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Mixed Verdict in Samsung-Apple Patent Trial

May 4, 2014
Patents at issue in the case involve unlocking touchscreens with slide gestures, automatically correcting words being typed, retrieving data sought by users and performing actions on found data such as making a call after coming up with a phone number.

SAN JOSE -- Jurors late Friday ordered Samsung (IW 1000/14) to pay just a fraction of the big-money damages sought by Apple  (IW 500/4) in a high-stakes Silicon Valley case over smartphone patents.

The jury in federal court in California found that Samsung violated some patents and ruled that the South Korean consumer electronics giant should pay $119.6 million in damages.

Jurors also found credence in counterclaims by Samsung and said Apple should pay its rival $158,400 in damages.

In a statement released to U.S. media, Apple portrayed the verdict as a victory that "reinforces what courts around the world have already found: that Samsung wilfully stole our ideas and copied our products."

Samsung declined to comment, saying it would be "inappropriate" to do so prior to the official end of deliberations, which is expected on Monday after jurors tend to what appeared to be a missing entry in damages calculations on the verdict form.

The outcome is sharply different from a 2012 patent trial in the same court. Unlike the previous case in which Apple was a clear winner, this time Samsung prevailed in many areas.

Apple's legal team had urged jurors to order the South Korean electronics giant to pay more than $2 billion in damages for flagrantly copying iPhone features.

Samsung lawyers maintained that the legal onslaught emerged from a "holy war" Apple declared on Google-made Android software used to power smartphones.

In August 2012, a separate jury in the same court decided that Samsung should pay Apple $1.049 billion in damages for illegally copying iPhone and iPad features, in one of the biggest patent cases in decades.

The damage award was later trimmed to $929 million and is being appealed.

Friday's verdict came after three full days of deliberation in a patent trial that began in early April before U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose.

Patents at issue in the case involve unlocking touchscreens with slide gestures, automatically correcting words being typed, retrieving data sought by users and performing actions on found data such as making a call after coming up with a phone number.

Samsung devices targeted by Apple include more than half a dozen smartphones from the Galaxy line, along with the Galaxy 2 tablet.

Samsung, in a countermove, accused Apple of infringing on patents related to transmitting digital video and storing digital images.

'Defensive Victory'

Brian Love, a law professor at Santa Clara University who followed the case, said the outcome "feels like a defensive victory for Samsung, and not a particularly shocking one."

"Though this verdict is large by normal standards, it is hard to view this outcome as much of a victory for Apple," Love said.

"Apple launched this litigation campaign years ago with aspirations of slowing the meteoric rise of Android phone manufacturers. It has so far failed to do so, and this case won't get it any closer."

He noted the award was less than 10% the amount requested by Apple and likely just covers the company's legal expenses in the case.

The verdict was also seen as a victory for Google, which was not a party in the case but was billed by Samsung attorneys as Apple's main target.

Samsung's legal team had stressed during trial that Google built the Android mobile operating software that was accused of violating Apple patents.

Google engineers were among witnesses called to testify as Samsung lawyers portrayed the case as an attack on Android, which has become a formidable rival for the software powering Apple smartphones and tablets.

Samsung is the world's leading maker of smartphones and tablets built using Google's free Android mobile operating system and has overtaken Apple in the smartphone market as the legal battle has been playing out between the two giants.

The verdict was firm but not final. Koh found a missing royalty amount due to Apple for a Samsung smartphone found to infringe on one of the patents.

Jurors opted to return to court Monday to address the apparent oversight, which was expected to bump up slightly the damages award to Apple.

The judge must sign off on the verdict before it is considered final and it is likely to be appealed.

-Glenn Chapman, AFP

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014

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