Apple v. Samsung patent trial recap: How it all turned out (FAQ)

The tech companies battled in a San Jose, Calif., court over patents. CNET breaks down what happened during the monthlong trial.

Shara Tibken Former managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Shara Tibken
12 min read

Apple and Samsung have battled repeatedly over patents. James Martin/CNET

The latest round in the Apple v. Samsung patent-infringement battle is finally over -- well at least until it's appealed.

A jury on Friday handed back a mixed verdict in the Apple v. Samsung patent-infringement case, determining that both companies were guilty in some aspects but not guilty in others.

The trial included about 52 hours of testimony, three hours of opening arguments, and four hours of closings. It covered everything from the invention of the technology at issue in the case to what damages should total. Apple argued throughout the trial that its case was about Samsung, not Google, and that Samsung copied Apple out of desperation. Samsung, meanwhile, argued that Apple's suit was about hurting competition and Android.

CNET details what exactly happened:

What was this trial about?

For the latest case, Apple filed suit against Samsung on February 8, 2012, accusing it of infringing several patents. Samsung then filed counterclaims against Apple. In Apple's original suit, the company said Samsung "has systematically copied Apple's innovative technology and products, features, and designs, and has deluged markets with infringing devices in an effort to usurp market share from Apple." Judge Lucy Koh ordered for the trial to start March 31.

Apple v. Samsung 2014: The infringing devices (pictures)

See all photos

The whole spat started when Apple filed suit against Samsung in April 2011, accusing its rival of copying the look and feel of its iPhones and iPads. Samsung countersued, and the case went to trial in August 2012. A nine-person jury sided with Apple on a majority of its patent infringement claims against Samsung. It a warded Apple $1.05 billion in damages, much less than the $2.75 billion sought by the Cupertino, Calif., company. Samsung, which asked for $421 million in its countersuit, didn't get anything.

However, US District Court Judge Lucy Koh in March 2013 ordered a new trial to recalculate some of the damages in the case, striking $450.5 million off the original judgment against Samsung. A jury in November awarded Apple an additional $290.5 million in damages, bringing the total damages to $930 million.

What did the companies argue this time around?

Apple argued, as it had in the past, that it took on a lot of work and risk to develop the first iPhone and iPad. Samsung, meanwhile, argued that Apple was trying to hurt competition by targeting it for litigation. It also claims that Apple infringed some of its patents. "Without the ability to enforce its intellectual property rights ... Samsung would not be able to sustain the extensive commitment to research and development that has enabled it to lead the way into numerous improvements across a broad range of technologies," the company said in a court document in April 2012.

What patents were involved?

There were seven patents at issue in the latest case -- five held by Apple and two by Samsung. Apple 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 argued that the patents enable ease of use and make a user interface more engaging.

Samsung, meanwhile, had accused Apple of infringing US patents Nos. 6,226,449 and 5,579,239. 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 the Korean company accused Apple's FaceTime of infringing the technology.

What patents were found to be infringed?

The jury found all of Samsung's accused gadgets infringed Apple's '647 "quick links" patent but that none infringed the '959 "universal search" patent or the '414 "background sync" patent. Results were mixed for the '721 "slide to unlock" patent, with some Samsung devices, such as the Galaxy Nexus, found to infringe, and others found not to. Judge Koh, in a pretrial judgement, had already ruled that Samsung infringed the '172 "automatic word correction" patent, and the jury simply calculated damages.

What gadgets were found to infringe?

The Samsung Admire, Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy Note, Galaxy S2, Galaxy S2 Epic 4G Touch, Galaxy S2 Skyrocket, and Stratosphere infringed Apple's '172 patent. Those device -- as well as the Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy S3, and Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1) -- also infringed Apple's '647 patent. The Samsung Admire, Galaxy Nexus, and Stratosphere were found to infringe Apple's 721 patent.

Apple's iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod Touch (fifth generation, 2012), and iPod Touch (fourth generation, 2011) were found to infringe Samsung's '449 patent.

To see what patents each Samsung device is accused of infringing (denoted by an X), and what patents the jury ultimately decided Samsung did violate (denoted by an asterisked X*), refer to the chart below.

Samsung devices accused by Apple

Patent '172Patent '414Patent '647Patent '721Patent '959
Admire X*XX*X*X
Galaxy Nexus X*XX*X*X
Galaxy Note X*XX*X
Galaxy Note II XX*X
Galaxy S II X*XX*XX
Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch X*XX*XX
Galaxy S II Skyrocket X*XX*XX
Galaxy S III XX*X
Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1) XX*X
Stratosphere X*XX*X*X

Outlined below are the Apple devices the jury deemed guilty of patent violation.

