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A decision by a California jury may affect what your next smartphone or computer looks like, or at least who has the right to make it. Apple is suing Samsung for as much as $2.75 billion, a huge case. And Apple says Samsung ripped off iPhone and iPad technology. Samsung has countered with its own allegations. To say this case is complicated is an understatement, as we hear from NPR's Wendy Kaufman.
WENDY KAUFMAN, BYLINE: This case is complex, the legal issues are daunting and the jury's decision has to be unanimous.
CHRISTOPHER V CARANI: What's at stake here is the future of smartphones and the tablet market.
KAUFMAN: That's intellectual property expert Christopher V. Carani. He notes the patents being debated cover both design and how things work, and offers this preview of the task facing the jurors. They'll be given a verdict form with about 700 questions and they're supposed to decide if any of about three dozen devices made by Apple or Samsung infringe on patents owned by the other company. Carani says comparing each product to all the patents will be difficult, but just listen to what else the jury has to do.
CARANI: For each one they'll have to have an itemized determination regarding infringement, then moving to invalidity, in other words whether or not the patents were valid or invalid. And then if there is a finding of liability, they'll have to go to each one of the asserted products and determine what level of damages were incurred.
KAUFMAN: Got all that? Well, the judge herself worries that the jury will be, quote, "seriously confused." Apple maintains that if you look at Samsung's tablets and its smart phones, it's clear the South Korean company shamelessly copied Apple's design and some of its technology.
Apple is seeking billions in damages and wants Samsung, the largest maker of Android phones, to stop selling copycat devices in the U.S. But the real impact of this case, one The Wall Street Journal has dubbed the patent trial of the century, goes well beyond these two companies. Here's analyst Charles Golvin of Forrester Research.
CHARLES GOLVIN: If Apple prevails, then all of these competitors will be sent back to the drawing board to say we have to produce our own innovations, our own ways of doing things, and that will produce more diversity in the market.
KAUFMAN: On the other hand, he says, if Samsung wins, you can expect even more products that look a lot like Apple's. It's always difficult to predict the outcome in a complex jury trial. But Stanford law professor Mark Lemley has some ideas.
MARK LEMLEY: One of the interesting things about the case has been how much Samsung seems to have been on the defensive.
KAUFMAN: He says though Samsung has claims against Apple, much of the case focused on Apples assertion that Samsung was the bad guy. Indeed, Lemley says, Samsung spent a lot time trying to limit the amount of money it might have to pay.
LEMLEY: And so I think going into the jury verdict this sure looks like a case where Apple has the edge in terms of momentum and how the jury's likely to be feeling.
KAUFMAN: The jury of seven men and two women begins deliberations today. And with hundreds of questions to be answered, it's impossible to say how long it might take. Earlier this year, jurors took about a week to decide a patent case involving Google and Oracle. But in another patent dispute, a jury took only about an hour to award Monsanto a billion dollars. Whatever the jury decides in this case, the verdict is likely to be appealed.
Wendy Kaufman, NPR News.
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