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Jury selection begins in Apple vs. Samsung trial

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SAN JOSE -- A trial pitting Apple against Samsung kicked off Monday in federal court in San Jose, with jury selection underway in the closely watched patent-infringement case.

Prospective jurors were grilled through the morning about whether they had friends who worked at Apple or other tech companies; the brand of their cellphones and tablets; and what books they had read concerning Apple and/or Samsung.

The selection process took place in U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh’s courtroom on the fifth floor of the courthouse, with dozens of prospective jurors sitting in several rows of seats usually used by spectators. A smaller courtroom next door held about 70 reporters and members of the public.

Koh handled the initial questioning of prospective jurors. Several people said they were friends with Apple employees or had relatives who worked at the company. Each was asked the follow-up question by the judge: "I would instruct you to not have any contact with that person during this trial. Can you do that?" She clarified that "contact" included social media as well.

Koh, who joined the federal bench two years ago, also wanted to know if prospective jurors held Apple and/or Samsung stock or had other business interests with the companies. She also asked if people had read any books on Apple and/or Samsung -- a handful of people said they had read Walter Isaacson's biography of Apple founder Steve Jobs -- and wanted to know what cellphone and tablet brands people owned.

One person didn't own a cellphone. Many had LG phones, and many prospective jurors said they owned Apple and Samsung devices.

In the understatement of the day, Koh noted that there had been "some coverage" of the case, and wanted to know who among the possible jurors had read or "heard anything" about the lawsuit. Then she asked: "If you've basically already formed an impression in your mind about who should win this case, based on what you’ve read, can you raise your hand please?" Two people raised their hands.

Earlier in the selection process, one prospective juror said: "I have a thousand reasons to favor Apple, but I would try to be fair." Later, another said, "We are an Apple kind of family." A third said, "Honestly, I'm biased."

Jury selection is expected to last well into the afternoon; lawyers for both companies are to be allowed 20 minutes each to question the prospective jurors. Opening statements are scheduled to begin after jurors are chosen, either Monday afternoon or, more likely, Tuesday morning.

The case is expected to last four weeks, with proceedings this week scheduled for Monday, Tuesday and Friday. Koh told the prospective jurors that she expected testimony to end on either Aug. 21 or Aug. 24, with jury deliberations to begin after that.

Apple and Samsung have been lobbing patent-infringement claims against each other for months as the rivals compete in the fast-growing mobile-device industry. They are the world's two largest smartphone makers.

Apple has accused its rival of "slavishly" copying many aspects of the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant's mobile devices and is seeking $2.525 billion in damages for what it calls "irreparable harm" to its business. Apple has repeatedly said it is "no coincidence that Samsung's latest products look a lot like the iPhone and iPad."

"Samsung is on trial because it made a deliberate decision to copy Apple's iPhone and iPad," the company said in a trial briefing. "Try as it might, Samsung cannot deflect attention from its own copying by the patents it has asserted against Apple."

Samsung maintains that it did not steal ideas from Apple, and instead accuses that company of infringing its technology patents.

"Indeed Apple, which sold its first iPhone nearly 20 years after Samsung started developing mobile phone technology, could not have sold a single iPhone without the benefit of Samsung's patented technology," the company said in its own trial brief.

"Even as Apple has carried out a coordinated campaign of dragging Samsung's name through the mud in this lawsuit and in the media, it has used Samsung's patented technology while flatly refusing to pay for its use."

The South Korean company also says Apple has brought its case "to stifle legitimate competition and limit consumer choice to maintain its historically exorbitant profits."

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Follow Andrea Chang on Twitter.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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