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Samsung dealt a stinging defeat in Apple patent case

By Howard Mintz, San Jose Mercury News –

SAN JOSE, Calif. — In a verdict that would have warmed the heart of late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, a federal jury on Friday handed Apple Inc. a resounding legal victory in its bitter patent war with Samsung Electronics Co., ordering the South Korean tech giant to pay more than $1 billion in damages for “willfully” copying the iPhone and iPad.

Legal experts say the jury’s finding of “willful” infringement enables Apple to seek to triple the billion-dollar damage award, which already believed to be an unprecedented judgment in a patent trial.

Ticking off one-by-one the items in the 20-page verdict, the jury found that Samsung trampled on Apple’s patent rights in a wide range of Samsung smartphones, as well as its Galaxy tablet. The jury in particular found Samsung’s Fascinate, Epic 4G and Galaxy S II smartphones were rogue products that warranted more than $100 million each in damages for copying the iPhone, although the panel spared Samsung much punishment for infringing the iPad.

At the same time, the jury rejected Samsung’s counterclaims that Apple infringed some of its wireless technology patents. The jury reached its verdict on the third day of deliberations.

Legal experts were quick to say Apple got just about everything it could want from the much-anticipated verdict. It was “a huge win, a crushing win,” said Santa Clara University law professor Brian Love.

Apple’s next move is likely to be to ask U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh to permanently block the sale of many of the products in the United States; she already has issued preliminary injunctions against the Nexus phone and Galaxy 10.1 tablet. And Samsung is certain to appeal to the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, the Washington, D.C.-based court that hears patent appeals, although legal experts say the jury decision is on firm legal ground.

“The verdict will be hard to dislodge,” said Stanford University law professor Mark Lemley. “It’s clear the jury took their job very seriously.”

The jury’s verdict was the most important milestone in the nearly two-year global war between the two tech giants over legal rights in the smartphone and tablet market. At stake is Apple’s grip on the massive U.S. market and the impact of its aggressive claims that Samsung is propelling itself with smartphones and tablets that copy the iPhone and iPad, two of the most recognizable products ever produced.

With the U.S. marketplace key, the verdict gives Apple a leg up in a legal firestorm that has stretched from San Jose to Australia, across Europe and into Asia. On Friday, a South Korean court issued a split ruling in a similar patent fight there, siding with Samsung on some claims and Apple on others. That decision came just hours before the jury declared Apple the clear winner in the Silicon Valley case.

While the San Jose verdict was definitive, it may not settle the global smartphone war between the two rivals.

“It’s a strong win for Apple, but the war between the parties will go on,” said Robin Feldman, a Hastings College of the Law professor.

An Apple spokeswoman said the trial showed “Samsung’s copying went far deeper than even we knew.”

Samsung lamented that Apples victory was a loss for American consumers. .“It will lead to fewer choices, less innovation and potentially higher prices,” the company said in a release.

“It is unfortunate that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners, or technology that is being improved every day by Samsung and other companies,” the company said.

This won’t be the final word, it said, noting the courtroom confrontations around the globe.

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