Galaxy

Apple v. Samsung II: What the pundits are saying

March 31, 2014: 11:03 AM ET

Jury selection for the second "patent trial of the century" starts Monday.

Automatic quick links: One of the five patents Apple claims Samsung infringed.

Automatic quick links: One of the five patents Apple claims Samsung infringed.

FORTUNE -- A multibillion dollar Apple (AAPL) patent infringement claim against Samsung -- its second in two years -- goes to trial Monday.

In the grand tradition of print journalism -- where your story had to hold up even as it was outpaced by events -- reporters planning to cover the proceedings filed their "walk-ups" over the weekend.

For a subject as arcane as U.S. patent law, a surprisingly wide range of opinions was expressed.

A sample of the bits that caught my eye:

Martha Mendoza, Associated Press: There are two equal sides to every story. 

"Apple revolutionized the market in personal computing devices," Apple attorneys wrote in court filings. "Samsung, in contrast, has systematically copied Apple's innovative technology and products, features and designs, and has deluged markets with infringing devices."

"Samsung has been a pioneer in the mobile device business sector since the inception of the mobile device industry," Samsung attorneys wrote. "Apple has copied many of Samsung's innovations in its Apple iPhone, iPod, and iPad products."

Brian Chen, New York Times: Apple's real target is Google.

Officially, it's Apple versus Samsung Electronics in another tech patent face-off in a San Jose courtroom this week. But there is another company with a lot at stake in the case — Google.

"Google's been lurking in the background of all these cases because of the Android system," said Mark P. McKenna, a professor who teaches intellectual property law at Notre Dame. "Several people have described the initial battle between Samsung and Apple as really one between Apple and Google."

Daisuke Wakabayashi, Wall Street Journal. This trial is going to be harder for Apple to win.

In the first trial in 2012, Apple set its sights on Samsung, accusing the South Korean electronics conglomerate of making products that copied the look and feel of the iPhone and iPad. A jury ruled for Apple, and Samsung was ordered to pay Apple $930 million in damages. Samsung is appealing that verdict.

"Apple had an easier story to tell in the first trial, because it could hold up the phones and say, 'Look how similar that they are,'" said Mark Lemley, an intellectual-property attorney and law professor at Stanford University. Mr. Lemley is representing Google in an unrelated case.

This time, Apple claims Samsung violated patents for detecting data in messages and converting them into a link that can be clicked, background syncing of data, universal search used in its Siri voice-recognition digital assistant, an auto-complete feature that suggests words as a user is typing, and the "slide to unlock" feature.

Samsung says all but "slide to unlock" are Android features.

Florian Mueller, FOSS Patents: Apple demand for $2 billion is way over the line.

Apple's damages theory for the trial ... is an objective insanity, and I say so even though Judge Koh allowed Apple to present it to the jury.

A damages expert will argue on Apple's behalf that, if the parties had acted reasonably and rationally in a hypothetical negotiation, Samsung would have agreed to pay $40 -- forty dollars! -- per phone or tablet sold as a total royalty for the five patents-in-suit, which relate to (but don't even fully monopolize) the phone number tapping feature, unified search, data synchronization, slide-to-unlock, and autocomplete.

$40 per unit. For five software patents. Give me a break. Reality distortion would be a total understatement for this.

Daniel Eran Dilger, AppleInsider: Samsung's strategy is to claim all patents are over valued.

So while Samsung is making a case to the public that both it and Apple have lots of patented technologies in the mobile arena that differentiate their respective products, the reality is that for its second trial, Samsung had to go out and buy a defense using patents others had filed nearly twenty years ago. At no point over the last twenty years has either of those patents ever differentiated Samsung's products.

Samsung is also highlighting that it doesn't expect much in the way of damages from its pair of acquired patents. It's only asking for total damages of around $7 million from Apple, in stark contrast to Apple's demands of around $2 billion. Samsung's new legal strategy therefore seems to be aimed at attacking the entire notion that patents have any real value at all.

That's a tactic that, if successful, could enable Samsung to continue to appropriate Apple's patented, differentiated features at very low cost, even if Apple keeps initiating new lawsuits and keeps winning awards from juries, a process that takes years to wind its way through the courts.

Joel Rosenblatt and Adam Satariano, Bloomberg: Apple is playing a public relations game.

[Brian] Love, the Santa Clara law professor, said the struggle Apple faces to win its ultimate objective, a sales ban, begs the question of why the company is pursuing the second case. While the products at issue are newer, they will be "relics" by the time, years from now, Apple wins any injunction, he said.

Apple has argued that a sales ban is required to stop Samsung from trying to market products that are "not more than colorably different" from those already found to have copied Apple's technology.

Love said the litigation may serve a public relations purpose.

"It seems like there is almost a marketing aspect to the case in that Apple is trying to send a message through all this litigation that 'We're the true innovators in the smartphone world, and everyone else is riding our coattails,'" Love said. "If that's their goal, it's kind of hard to put a dollar value on that."

Ina Fried, re/code: A guide to the patents at issue.

Apple is suing over five patents.

U.S. Patent 5,946,647 — System and method for performing action on a structure in computer generated data, the so-called "quick links" patent.
U.S. Patent 6,847,959 — Universal interface for retrieval of information in a computer system, a patent that Apple claims is central to universal search.
U.S. Patent 7,761,414 — Synchronous data synchronization amongt devices, or what Apple calls its "background sync" patent.
U.S. Patent 8,046,721 — Unlocking a device by performing gestures on an unlock image, the so-called "slide-to-unlock patent."
U.S. Patent 8,074,172 -– Method, system and graphical user interface for providing word recommendations, or the "word suggestions" patent.

Samsung, meanwhile, is countersuing over two patents.

U.S. Patent 6,226,449 — Camera & folder organization functionality, acquired from Hitachi.
U.S. Patent 5,579,239 — Video transmission functionality, acquired from Voice Over Cellular.

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  • Morgan Stanley: Apple iPhone sales up 28% this quarter

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  • Forecast of the day: iPhone and Galaxy June sales

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    But Samsung isn't falling behind the iPhone as fast as it was in February or March.

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    FORTUNE -- Lacking hard numbers (because Samsung doesn't release them anymore) most analysts assume that the bulk of the Korean manufacturer's mobile sales come from its low-end phones. According to Raymond James' Tavis McCourt, Samsung's high-end Galaxy line outsold the iPhone only once -- in the summer of 2012, when many of Apple's (AAPL) customers were holding out for the iPhone 5.

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    - Mar 9, 2013 11:55 AM ET
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