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Apple, Samsung bicker over design details

As the Apple-Samsung smartphone trial entered its second week, Monday’s testimony was dominated by tedious analysis of minute design details by an Apple expert witness under questioning from Samsung counsel.

In the downtown San Jose federal courthouse, Judge Lucy Koh presided over the continuing struggle between tech giants Apple and Samsung. Apple is claiming that Samsung deliberately copied and infringed the intellectual property of Apple’s smartphone and tablet lines. Samsung counters that Apple’s designs are not legally protectable and that Samsung’s products lack the design features that make Apple products stand out in the market.

The trial resumed Monday with Samsung lawyer John Quinn asking Samsung corporate representative Justin Denison about Samsung’s design process. Denison testified that Samsung’s phones had features that Apple’s iPhone later adopted.

In contrast to previous Apple executive testimony, Denison was not offended that Apple was copying Samsung’s ideas. Apple pointed to internal Samsung documents that described the difference in user experience between Samsung’s smartphone offerings and the iPhone as “truly that of Heaven and Earth.”

Denison retorted:

“This is pretty typical hyperbole used inside Samsung.”

Apple pointed out that Denison did not know if language like a “crisis in design” was used in connection with any other competitor other than Apple in the smartphone market.

With Denison off the stand, Apple called industrial design expert Peter Bressler. Apple attorney Rachel Krevans asked Bressler why he concluded that Samsung’s smartphones and tablets were infringing on Apple’s four design patents and diluting the trade dress associated with the iPhone and iPad.

Bressler noted that designers look at details that consumers may think of for an overall impression of the product. Through multiple slides Bressler, compared Samsung products like the Galaxy Vibrant smartphone and the Galaxy Tab tablet and explained why each of them formed an overall impression substantially similar to Apple’s design patents.

Bressler also described how alternative products like the Sony Ericsson XPeria Arc S smartphone and the Acer Iconia A500 tablet were competing products that accomplished the same functions without infringing Apple’s design patents.

For the next three hours under cross-examination, Samsung attorney Charles Verhoeven pressed Bressler hard on his expert opinion and industrial design background. Bressler became frustrated at Samsung’s attempts to point out differences in specific Samsung product design features, at one point testifying:

“This is not how you review figures and patents.”

Bressler claimed at one point that Samsung was trying to get him to compare turkey and peanut butter. Verhoeven responded:

“Which one’s peanut butter and which one’s turkey?”

During Bressler’s cross-examination, Samsung succeeded in getting the Samsung F700 smartphone admitted as evidence for alternative designs. But, according to Judge Koh’s instructions, not as evidence of prior art or for the purposes of obviousness or patent invalidity.

At one point Verhoeven gave Bressler the Galaxy Tab tablet and asked Bressler if he could see his reflection in it. Bressler noted that he believed the Tab had a reflective surface, but Samsung argued that the brushed matte surface was not the same highly polished surface as mentioned in Apple’s design patent.

Samsung continued to try to impeach Bressler by pointing out that Bressler advertised his expert witness services on his web site. Bressler is being paid $400 per hour to testify on Apple’s behalf and has earned $75,000 thus far.

After the jury left for the day, Koh forced Apple and Samsung to argue their objections over the evidence regarding the next witness’ testimony as part of their official speaking time. An hour spent arguing over what questions former Apple employee and graphic designer Susan Kare could be asked led Koh to warn both sides that she will have no tolerance for going over the agreed time limits:

“I had a trial where I cut off a lawyer in mid-sentence.”

The Apple v. Samsung trial resumes Tuesday morning.

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