It looked more like the scene of an iPhone launch than a trial when Apple and Samsung kicked off their legal battle this morning in San Jose, California. A slow-moving line stretched away from the entrance to the Robert F. Peckham United States Courthouse and Federal Building an hour and a half before things were scheduled to begin, with one court official stating that more than 200 additional visitors were present. As the court worked its way towards selecting a jury, however, it became clear that the same interest that generated that long line made it almost impossible to find jurors that hadn't been touched by both company's products.
Samsung's legal team started the day by focusing on the upcoming opening statments. The company was hoping to incorporate additional materials in its presentation‚ including references to Shin Nishibori's Sony-inspired iPhone design experiment, and was also looking to strike references to Steve Jobs in Apple's own presentation (you may recall that Judge Lucy Koh previously ruled that Jobs' comments about going "thermonuclear" on Android wouldn't be introduced into the trial). Samsung's counsel said it feared raising Jobs would turn the trial into a "popularity contest", but Koh overruled the objection; the fate of the company's own presentation slides will be decided in a hearing tomorrow morning.
The Steve Jobs biography was cited by several jurors
Jury selection proved to be as complex as one would expect, given both the ubiquity of Apple and Samsung products, as well as the fact that so many people are employed in related fields in the area. Both a Google and an Apple employee were amongst the 74 prospective jurors brought into court today (the final jury is made up of just 10). Judge Koh asked the candidates a wide range of questions, from employment and financial background information, to if the jurors had read any books that could impact their feelings about the two companies. Walter Isaacson's biography Steve Jobs was cited by several prospective jurors; when the Apple employee was asked if the book had altered his feelings about the company, he replied simply, "that book did not change any opinions I already had".
Koh also took the unusual step of asking what type of smartphone, tablet, and computer each of the individuals used. While it could seem a frivolous question on one hand, allegiance to a particular brand or platform could pose a notable risk for the respective parties in a case like this. Roughly a third of those questioned were actually feature phone users, and several owned no cellphone whatsoever. In a display of just how dominant the two tech titans have become, however, there was barely a single person that didn't have some type of Apple or Samsung product in their homes, be it computer, TV, Blu-ray player, tablet, or phone. Online browsing habits were also explored, with almost every person noting that Google was one of their primary uses for the web — save for the lone individual who noted that "I Yahoo a lot."
Apple cut a Google employee at the last minute
After several dismissals due to financial hardship and employment considerations, it came time for the respective legal teams to decide which jurors they wanted removed from consideration to arrive at the final 10 (each company was allowed to cut four jurors without question). While the Apple employee had been dismissed earlier, the individual that worked at Google was still in play. Cupertino's attorneys requested that Koh dismiss the potential juror for cause, but she denied the request, feeling that he had answered truthfully that his place of employment wouldn't impact his ability to decide the case according to law. Apple clearly didn't agree, and after both sides made their cuts, the individual was not amongst the final 10 jurors called.
Made up of seven men and three women of varying backgrounds, levels of expertise, and personal technological inclinations, the jury will start the four-week journey to answer what Apple hopes is a $2.525 billion question. Tomorrow both companies will present their opening statements, and Apple could very likely call its first witnesses. Apple's senior vice-president of marketing, Phil Schiller, is scheduled to be the second person to take the stand, and we'll be there to let you know what happens.