Samsung, Apple pitted in new patent war

Tech titans locked in continuing fight on copying charges

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SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The two warring titans of the smartphone and tablet industry will be back in federal court today, squaring off in another trial involving Apple's claims that Samsung's smartphones and tablets continue to trample on the patented features of the iPhone and iPad.

The case will begin with jury selection, and the legal teams for the two companies were expected to make their opening statements Tuesday.

With billions of dollars at stake -- as well as bragging rights to technology that has transformed everyday life -- legal experts and market watchers expect close attention on the trial, albeit perhaps with less zeal than the first showdown between them in 2012. That first round went to Apple, which secured a jury verdict finding that Samsung violated its patents on older lines of devices and owed nearly $1 billion in damages.

"I guess they feel like they have to finish what they started," said William Stofega, an analyst with the International Data Corp.

The second trial centers on Apple's claims that more recent lines of Samsung products -- such as the Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy Tab 2 -- violate five of Apple's patents, including the Siri voice and slide-to-unlock features. U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh has already sided with Apple on one of the patents, the auto-complete text feature, so that claim will just boil down to damages.

As with the first trial, Apple's pursuit of Samsung and claims of patent infringement are well behind the South Korean company's release of even newer product lines. Samsung is expected to release its Galaxy S5 smartphone sometime in April, just as the jury continues to hear evidence of copying in older Galaxy smartphones that will soon be near-obsolete on the U.S. market.

Legal experts say that continues to diminish the impact of Apple's legal assault on Samsung, particularly because the company was unable to obtain a permanent injunction after the first trial to remove dozens of older Samsung smartphones and tablets from the American market.

"This case does point up the fact that technology and the law move at very different speeds," said Mark Lemley, a Stanford University tech law scholar. "As a result, I think this trial, like the last one, will be about money -- a lot of money by the standards of us ordinary mortals, but not nearly enough to make or break Apple or Samsung."

To Apple, however, the case against Samsung continues to be about trying to punish what it considers unrepentant copying of technology, this time in signature favorites such as the iPhone 5, iPad mini and the MacBook Pro. Apple officials declined comment on the trial, as did Samsung's lawyers.

Apple will present many of the same witnesses as in the first trial, but many of the revelations about the secretive inner workings of developing iPad and iPhone technology will not carry the same sizzle. Yet the theme will be the same -- that Apple engineers spent years creating unprecedented breakthroughs in phones and tablets that Samsung simply copied, stealing market share in the process.

For Samsung, meanwhile, the trial will be another opportunity to cast Apple as a company trying to stifle competition in the smartphone and tablet markets. Apple and Samsung have solidified their positions at the top of the heap in those products worldwide, and market watchers say that has only stabilized as the legal battle has unfolded.

In this trial, Apple's parallel feud with Google and its Android operating system will perhaps play more of a central role than the first trial. To many in the industry, Apple's patent fight with Samsung has always been as much about the late Steve Jobs' grievance with what he considered Android's duplication of Apple technology; Samsung until recently has relied heavily on Android in its smartphones and tablets.

Samsung's witness list includes several Google executives who are expected to testify about the search giant's Android developments, presumably to rebut Apple's patent claims, according to court papers.

The trial, expected to last until May, will likely not be the last word in the patent spat. Samsung has appealed the first jury verdict, and Apple has appealed Judge Koh's refusal to block the sales of Samsung products that violated its patents.

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