Key Samsung lawyer sees patent war ending soon -- with Apple getting nothing
Samsung may have been found to infringe some of Apple’s patents, but the iPhone maker won’t see any money from the latest verdict, predicts Samsung’s outspoken attorney.
Shara TibkenFormer 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."
Samsung's outspoken attorney has declared victory in the latest patent trial against Apple and said the iPhone maker won't see a dime from the most recent judgment. He also predicted that Apple will soon put an end to its patent infringement lawsuits because it hasn't been able to shift market demand away from smartphones built on Google's Android software.
"Up to this point, I think Apple really hadn't given up hope [it] could cripple Android somehow," John Quinn said in an interview with CNET. "This has got to be the last straw. They've got to realize they're not going to slow Android down by suing people."
Quinn, a partner at the law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, represents Samsung, Google, and other Android handset makers. His firm argued for Samsung against Apple's claims in two patent-infringement trials in San Jose, Calif., a damages retrial in November 2013, as well as a case involving handset maker HTC that ended in a settlement with Apple. It also represents Motorola, which is soon expected to meet Apple in court.
Apple v. Samsung 2014: The infringing devices (pictures)
"They (Apple) have nothing to show for the hundreds of million of dollars they've spent," Quinn said. "I'm sure they're looking for a graceful exit. ... I'm pretty sure the Apple smartphone wars against Android are a thing with a limited future."
A jury of eight men and women handed down the latest verdict on Friday, ruling that both companies were guilty of some infringement. Samsung was found to have infringed three of Apple's five patents at issue and was ordered to pay $119.6 million, or less than 6 percent of the $2.2 billion Apple wanted. At the same time, Apple was found to have infringed one of Samsung's two patents at issue and ordered to pay its South Korean rival $158,400. Samsung was asking for $6.2 million.
Apple declined to comment, and its lead outside counsel -- attorneys Harold McElhinny of Morrison & Foerster, and William Lee of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr -- didn't respond to requests for comment.
However, Apple said in a statement following the verdict that the 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," Apple said.
Apple's attorneys said during closing arguments that Samsung intentionally infringed on Apple's software patents for the iPhone and iPad because it didn't have comparable technology that would allow it to compete. They attributed Samsung's meteoric rise in the smartphone market to its strategy of copying Apple features.
Samsung leads the global market for smartphones, offering a range of devices running Android. Apple is No. 2 in worldwide smartphone sales with its iPhone, which is powered by its iOS mobile operating system. According to Gartner, 31 percent of the smartphones sold last year came from Samsung while 16 percent came from Apple. Overall, Android powered 57 percent of smartphones sold in 2013.
"Unlike in fairy tales, we know that Samsung's illegal strategy has been wildly successful," McElhinny said in Apple's closing arguments in late April.
Samsung argued during the just-concluded trial that most features Apple said it infringed were actually part of Android. All patents except one, called "slide to unlock," are built into Android, Samsung said, and it accused Apple of using the courts to indirectly attack Android. Apple argued 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 mixed results of the recent trial make it less clear-cut than the previous patent-infringement case and damages retrial, which netted Apple about $930 million. However, some legal experts say the case is a victory for Samsung. The damages amount owed to Apple fall far below the company's request, and Samsung wasn't found to infringe all of Apple's patents. In addition, Apple was found to infringe one of Samsung's patents, something that didn't occur in the previous trial.
"We do regard it as a win," Quinn said. "Years into Apple's holy war on Android, they haven't collected a nickel."
And Samsung doesn't expect to hand over any money this time around either. It plans to appeal the recent verdict and expects the $119.6 million judgment to be thrown out. Samsung also plans to appeal the prior ruling from 2012 and damages retrial from last fall that granted Apple $930 million for infringement, Quinn said. Even though Samsung faced an overwhelming defeat in the first trial, Quinn believes the damages "will be, if not reversed altogether, very substantially reduced."
While Quinn expects the ongoing patent-infringement suits to end in the not-too-distant future, he didn't predict exactly when that might happen. He also expressed doubts about whether a settlement between Apple and Samsung could be close and said he isn't aware of any current talks between the companies. US District Court Judge Lucy Koh, in wrapping up the recent trial, asked Apple and Samsung to again explore mediation even though settlement talks haven't worked in the past -- a fact Apple's attorneys pointed out during court.
"It's kind of hard to talk settlement with a jihadist," Quinn said, referring to a Steve Jobs email, revealed during the trial, that showed Apple's co-founder had declared a "holy war" on Android. "Even Apple, I think even [CEO] Tim Cook, has got to realize this is a fruitless endeavor. I think everyone's tired of it. ... Reason must prevail at some point."