Apple devices accused by Samsung

Patent '239Patent '449
iPhone 4 XX*
iPhone 4S XX*
iPhone 5 XX*
iPod Touch (5th generation, 2012) X*
iPod Touch (4th generation, 2011) X*

How long did the trial last?

The case kicked off March 31 with jury selection and wrapped up May 5. Court was in session Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays throughout the month of April, with the companies granted a total of 52 hours of testimony, three hours of opening arguments, and four hours of closings. The jury started its deliberations late in the day April 29. It reached a verdict at the end of the day May 2, but Judge Koh recalled the jury May 5 to recalculate one of the damages figures.

What did the jury miscalculate?

It had awarded Apple no damages for one version of the Galaxy S2, but Apple believed it should be awarded some money for Samsung's infringement of the '172 patent. The jury had granted Apple $4.02 million for the Galaxy S2 Epic 4G Touch and $5.8 million for the Galaxy S2 Skyrocket. After reconsidering the figures, the jury shuffled around damages awarded to each of the Galaxy S2 models but didn't change the total. The jury foreman, Tom Dunham, said it was a "clerical error."

Who won?

That's tricky. Both companies were found guilty of infringing some of each other's patents and ordered to pay damages. Ultimately, it wasn't a clear-cut win for either company, but the verdict also wasn't the overwhelming defeat Samsung faced in 2012. By awarding Apple less than 10 percent of the damages it wanted, the jury of mostly tech novices, which deliberated for three full days after a four-week trial, sent a much different message than the prior trial that netted Apple nearly $1 billion. Samsung surely feels relieved by the outcome, though it still was deemed a copycat in some respects. And Apple, which was vindicated in some of its accusations, probably believes Samsung's punishment is too light.

How much money was involved?

The jury ordered Samsung to pay $119.6 million for infringing three of Apple's five patents, much less than the $2.2 billion the iPhone maker had demanded. At the same time, Apple was ordered to pay Samsung $158,400 for infringing one of the Korean company's two patents. Samsung had asked for $6.2 million in damages, and it had argued that if it had infringed all of Apple's patents, it only owed $38.4 million.

While the companies asked for damages, the case was about more than money. What's really at stake is the market for mobile devices. Apple now gets two-thirds of its 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.

How did the companies react to the verdict?

Apple said Friday, following the verdict:

"Today's ruling reinforces what courts around the world have already found: that Samsung willfully stole our ideas and copied our products. We are fighting to defend the hard work that goes into beloved products like the iPhone, which our employees devote their lives to designing and delivering for our customers."

Samsung said Monday, following the jury recalculation:

"We agree with the jury's decision to reject Apple's grossly exaggerated damages claim. Although we are disappointed by the finding of infringement, we are vindicated that for the second time in the US, Apple has been found to infringe Samsung's patents. It is our long history of innovation and commitment to consumer choice, that has driven us to become the leader in the mobile industry today."

What role did Google play in all of this?

Samsung argued during the trial that most features Apple said infringed were 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, the Korean company said, and it accused Apple of attacking Android. Apple argued that the patent infringement trial had nothing to do with Android.

It came out during the trial, however, that Google was helping Samsung with its defense for two patents, '414 for background syncing and '959 for universal search. Those patents wielded by Apple directly target features of Android that Google developed, including the Google search box and Gmail. The other patents target features that can be tweaked by handset makers or by the Android open source community.

The jury determined that Samsung had not infringed the '414 and '959 patents but that it did infringe Apple's three other patents.

The jury said Google didn't factor into its decision for infringement or damages, but it believed Apple and Google needed to battle directly instead of involve handset makers such as Samsung.

"I guess if you really feel that Google is something that's the cause behind this, as I think everybody observed, then don't beat around the bush," said jury foreman Tom Dunham, a retired IBM software executive. "The fact is Apple has [intellectual property] they believe in. So does Samsung. So does Google. Let the courts decide, but a more direct approach might be something to think about."

Why doesn't Apple sue Google?

Suing Google wouldn't get Apple far since Google doesn't make its own phones or tablets and gives away its operating system for free. 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.

For Apple, it's easier to point fingers at the handset makers who generate revenue and profit off of Android phones, rather than Google, which only indirectly generates revenue through mobile advertising and services. It's also easier to display an iPhone next to a Galaxy device and show the similarities and describe how the iPhone predated other rival smartphones. Work had started on Android before the iPhone launched, making it harder to persuade a jury that Google was a copycat.

Overall, the lawsuits are part of a broader effort by Apple to halt the momentum of Android, which has long surpassed iOS as the dominant mobile operating system. Apple isn't just looking for damages; it wants the phones barred from sale. Legal experts say Apple could deal more damage and potentially reap a higher reward going after multiple handset manufacturers than by just striking at Google.

