After weeks of witnesses, prototypes, and one last failed settlement talk, it came down to this: Apple and Samsung's closing arguments in what is very likely the tech trial of the century. The day saw both sides landing heavy blows before sending the case off to the jury — where anything can happen.
There was an undeniable buzz in the courtroom to start the day, with media and members of the public lining up as early as 6:15AM — even though the day's proceedings didn't start until almost three hours later. When Judge Lucy Koh finally brought the jurors into the courtroom, it was for a purely procedural event: the reading of the jury instructions (all 109 pages of them). Over the course of several hours Koh worked through the instructions, largely sapping the energy from the room before breaking for an early lunch. The court reconvened afterwards — and that's when the real fun began.
"No Samsung witness ever sat in that chair and said 'those designs are not similar.'"
Harold McElhinny started things off for Apple, explaining to the jury that with all the evidence available in a case like this, the most important thing was to focus on the documents. Witnesses can be incorrect, he said, but "Historical documents are almost always where the truth lies," and "If you want to find out what really happened, if you want to see the truth, make a chronology of it."
Read the full live blog: Apple's closing arguments in Apple v. Samsung
"Steve Jobs shocked the world" with the iPhone, McElhinny said, changing the trajectory of the mobile industry. He framed Samsung, however, as a company with a stagnant line-up of products that faced faltering sales after the introduction of Apple's device. Samsung's solution? A three-month dash to design what would become the original Galaxy S. "In those three months Samsung was able to copy and emulate" the "world's most successful product," he said.
"No Samsung witness ever sat in that chair and said 'those designs are not similar,'" McElhinny pointed out, saying that Samsung's attorneys had instead decided to focus on small differences between Apple's design patents and its products. However, "The test is overall visual appearance, not these minor differences," he said, calling Samsung's invalidity defense "a word game."
"They have spent a billion dollars mimicking our designs."
It was a confident, precise, and straightforward presentation: look at the evidence, we think it's pretty clear. It seemed particularly effective in the courtroom, providing a narrative through-line that had been missing in the trial the last few weeks. "They have spent a billion dollars mimicking our designs and holding it out to the world so the Apple design is no longer seen as unique."
Then Samsung had its turn.
"Competition is what built this country."
Samsung attorney Charles Verhoeven opened both barrels from the start, portraying the trial not as a battle between two tech giants, but a struggle for the heart of the American Dream. Apple is "attempting to block its most serious competitor from even playing the game," he said, stressing that "competition is what built this country." The jury's decision, he said, could change the way competition works in the United States altogether.
Read the full live blog: Samsung's closing arguments in Apple v. Samsung
He dismissed Apple's claims of customer confusion as folly. "The fact is consumers make choices, not mistakes... there's no deception, there's no confusion, and Apple has no credible evidence of it." Apple, he said, thinks it's "entitled to have a monopoly on a rounded rectangle with a touchscreen." Verhoeven also stressed form following function in technology. "Just think about walking into a Best Buy store. You go into the TV section. All of the TVs look the same. They're all boxes. They're all flatscreens. They're all minimalist designs."
"Let's not pretend you can patent a colorful row of icons."
Verhoeven then embarked on withering attacks against many of Apple's witnesses, including icon designer Susan Kare. Kare said during cross-examination that she had conducted a visual comparison of Apple and Samsung icons, not a functional analysis. "This is their expert," he said, voice drenched in condescension. "And she said she didn't know." After comparing the iPhone icon layout to the Samsung Fascinate, he turned to the jury. "And let's not pretend you can patent a colorful row, a colorful matrix of icons."
"All this copying nonsense is hand-waving from Apple."
He then went after Apple's concerns about customer confusion, claiming they were utterly overblown; a "shell game" in his words. "All this copying nonsense is hand-waving from Apple," he said. "They know just like I know, just like you know, that no one is going to be confused when buying a smartphone." The jury leaned forward, immediately engaged with Verhoeven's delivery. As things wound on, his became rushed — attorney Kevin Johnson stepped up several times, seemingly to warn him about his time limit before Verhoeven ceded the floor — but it was clear he'd bloodied Apple in the process.
William Lee stepped up to handle Cupertino's rebuttal. He immediately turned to Verhoeven's "shell game" comments. "I've been doing this for 37 years, and I've heard that more today than at any other point in my career." Lee's thematic strategy was to paint Samsung as a company that acted in bad faith — from phone development to legal tactics. "They copied our product," he told the jury, "but what they're saying to you is 'we don't want to pay.'"
"It took Apple five years to create this revolution, and Samsung took three months to copy it. That's truth, and that's simple, clear, and undisputed."
Pointing to a Samsung chart that Verhoeven used to show the breadth of the company's products, Lee referred to internal Samsung memos about the iPhone the jury had seen earlier. "If Samsung had all of this, as they just told you, why was there a crisis in design? Why was there a difference between heaven and earth?" Lee then delivered Apple's strongest line of the day, an echo of McElhinny's earlier focus on the chronology. "It took Apple five years to create this revolution, and Samsung took three months to copy it. That's truth, and that's simple, clear, and undisputed."
"You're going to have to decide who lived by the rules and who didn't live by the rules," he said. "And those who didn't live by the rules were Samsung." Lee then handed the last few moments over to McElhinny for Apple's chance to pull at the patriotic heartstrings. If you find Samsung infringed, "you will have reaffirmed the American patent system," he said. "You will have upended Samsung's cynical game plan." McElhinny sounded one last ominous warning — "they will not change their way of operating if you slap them on the wrist" — before thanking the jurors for their time.
"You will have upended Samsung's cynical game plan."
With 14 minutes left on the clock, Verhoeven embarked on what was perhaps the strangest strategic call of the day: engaging in an impassioned defense of Samsung's alleged FRAND violations. Considering the relatively limited attention the topic had received over the trial, it seemed a strange way to close — particularly given how disinterested several members of the jury seemed at the topic.
Verhoeven brought things around nicely at the end — and with a few minutes to spare. "Let's have Samsung compete freely in the marketplace instead of Apple trying to stop it in the courtroom." He thanked the jury before walking back to his table, only to be reminded by Judge Koh that he still had time remaining. He took a moment to offer a more generous thank you to the jurors before finishing altogether.
"Let's have Samsung compete freely in the marketplace instead of Apple trying to stop it in the courtroom."
Both sides made their cases in strong broad strokes, but with each clawing at the other quite successfully over the course of the day it's hard to know how the jury will react. The nine jurors have an epic task in front of them — a 20-page verdict form that is no doubt much more complex than they'd anticipated — and countless pieces of evidence to sift through. The deliberations being tomorrow morning, and we'll be there as the story continues.
If you'd like to read the blow-by-blow, check out today's live blogs: