Apple, Samsung head to patent trial with billions on the line

After months of legal wrangling, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Samsung Electronics are finally headed to trail today over whether each company infringed on the other's patents, with potentially billions of dollars in damages on the line. Also on trial will be Apple's patent litigation strategy, which has focused on going after companies that use Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform rather than Google itself.

The trial, before a 10-person jury in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., is being closely watched not only by intellectual property experts but also by the wireless community at large. Apple has claimed up to $2.5 billion in damages from Samsung, and Samsung faces U.S. sales bans of some of its most popular devices, including its Galaxy line of smartphones. The trial will also put to the test Apple's strategy of arguing that Android handset makers--including HTC and Motorola Mobility, now a unit of Google--have infringed on its designs and innovations.

Samsung and Apple, which are the top smartphone vendors in the world (analysts say Samsung was No.1 in the second quarter), have been locked in a worldwide patent battle since last year. Apple first sued Samsung in April 2011, claiming that Samsung "slavishly" copied its iPhone design as well as the iPad. Samsung countersued and since then the patent battle between the companies has spread to multiple continents, generating dozens of cases in 10 countries.

Though Google is not a defendant in the case, the company's name is likely to come up a great deal during the trial, which is expected to last four weeks. The trial may also set a precedent for how companies that use Android design their products or how Android itself is designed, since some of the patents Apple is asserting relate to software functionality on Samsung's devices. Some of those patents can be worked around via software modifications, especially for future devices.

In an interesting twist, according to the Wall Street Journal, Apple has pointed to an email that a Samsung employee sent internally that included notes about a 2010 meeting at Google to talk about two Samsung Galaxy tablets. The email said Google told Samsung that the devices were "too similar to Apple" and should be made "noticeably different."

However, some believe the case is too close to call and that each side will be able to make solid arguments. "There is no single killer patent in this lawsuit," Florian Mueller, a prominent patent analyst and blogger, told the New York Times. "Apple cannot deal a knockout blow to Samsung."

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Reuters article
- see this NYT article
- see this AllThingsD article

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