Apple asserted in its opening statement of its infringement case against Samsung that the Korean firm analyzed and systematically copied one feature after another of its iPhone and iPad devices, then brought look-alike products to market. Apple designer Christopher Stringer, the trial's first witness, was asked by lead Apple attorney what he thought as he witnessed competitors bringing phones similar to the iPhone's design to market. "We'd been ripped off. It was plain to see, particularly by Samsung. We were offended," he said.
It was the punchline that Apple had been building toward on a day of opening statements, following Monday's jury selection of seven men and three women in U.S. District Court in San Jose on the opening day of the trial. The courtroom with limited seating was packed with attorneys, journalists, and observers, as was an overflow courtroom where sound and video were piped in.
Looks like Apple got the better of opening statements. You never want to start with the "keep an open mind" mantra. And you better have your exhibits ready in opening:
McElhinny seemed to be talking the jury's language. Not so much for the other guy:
Samsung lead attorney Charles Verhoeven was soon able to issue a rejoinder to the charges in his own 90-minute opening statement. But before he could launch into it, he felt constrained to remind the jury that they needed "to keep an open mind," that there was "more to the story than what you've just heard." Unlike Verhoeven's presentations, which frequently stopped and started again as he searched for the proper exhibit, Apple's narrative flowed from start to finish with a rising indignation. It moved toward what seemed an inevitable conclusion. Verhoeven seemed to understand its potential impact on a lay jury.
Apple's lead attorney, Harold McElhinny, started out, for example, by showing a simple graphic of six Samsung phones in a wide variety of form factors prior to the launch of the iPhone at Macworld in January 2007. Next to it, he showed Samsung phones being produced by 2010. They all have the rectangular proportions and rounded corners of the iPhone form factor.
McElhinny produced what he called a Samsung design document that compared iPhones, feature by feature, with Samsung's Galaxy model and noted whenever the iPhone's features were different. And the apparent design response in each instance was to "make something like the iPhone."
"To be blunt, Samsung has not been honest about this copying," he said.
Toward the end of his 90 minutes, McElhinny poured special effort into depicting Samsung as, not only an unscrupulous competitor, but so unethical that it failed to live up to its obligation to disclose pending patents to other members of an international standards body, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), as it was required to do.
Samsung's Verhoeven, when his turn came, disputed the last assertion first. Samsung has made important contributions to wireless standards and under ETSI rules, confidential, proprietary information did not have to be disclosed during its application for a Korean patent. "Any suggestion otherwise is without merit," he said.
That's how lawyers talk. Not jurors. I wonder what the jury will think of this:
Verhoeven didn't deny that Samsung studied and duplicated some features of the iPhone. "Being inspired by a good product is not copying. It's competition, people competing with each other. There's nothing wrong with that," he said.If I'm Samsung, I'm hammering this point:
Samsung is a key supplier to Apple. Twenty-six percent of the iPhone is built using Samsung components, a situation that is expected to continue, regardless of the outcome of the trial. Under an avalanche of charges that Samsung copies rather than innovates on its own, Verhoeven responded that Samsung employs 1,000 of its own designers. It designs both components and its own products. It must be able to innovate on its own, if Apple keeps buying its products for its devices, he asserted.
The cross of the first witness didn't go much better with asking the one question too many:
Apple lavished similar care on the user interface. "We wanted to make a device that was breathtakingly simple, something very easy to understand, something that you just wanted to pick up and use."
"It felt like an entirely new thing," he concluded.
Under cross examination, Verhoeven asked him if he had seen the similar Samsung designs. Stringer answered that he might have. "Did you see a design with four soft buttons at the bottom," Verhoeven persisted. Stringer answered that he might have, he wasn't sure.
"Did you think it was beautiful?" asked Verhoeven.
"Well," said Stringer, "it didn't stick in my mind."