Pure and simple, Apple is crying copycat at Samsung for stealing the design of its iPhone and iPad for Samsung's Android smartphones and tablets. Apple is seeking $2.5 billion in punitive damages. But before those legal arguments can begin, there needs to be a jury.
Cameras were not allowed in the courtroom where District Court Judge Lucy Koh and the attorneys for both tech giants are trying to find 10 fair-minded jurors. The thought is Silicon Valley is filled with tech-savvy people, but it's also home to Apple, whereas Samsung's corporate home is in South Korea.
"You've got so many people here that live and breathe Apple, and it's kind of a cult, and I'm one of them," said San Jose resident Chris Cabrera. "I don't know if I could be impartial on a jury."
Patent law expert Brian Love at Santa Clara University Law School says jury selection will take time. There are 72 prospective jurors in the pool; 10 will be empaneled.
"You do run the risk that a very large portion of the jury pool will either work for one of the two companies, have a close family member who works for one of the two companies, have a friend who works for one of the two companies, or it will just be a real enthusiast of the devices of one of the two companies," said Love.
The case is complex. Apple will show jurors photos of Samsung smartphones before, and after, the debut of the iPhone five years ago to support its claim of patent infringement. Samsung will use other photos to argue that Apple copied designs from Sony.
"There's always a concern in patent trials that some of the evidence that's presented, especially the technical evidence, will be over the heads of the lay jury pool," said Love. "So the lawyers, the experts that testify will try very, very hard to make everything as simple as possible to make the evidence as sort of bite-sized nuggets."
Whoever wins could seek injunctions to stop the sale of the other company's products, turning the $219 billion tablet and smartphone industry on its head. The stakes are so high, patent disputes like this are usually settled before going to trial.
It's clear that both sides have dug in their heels. The estimated legal cost for both Apple and Samsung combined could be $20 million. Consumers could also pay a price because depending who wins, the losing side could be barred from putting some products in the marketplace, which could mean less competition, and less competition translates generally into higher prices.