Jury selection was set to open yesterday in a US federal court in the blockbuster patent case pitting Apple against Samsung, with both accusing the other of copying patents for smartphones and tablets.
Apple is seeking more than US$2.5 billion in a case accusing the South Korean firm of infringing on designs and other patents from the iPhone and iPad maker in the trial in a US federal court in San Jose, California.
Samsung counters that Apple infringed on its patents for wireless communication, so the jury will sort out the competing claims.
It is one of several cases in courts around the world involving the two big electronics giants in the hottest part of the tech sector, tablet computers and smartphones.
While the results so far have been mixed in courts in Europe and Australia, Samsung is clearly on the defensive in the US case.
US District Judge Lucy Koh, who will preside in the jury case barring any last-minute settlement, has issued two temporary injunctions against US sales of Samsung’s 10-inch Galaxy tablet and the Galaxy Nexus smartphone developed with Google.
To make matters worse, a magistrate in the case ruled yesterday that Samsung failed to retain key evidence in the case by allowing e-mails to be destroyed after learning of the lawsuit.
That will mean Judge Koh can issue an “adverse inference” instruction to the jury.
University of Pennsylvania patent law professor R. Polk Wagner said the case was probably the biggest patent trial since the 1980s case involving photography giants Polaroid and Kodak, and is important because of its size and ability to set precedent.
“I see this as the first in what I expect to be many cases involving smartphone technology,” he said.
“It remains to be seen what the impact will be even if Apple wins. Typically, the patents are relatively easy to design around. So if Samsung loses a couple of rounds, they may still be able to make their phones,” he said.
However, Samsung could face big risks: If Apple wins, it would automatically get a permanent injunction on sales of Samsung devices. And if Samsung makes only minor changes, Apple could ask for the South Korean firm to be held in contempt.
The case has huge financial implications for both firms and the burgeoning industry for mobile devices.