Apple Loses Bid to Bar Evidence in Samsung Patent Trial

Apple Inc. lost its bid to exclude evidence presented by Samsung Electronics Co. at the companies’ patent trial in California about a tablet computer developed more than a decade before Apple’s iPad was released in 2010.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose today rejected Apple’s argument that the information about a prototype of a tablet developed in 1994 shouldn’t be presented to the jury.

“That issue should go to the jury,” Koh said, adding that she was surprised Apple waited so long to make such a request.

“It’s strange to me that we’re just hearing this now,” she said. “If you thought the law was so clear cut, I would’ve appreciated that this was brought up sooner.”

Apple, maker of the iPhone and iPad, based its request on an appeals court ruling in May permitting it to pursue efforts to halt sales of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet computer in the U.S. while the San Jose patent-infringement case is pending.

The judge said in December that Samsung had raised a substantial question of invalidity of Apple’s tablet-design patent. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington said there were substantial differences between the Apple design and earlier readers, and the only comparison was that they were rectangular tablets with four evenly rounded corners and a flat back.

Koh in June imposed a sales ban on Samsung’s tablet based on the appeals court ruling.

Samsung Argument

Samsung has argued the design was an obvious variation of tablets existing as early as 1994, including one made by Hewlett-Packard Co.

The Korean company supported that argument at the trial with videotaped testimony by Roger Fidler, who heads the digital publishing program at the University of Missouri. Fidler said he started working on a tablet design in 1981. Apple sought to exclude the testimony based on the appeals court ruling.

In a written declaration, Fidler said “Apple personnel were exposed to my tablet ideas and prototypes” in the mid-1990s when the company collaborated with Knight-Ridder Inc.’s information design laboratory in Colorado.

“My feeling was that it should be something that’s lightweight, portable, with a flat screen that had an ability to use a touch screen,” Fidler testified, referring to the first mock-up of his tablet from the early 1980s.

Apple sued Samsung in April 2011, accusing it of copying patented designs for mobile devices, and Suwon, South Korea-based 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.

The case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., 11-cv-01846, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

(Updates with judge’s comments in third paragraph.)
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