"It is much more effective to sue the device makers as their incremental margin per device is low relative to the benefit that Google gets from having access to your eyeballs," said Chris Marlett, CEO of MDB Capital Group, an investment bank that maintain an intellectual property database. "Ultimately if the device companies can't make a good margin on the phones, they will go out of the phone business. This ends up being a much more effective route to hurting Android."

What witnesses did each side present?

The trial contained testimony by numerous technical and damages experts, as well as people who invented the technology at issue in the case.

The first day of arguments featured testimony by Phil Schiller, Apple's head of marketing. Other witnesses who have testified for Apple include Greg Christie, an Apple engineer who invented the slide-to-unlock iPhone feature; Thomas Deniau, a France-based Apple engineer who helped develop the company's quick link technology; and Justin Denison, chief strategy officer of Samsung Telecommunications America. Denison's testimony came via a deposition video.

The jury reached a verdict in Apple v. Samsung after three full days of deliberations. Vicki Behringer

The crux of Apple's case came with two expert witnesses, John Hauser, the Kirin professor of marketing at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and Christopher Vellturo, an economist and principal at consultancy Quantitative Economic Solutions. Hauser conducted a conjoint study that determined Apple's patented features made Samsung's devices more appealing, while Vellturo determined the amount of damages Apple should be due for Samsung's infringement: $2.191 billion.

Samsung, which launched its defense April 11 after Apple rested its case, called several Google engineers to the stand to testify about the early days of Android and technology they created before Apple received its patents. Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google vice president of engineering for Android, said his company never copied iPhone features for Android. Other Google Android engineers, Bjorn Bringert and Dianne Hackborn, also testified about features of the operating system.

High-ranking Samsung executives, including former Samsung Telecommunications America CEO Dale Sohn and STA Chief Marketing Officer Todd Pendleton, also took the stand during the monthlong trial. The two executives testified about Samsung's marketing push for the Galaxy S2 and other devices, saying a shift in the Korean company's sales and marketing efforts -- not copying Apple -- boosted its position in the smartphone market.

The latter half of the trial largely featured experts hired by Samsung to dispute the validity of Apple's patents and to argue that Samsung didn't infringe. David Reibstein, chaired professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, refuted Apple expert Hauser's testimony from earlier in the trial. Judith Chevalier, a professor of economics and finance at the Yale University School of Management who was hired by Samsung, said her analysis determined that a reasonable royalty for Samsung's assumed infringement would be $1.75 per device, or $38.4 million overall. Apple had argued it deserved $40 per device for infringement as well as lost profits for a total of $2.191 billion.

After presenting its defense, Samsung on April 21 launched its own infringement suit against Apple. Dan Schonfeld, a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, testified that Apple infringed the '239 patent in its iPhone through the use of FaceTime and a feature for attaching video to messages and mail. And Ken Parulski, another expert who was part of the Kodak team that developed the world's first color digital camera, testified that Apple infringed another Samsung patent for organizing video and photos in folders.

James Storer, a professor of computer science at Brandeis University hired by Apple as an expert witness, then testified April 22 that Apple didn't infringe Samsung's patents. The company then called witnesses such as Apple engineers Tim Millet and Roberto Garcia to testify about the creation of technology used in iPhones and iPads. Millet serves as senior director of platform architecture at Apple, helping create the processors that power iOS devices. Garcia, meanwhile talked about the creation of the FaceTime technology that had been accused of infringing a Samsung patent.

How did the jury reach its decision?

The jury foreman, Tom Dunham, said the jurors simply looked at the evidence that was presented. While Google popped up time and again, that didn't impact jurors' opinions. They declined to specify which testimony or witnesses swayed their opinions.

What was the most influential evidence for the jury?

The jury said it was most influenced by information that Google was helping Samsung mount and fund its defense.

What does the verdict mean for consumers?

Ultimately for consumers, the verdict means little. It's highly unlikely that US District Court Judge Koh, who has been overseeing the battle in federal court in San Jose, Calif., for the past three years, will issue a sales ban on gadgets from either company. And Apple and Samsung already have workarounds or have changed features in the devices to avoid any more patent violations.

Buyers likely also won't see any difference in device pricing or features. But what they may see are less innovative products if litigation keeps taking attention away from product design and development.

What's next?

Appeals galore. Samsung's lead attorney, John Quinn, already said Samsung will appeal. "In post-trial motions and on appeal, we will ask the judge and the federal circuit to cut the 6 [percent] verdict to 0, which is where it should end," he said. And Apple likely will file appeals of its own. The companies could appeal the case as far as the US Supreme Court.

There also could be fresh suits in the future, particularly since Apple had so much success with its '647 patent. All Samsung devices in the case were found to infringe that patent for automatically detecting data in messages that can be clicked, such as phone numbers.

Corrected last name of MDB Capital Group on May 9.