Samsung v. Apple: secrets of iPhone's early days revealed

Samsung slavishly copied Apple's smartphone design, two Apple executives argue in court, as they lay out how the iPhone was created and marketed. Samsung has countersued, saying its patents were copied. 

By , San Jose Mercury News (MCT)

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    Samsung attorney Kevin Johnson is shown cross-examining Apple software chief Scott Forstall (right) in the witness stand in this court sketch during a high profile trial between Samsung and Apple in San Jose, Calif., Friday. Apple claims Samsung stole its smartphone design.
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With Apple Inc. legend Steve Jobs gone and current CEO Tim Cook conspicuously absent, Apple on Friday put two of its rock-star executives on the stand as ammunition in its multibillion-dollar patent showdown with Samsung Electronics Co., including a software guru who assembled the design team for the original iPhone.

In several hours of testimony, Apple software chief Scott Forstall described the early days of iPhone development, revealing that the secret design work was dubbed the “Purple Project” and engineers toiled in an insulated “Purple dorm.” Forstall also told a federal court jury he pinned a note on the door of the dorm, “Fight Club,” a reference to the movie’s screed to ensure what happened behind closed doors remained there.

Forstall’s testimony was aimed at buttressing Apple’s legal argument that it went to great lengths to develop products such as the iPhone and iPad, which the Cupertino company maintains have been “slavishly copied” by rival Samsung. Forstall told the jury the secrecy was needed because Apple was making a new phone “out of whole cloth.”

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Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller also testified as the epic trial ended its first week before a seven-man, two-woman jury. Apple is seeking $2.5 billion in damages against Samsung for patent infringement and trade dress violations, while Samsung has countersued, alleging Apple has copied its patents.

Schiller, against the backdrop of a video slide showing Apple spent more than $1 billion on U.S. advertising on the iPhone and iPad between 2008 and 2011, told the jury Samsung’s copying has fostered consumer confusion and made it harder to market Apple products.

“Samsung has ripped off a number of our design elements,” Schiller said.

In questioning both Schiller and Forstall, Samsung lawyers tried to poke holes in Apple’s argument that it was a lone innovator in the smartphone and tablet world, suggesting Apple was guilty of imitating competitors as much as any company.

Both witnesses were confronted with internal Apple emails among top executives discussing “tear-downs” and reviews of rival products, including Samsung’s.

The Apple executives said it was common to review competitors’ products, but distinguished that from copying designs.

Schiller encountered one tense moment when a Samsung attorney asked him if the iPhone 5, set to be released in September, would have a different design than the iPhone 4S.

Schiller declined to discuss the design, saying it was confidential.

The trial proceeded Friday after U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh rejected Apple’s bid to end the case immediately with a judgment in its favor. Apple had urged Koh to make that finding based on a controversial Samsung news release sent out earlier in the week that decried some of the judge’s rulings barring some of its evidence.

Koh condemned Samsung’s legal team for its “theatrics” and “sideshow,” but refused to stop the trial. She did take the unusual step of polling the jury on whether they have read any media accounts, but they all said they had steered clear of such reports.

The trial resumes Monday morning with the testimony of another Samsung executive and several Apple experts.

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