Bitter rival Samsung faced two options to compete in the booming mobile phone market after Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone to critical acclaim in 2007 - innovate or copy, an Apple lawyer told a US court.
Samsung chose to copy, making its smartphones and computer tablets illegal knock-offs of Apple’s popular products, Harold McElhinny told the jury.
Samsung “has copied the entire design and user experience” of Apple’s iPhone and iPad, Mr McElhinny said during his opening statement at the patent trial in San Jose, California, involving the world’s two largest mobile phone makers.
In his opening statement, Samsung lawyer Charles Verhoeven said the South Korean company employed thousands of designers and spent billions on research and development to create new products.
“Samsung is not some copyist, some Johnny-come-lately doing knock-offs,” he said.
Mr Verhoeven said Apple was like many other companies that used similar technology and designs to satisfy consumer demands for phones and other devices that play music and films and take photographs.
For example, he said several other companies and inventors had filed patent applications for the rounded, rectangular shape associated with Apple products.
“Everyone is out there with that basic form factor,” Mr Verhoeven said. “There is nothing wrong with looking at what your competitors do and being inspired by them.”
A verdict in Apple’s favour could lead to banishment of Samsung’s Galaxy products from the US market, said Mark Lemley, a professor and director of the Stanford Programme in Law, Science, and Technology.
But a Samsung victory, especially if it insists on its demands that Apple pay its asking price for certain transmission technology, could lead to higher-priced Apple products.
The witness lists of both sides are long on experts, engineers and designers and short on familiar names – Apple chief executive Tim Cook is not due to give evidence.
Cupertino-based Apple filed its lawsuit against Samsung Electronics last year and is demanding $2.5bn in damages, an award that would dwarf the largest patent-related verdict to date.
The case marks the latest skirmish between the two companies over product designs. A similar trial began last week and the two companies have been fighting in other courts in the United Kingdom and Germany.
In the patent case, US District Judge Lucy Koh last month ordered Samsung to pull its Galaxy 10.1 computer tablet from the US market pending the outcome of the patent trial, but barred Apple lawyers from telling jurors about the ban.
Apple lawyers argue there is almost no difference between Samsung products and its own and that the South Korean company’s internal documents show it copied Apple’s iconic designs and its interface.
Samsung counter-claims that Apple copied its iPhone from Sony. In addition, Samsung alleges Apple is using some of Samsung’s own inventions without payment, such as a computer chip at the heart of the iPhone.
Samsung lawyers also stressed the company has been developing mobile phones since 1991, long before Apple jumped into the market in 2007.
Also at issue at the trial are some of the most basic functions of today’s smartphones and computer tablets, including scrolling with one finger and zooming with a finger tap.