infringes one of its patents. Apple

Along with different patents and different devices, this trial has some interesting new facets. One is that most Samsung features that Apple says infringe are items that are a part of Android, Google's mobile operating system that powers Samsung's devices. All patents except one, called "slide to unlock," are built into Android.

Suing Google wouldn't get Apple anywhere since Google doesn't make its own phones or tablets. Instead, Apple has sued companies that sell physical devices using Android, a rival to Apple's iOS mobile operating system. In particular, Apple believes Samsung has followed a strategy to copy its products and then undercut Apple's pricing. While Apple isn't suing Google, it expects that Google will make changes to its software if Samsung is found to infringe on patents through Samsung's Android devices.

The latest installment of the Apple vs. Samsung saga kicked off Monday with jury selection as the tech giants battle over patent infringement. The companies selected 10 jurors -- six women and four men -- from a pool of about 140 potential candidates. While the jury pool comes from people living and working in Silicon Valley, few have tech backgrounds. One works as police officer, another is a retired teacher who likes salsa dancing, and yet another is an accounting assistant. In the more tech-savvy category falls a retired software executive from IBM and an executive who works in renewable energy.

However, two jurors asked to be excused from duty at the beginning of court Tuesday. One cited illness while the other cited financial hardship. That brought the jury size down to eight, four women and four men. The jury must have six people for the trial to progress. Judge Lucy Koh joked that she would be giving the remaining jurors Vitamin C and energy drinks and warned them against going bungee jumping or taking other risks for the next month.

The companies may be asking for damages and sales bans, but what's really at stake is the market for mobile devices. Apple now gets two-thirds of it sales from the iPhone and iPad, South Korea-based Samsung is the world's largest maker of smartphones, and both want to keep dominating the market. So far, Apple is ahead when it comes to litigation in the US. Samsung has been ordered to pay the company about $930 million in damages.

There are seven patents at issue in the latest case -- five held by Apple and two by Samsung. Apple has accused Samsung of infringing US patents Nos. 5,946,647; 6,847,959; 7,761,414; 8,046,721; and 8,074,172. All relate to software features, such as "quick links" for '647, universal search for '959, background syncing for '414, slide-to-unlock for '721, and automatic word correction for '172. Overall, Apple argues that the patents enable ease of use and make a user interface more engaging.

Samsung, meanwhile, has accused Apple of infringing US patents Nos. 6,226,449 and 5,579,239, or in shorthand, '449 and '239. The '449 patent, which Samsung purchased from Hitachi, involves camera and folder organization functionality. The '239 patent, which Samsung also acquired, covers video transmission functionality and could have implications for Apple's use of FaceTime.

The Samsung gadgets that Apple says infringe are the Admire, Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy Note, Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy S II, Galaxy SII Epic 4G Touch, Galaxy SII Skyrocket, Galaxy S3, Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, and the Stratosphere. Samsung, meanwhile, says the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad 4, iPad Mini, iPod Touch (fifth generation) and iPod Touch (fourth generation) all infringe.

The arguments by Apple and Samsung in the latest case are expected to last until April 29 or 30, and then the jury will deliberate. Court will be in session three days each week -- Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays -- though the jury will deliberate every business day until it has reached a verdict.

CNET will bring you full coverage as the trial progresses.

 

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