The ongoing war of words between Apple and Samsung entered a new phase when the two corporate pugilists finally square off in a San Jose federal court in what promises to be one of the biggest-ever patent trials
For Samsung in particular the stakes are high – defeat meaning the possibility of its Galaxy smartphones and tablet computers being banned from the lucrative US market.
Just how important this case is to the world’s top technology firm by revenue, can be seen in its latest quarterly figures, released last week. They show a record operating profit of $5.9bn for the June quarter, with Galaxy S handset sales leading the revenue charge.
Apple is seeking at least $2.5bn in damages, although Judge Lucy Koh could substantially increase this figure if she concludes Samsung wilfully infringed Apple’s patents.
The two protagonists have been at one another’s throats for a year now with each side accusing the other of intellectual property infringement as their war has been played out in numerous European courts.
While Apple and Samsung now account for more than 50 percent of smartphone sales globally the headline grabber is that Samsung has now overtaken the iPhone and iPad maker as the largest smartphone producer. Samsung’s lead over Apple in this market is expected to grow in the third quarter prior to the launch of iPhone 5.
Samsung is estimated to have increased smartphone shipments to 50.5m in the June quarter, nearly double the 26m iPhones sold as the weak European economy impacted Apple’s shipments and consumers held off on buying ahead of the release of iPhone 5.
But this isn’t simply a bunfight between Apple and Samsung however – other technology firms such as Microsoft, IBM and RIM, filing papers to prevent their own patent licensing agreements from being disclosed at the trial.
On the face of it the portents aren’t looking good for Samsung – a redacted trial brief showing the firm being warned by Google that its “P1” and “P3” Android tablets – the devices that would later become the Galaxy Tab and Galaxy Tab 10.1 – looked “too similar” to Apple’s iPad.
Even the company’s own employees reportedly thought their product designs were dead ringers for Apple products, such as the iPhone. Meanwhile, Samsung’s Product Design Group noted in 2011 that it was regrettable that the Galaxy S smartphone, looked similar to older iPhones.
Apple will try to use Samsung documents to show its rival knowingly violated the iPhone maker’s intellectual property rights, while Samsung will counter that Apple is trying to stifle competition to maintain “exorbitant” profit.
In a statement issued Friday, Samsung said Apple has been “free-riding” on its technology while using excessive legal claims against Samsung products, in an attempt to limit consumer choice and discourage innovation.
As the old adage goes: let the fun and games begin.