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Google sides with Samsung against Apple's patent claim

Posted: 16 Apr 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Google  Apple  Samsung  patent  infringement 

During the latest inquiry pertaining to the alleged infringement claims by Apple against Samsung, an executive from the Korean company said he thought the original iPhone was an impressive but niche product, in testimony last Monday. Three Google senior software engineers also took the stand defending Samsung against charges it infringed five Apple patents.

The original iPhone "was very impressive, a nice product [but] at that moment only AT&T distributed it exclusively, so I felt it would be a niche market," said Dale Sohn who was CEO of Samsung's US cellular group from 2006-2012. "With a price of $299 I concluded many people could not afford that kind of very expensive niche product," he said.

Nevertheless, Sohn executed "a paradigm shift" in Samsung's approach to the US cellular market in 2011. He hired a team that shifted from a focus on wholesale sales to carriers to retail sales to consumers with a new ad campaign.

"We decided to spend massive marketing dollars not one time but all year long... [on] one big marketing theme [that] we would create the next big thing," Sohn said. With "all those things together we made a very remarkable turnaround so our average market share in smartphones was up to 30 per cent, the No. 1 in smartphone market [and in user] awareness and preference," he added.

Under cross-examination by Apple attorney Bill Lee, Sohn admitted he could offer no testimony about the details of the patents in the case. Lee showed a Samsung internal newsletter in which Sohn said in a column next to his picture, "Beating Apple is no longer merely an objective; it is our survival strategy."

Todd Pendleton, a Nike brand manager Sohn hired, testified Samsung lagged behind Apple, HTC and Research in Motion when he joined the US cellular group in early 2012 as chief marketing officer. Pendleton and Sohn both testified about using display, battery, processor, NFC and stylus hardware to gain an edge over the iPhone with the Galaxy S series.

Pendleton said the Next Big Thing ads, still being aired, have never highlighted the Apple patents at issue such as slide-to-unlock, universal search and quick links. "They are not drivers for a smartphone," he said.

However in cross-examination, Lee showed a Samsung marketing documents referring to the company's reputation as a "fast follower." Referring to Samsung's TouchWhiz interface, one document said, "TouchWhiz is a direct rip of iOS. I mean it's pathetic really."

Lee also noted an ad campaign Pendleton launched to disrupt the iPhone 5 launch. "Historically, during an iPhone launch our sales dipped dramatically, so our strategy was to ensure we didn't have another dip in sales," Pendleton said.

The first full day of Samsung's defence began by suggesting Google is responsible for much of the disputed software features on its handsets. Google software engineering managers for search, email and other Android features testified they were responsible for some of the features in question and that they did not copy Apple's software.

For example, one patent covers a feature that searches both the Internet and data on a handset. A Google engineer described the process for developing similar functions in Android but noted "on device [search] is only used about two per cent of the time."

Another Google software engineer testified about her work that started in 2006 on functions similar to Apple's quick links patent. The patent describes ways of finding phone numbers, addresses and other information in random text and presenting users appropriate options for making a call or sending an email, for example. Much of the testimony tried to establish differences in ways the so-called quick links are implemented as a defence against infringement.

Apple attorneys noted several times the case is focused on Samsung because it received the revenue and profits from the handsets accused of infringement. One Google engineer pushed back on that argument saying, "Everything I described here you really need to use or else you will break applications in Android."

A third Google engineer described Gmail and Android mail applications and ways the independently developed features are similar to Apple's patented background synchronisation.

About $507 million of Apple's total $2.191 billion in requested damages depend in part on an assumption Samsung would lose sales for four months if it had to design around the Apple patents. At least two of the Google engineers said changing the way some of the features in question are implemented could take less than a day.

The defence began late Friday when Google's engineering manager for Android said the search giant did not copy Apple's patents. Samsung has yet to present its case that Apple infringes two of its patents. The trial is expected to continue through the end of the month.

- Rick Merritt
  EE Times

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