IT mobile device combatants Apple (AAPL) and Samsung are squaring off again in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., going at it before Judge Lucy Koh in a toe-to-toe battle over who stole the other's smartphone patents.
The March 31 sequel comes less than two years after a federal jury found Samsung culpable for infringing on Apple patents to the tune of $1.05 billion in damages. While the two companies have battled it out legally in more than 50 cases worldwide, in the United States Apple has prevailed twice—once in the original proceeding and again in a damages retrial for $290 million that reset the vendor’s initial award to $930 million. Apple also has stacked up a number of key IP legal wins in European trials.
One significant difference in this trial is the core dispute isn’t about look and feel, it’s about specific software functionality. In the current dust-up, Apple is pursuing the same thing as in other trials: banning sales of Samsung Galaxy products—a prize that in many ways would be a far bigger win than pocketing the $2 billion in damages the iPhone maker seeks.
For Samsung’s part, scoring a victory against Apple’s key technology would deliver it a long-sought counterpunch, even if the Korean vendor only is asking for $7 million in damages. The monetary difference in how each vendor pegs the value of its patents in this case is striking.
Specifically, Apple claims Samsung swiped tap-from-search and slide-to-unlock technology while the Korean device manufacturer argues the iPhone maker stole wireless technology to speed up data transmission. The list of targeted products on both sides includes popular entries such as Samsung’s Galaxy S2 and S3, the Galaxy Note and Note 2, the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, and Apple’s iPhones 4, 4S and 5 models, the iPad 2, 3, 4 and Mini, iPod Touch and MacBook Pro.
Apple also is demanding that Samsung pay an exorbitant $40 royalty fee for each device deemed in patent violation.
The conflict has headed to trial again ostensibly because the two companies failed to settle their ongoing intellectual property conflict in private mediated talks. Apple chief Tim Cook and Samsung mobile head JK Shin huddled in February looking for common ground to settle their patent infringement dispute, in keeping with the companies’ vow to find answers outside of another jury trial. But the talks didn’t go anywhere.
Apple and Samsung top brass also met in January to mull settlement opportunities, with talks said to be centered on a cross-licensing deal, royalties and per-device fees for intellectual property infringements.
Apple’s and Samsung’s private settlement talks have a miserable history and, as much as the two companies publicly express their distaste for the continued legal battles, they appear unable to settle their differences in any other setting. In July 2012, ahead of the first Apple v. Samsung patent infringement litigation, Cook met with Samsung vice chairman Choi Gee-sung in mediated talks to broker a deal but those discussions quickly collapsed.
The big question, of course, is: Once the trial concludes, will the results give one company weighted leverage over the other in the marketplace? Judging from the impact of the first trial, that’s not a likely outcome.