Google Inc. asked Samsung Electronics Co. to change the design of its phones and tablets to look less like Apple Inc.’s devices, according to e-mails shown to a jury at a trial between Apple and Samsung.
Harold McElhinny, a lawyer representing Apple, yesterday displayed a Feb. 16, 2010, internal Samsung e-mail describing minutes from a design meeting that was sent to “pass along only a few comments from Senior Designer Cho who went into the Google meeting yesterday,” according to the message.
“Since it is too similar to Apple, make it noticeably different starting with the front side,” the message says, referring to one of Samsung’s tablets.
The e-mails were introduced as evidence in the third week of the multibillion-dollar intellectual-property trial in federal court in San Jose, California. Samsung has used Google’s Android free operating system to build phones that propelled it to the number one spot in the phone market.
Apple sued Samsung in April 2011, accusing it of copying patented designs for mobile devices, and Samsung countersued. The case is the first to go before a federal jury in a battle being waged on four continents for dominance in a smartphone market valued by Bloomberg Industries at $219.1 billion.
During a cross-examination yesterday, McElhinny asked Samsung designer Kim Jin Soo if he recalled two e-mail exchanges in 2010 at Samsung about Google’s request.
Kim, speaking through an interpreter, denied he was aware of it.
“Whether that is a fact or not, I cannot confirm that for you, and whether such statement was made, if it was the official position of Google, or by someone made” at a different level of the company, “I don’t know such things,” Kim said.
A second e-mail, dated Feb. 22, 2010, was sent to more than 30 Samsung employees.
“I am notifying you of the team leader’s directives from the executives’ meeting yesterday,” the message begins. The sixth item on the list addresses a need to “respond to the issue of design similarity for the S series,” which Kim testified was a reference to Samsung’s S series of smartphones, some of which are at issue in the case.
“Google is demanding distinguishable design vis-à-vis the iPad,” the e-mail said. “Consider design distinguishability for the items demanded by Google while maintaining the current design, and in regards to each carrier’s demands.”
Kim testified that he doesn’t recall any such directives from his superiors. Looking at the e-mails at trial, he said he saw the documents for the first time yesterday in preparation for his testimony.
Jim Prosser, a spokesman for Mountain View, California-based Google, didn’t immediately respond to a voice-mail seeking comment on the testimony.
Apple is claiming at least $2.5 billion in damages for patent and trade-dress infringement. Cupertino, California-based Apple also wants to make permanent a preliminary ban it won on U.S. sales of a Samsung tablet, and extend the ban to Samsung smartphones.
Samsung, based in Suwon, South Korea, is trying to persuade the jury to declare Apple’s patents invalid and to find that Apple has infringed its patents.
The company yesterday called a paid witness, Tim Williams, a retired entrepreneur and electrical engineer, who testified that versions of Apple’s iPhone and iPad infringe two Samsung patents covering mobile-technology standards.
After using Williams’s testimony to advance its counterclaims against Apple, Samsung called another witness to bolster its defense to Apple’s infringement claims.
Andries Van Dam, a Brown University computer science professor who said he charges $1,000 an hour for his expertise, testified that Apple “was not the first to invent the snap-back” of graphic images. Samsung elicited the testimony in an attempt to invalidate a patent Apple claims covers “rubberbanding,” or the way an iPad or iPhone screen seems to bounce when a user scrolls to the end of a file.
U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, who is presiding over the case, yesterday said both sides face risks in a jury verdict, and urged the chief executive officers at both companies to talk again before jurors begin deliberating. Koh said she wants deliberations to begin by Aug. 21.
Face to Face
Koh earlier this year ordered Apple CEO Tim Cook to meet face to face with his counterpart at Samsung, Choi Gee Sung, who has since been replaced as CEO by Kwon Oh Hyun. The May conference didn’t yield a settlement.
“It’s at least worth one more try,” Koh said yesterday.
Apple shipments of iPads surged 44 percent to 17 million in the second quarter, giving the company its biggest share of the tablet market in more than a year as devices from competitors lost ground. Apple’s market share climbed to 69.6 percent in the quarter from 58.1 percent in the previous three-month period, according to an Aug. 14 report from IHS.
Samsung had a 9.2 percent share in the second quarter, down from 10.8 percent. The company will begin selling the pen-equipped Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet in the U.S. today. Samsung shares have climbed 27 percent this year, trailing a 56 percent gain in Apple’s stock.
The case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., 11-cv-01846, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).