Apple vs. Samsung trial kicks off with testimony from original iPhone designer

The much anticipated patent-infringement trial between Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Samsung Electronics began yesterday with lawyers for each side staking out familiar claims--Apple argued that Samsung copied its iPhone and Samsung argued Apple could not claim a "monopoly on a rectangle."

Harold McElhinny, an attorney representing Apple, began the arguments by producing a 2007 Samsung "Feasibility Review" which looked at the then-new iPhone. The document referred to the iPhone's "beautiful design" and "easy to copy" hardware. McElhinny showed slides of Samsung's phones from 2006, before the iPhone, and then from 2010, describing their striking similarity to the iPhone. Apple is successful, but must defend its designs from being copied, he said. "Artists don't laugh that often when people steal their designs," he added.

Countering was Charles Verhoeven, Samsung's lead lawyer, who argued that the report McElhinny produced was common for companies to use to talk about their competition, and that Apple produces similar reports. He also said that Apple is trying to stifle competition. "Samsung is not some copyist, some Johnny-come-lately doing knockoffs," he said. "There's a distinction between commercial success and inventing something."

The focus yesterday was on opening arguments for the trial, which is expected to last several weeks, in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif. One female member of the 10-member jury was dismissed by Judge Lucy Koh, because the woman said her employer would not pay her while she was serving on the jury.

Although the trial will focus on technical discussions of patents, design elements and software capabilities, at its heart the trial will be about whether the jurors believe Apple's claims to mobile innovation are as strong as its market success. Each side has plenty of motivation to win: Apple is claiming up to $2.5 billion in damages.

The trial also produced some quirks, twists and interesting tidbits of information. Apple's first witness was 17-year Apple design veteran Christopher Stringer. Stringer discussed Apple's design philosophy and said its industrial design team is made up of 16 "maniacal" people who often come up with ideas while sitting around a kitchen table. He also said that many people, including former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, had doubts that Apple could come through when it was designing the iPhone.

"We were doing something unprecedented," he said. "Smartphones existed, but they were more like little computers."

In another twist, Samsung publicly released material that Koh had barred from being shown to jurors during the trial. Samsung wanted to include material that it claims showed the iPhone was derived from earlier concept designs by Sony, but Koh had told Samsung lawyer John Quinn before arguments started that the material could not be presented. Samsung sent the material to the media anyway, which Apple's legal team took issue with, as did Koh.

"Tell Mr. Quinn I'd like to see him today," Koh said. "I want to know who drafted the press release, who authorized it from the legal team."

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

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