Rachel Krevans, Morrison & Foerster partner (Jason Doiy)
SAN JOSE — Samsung lawyers often complain that their client is caught in the crosshairs of a fight between Apple and Google. Now, Googlers are standing directly in the line of fire.
A trio of Google engineers testified Monday in Apple and Samsung’s latest trial over smartphone and tablet technology. Many see Samsung as a proxy for Google in the protracted patent brawl, and the Mountain View company figures more prominently in the parties’ third jury trial than previously. Four of the five patents that Apple is asserting target features that are woven into Google’s Android operating system, which is used on Samsung phones.
Google executives sent the message that they came up with the Android operating system all on their own, rather than leaning on Apple. Their presence also gave Samsung the chance to pitch a story of Silicon Valley innovation to the San Jose jury. Under questioning from Samsung lawyer Sean Pak of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, Dianne Hackborn, Google’s principal software engineer, recounted the thrill of contributing to the Android system.
“When we did Android, I felt like we were doing a lot of interesting things that really hadn’t been done before,” she said. “People really latched onto it.”
Samsung lawyers have stressed that their client did not have a hand in designing the Android operating system. But Apple kept searching for Samsung’s fingerprints.
Apple lawyer Rachel Krevans of Morrison & Foerster questioned whether Samsung made changes to the software before installing it on its products.
“You don’t know anything about what modifications they might have made?” she prodded Hackborn.
The Google engineer pushed back at first.
“This is very core to Android,” Hackborn said. “You can’t just change how these things work.”
But she backed down when Krevans produced deposition testimony in which Hackborn had stated that she did not know whether Samsung had edited the code for the Android system’s applications for browsing the Web and sending messages.
Hackborn did not have to face Apple alone. Google software engineers Bjorn Bringert and Paul Westbrook also testified on Monday, and Samsung called Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google’s vice president of Android engineering, when it began its case on Friday.
In a twist from previous trials, Dale Sohn, former CEO of Samsung Telecommunications America, took the stand after Hackborn. Apple has criticized Samsung in the past for not flying its executives out for the companies’ courtroom battles. But the third trial appeared to be the charm for Sohn, who opted to testify without an interpreter.
“I became more comfortable with this case, so I decided to speak English,” he said.
Sohn told jurors that Samsung has increased its share of the smartphone market in recent years by stepping up its marketing efforts. His testimony set the stage for Samsung’s chief marketing officer, Todd Pendleton, who told jurors that he has built the “most viral brand in the world,” with more shares on social media than any other business.
But Apple lawyer William Lee of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr cast the marketing push in a different light.
“You implemented that strategy to disrupt the launch of the iPhone 5,” he told Pendleton.
Pendleton agreed, noting that the company’s sales usually take a hit when Apple debuts a new device.
“Our plan was to make sure we didn’t have another dip in sales,” he said.
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