SAN JOSE -- A federal jury on Tuesday was handed a $327 million difference of opinion between Apple and Samsung in the latest legal showdown in their global patent feud.
And while that amount may be trivial for the two tech titans and their multibillion-dollar war chests, lawyers for Apple and Samsung made it clear to the jurors that the outcome nevertheless has much broader implications for their ongoing courtroom collision over smartphone and tablet technology rights. And that collision centers on Apple's claims that Samsung should pay a steep price for copying iPhone and iPad technology.
"This is an important case," Apple attorney Harold McElhinny told the jury in his closing argument. "This is not about punishment. This is not about pitchforks. This is not about getting even. If juries take the profit out of patent infringement, then patent infringement will stop."
Samsung, while conceding it "crossed the line" with some of its smartphones and tablets, told the jury that Apple is inflating the value of its patents -- and ignoring the fact many consumers choose Samsung for reasons such as lower cost and the Android operating system, not Apple's patented features.
"These patents are very narrow," Samsung attorney Bill Price told jurors. "Apple doesn't own beautiful and sexy."
The eight-member jury is expected to resume deliberating Wednesday in the retrial of the damages phase of Apple's case against Samsung; it is being asked to determine how much Samsung owes for violating five patents on the iPhone and iPad in 13 Samsung products, such as Apple's bounce-back feature. The jury forewoman is a Monterey emergency room nurse who spent eight years as a combat medic in the military.
A jury last year awarded Apple $1 billion in damages for more than two dozen Samsung smartphones and tablets, but that amount was reduced by about $450 million on 13 of those products, prompting the retrial. The jury must now decide how much to restore to Apple, and the two companies have very different views of the amount.
Apple has urged the jury to award nearly $380 million in damages in the current trial, while Samsung argues that no more than $52 million is at stake.
To Apple, sales of the infringing Samsung products, such as the Infuse 4G and Droid Charge, came directly from iPhone and iPad sales. Apple told the jury that the $380 million, a compilation of lost Apple profits, Samsung profits and royalties, is still a fraction of Samsung's more than $3 billion in revenue from sales of those products.
But Samsung counters Apple is exaggerating the importance of the patents to consumer choice, as well as overstating Samsung's profits. Price told the jury Samsung even lost money on some of the smartphones.
After closing arguments, Samsung moved for a mistrial because of McElhinny's comment to the jury that American companies long ago were squeezed out of the television manufacturing market because they didn't protect their patent rights, his attempt to highlight the importance of Apple's need to protect its technology.
Samsung, which in jury selection asked about bias against foreign companies, argued the remark could taint the jury against the South Korea-based tech giant.
U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh denied the request, but summoned the jury back into the courtroom to warn them not to be influenced by views about either company.
The issue is likely to be one of dozens raised when the case is appealed. Samsung is expected to appeal the entire case, including last year's verdict, once the damages trial ends.
Apple and Samsung are also set to start another trial in the spring in a similar case that Apple has pressed over patent claims on newer smartphone and tablet product lines.
Howard Mintz covers legal affairs. Contact him at 408-286-0236 or follow him at Twitter.com/hmintz.