William Price, a partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan (Jason Doiy / The Recorder)
SAN FRANCISCO — Drawing on compromising emails and the disappointing launch of Apple Maps, lawyers for Samsung Electronics Co. have sought to portray Apple Inc. as a company that lost its way after the blockbuster launch of the iPhone.
The smartphone and tablet makers are again feuding over patents in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, testified this week about the commercial success of the company’s iPhone and iPad, as he has in two previous patent trials with Samsung.
But Samsung lawyer William Price used his cross-examination on Friday to confront Schiller with Apple documents indicating that his company risked losing market share to other cellphone manufacturers even as Samsung was gaining momentum with a fresh marketing campaign. “Certainly by the end of 2012 you became aware that for some reason Samsung’s brand recognition was on par with Apple’s,” said Price, a partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.
“No, I don’t agree with that,” Schiller said flatly.
The internal documents seemed intended to further Samsung’s argument that Apple sued the South Korean company to correct its sliding market share—and strike a blow against rival Google Inc. Apple and Samsung returned to U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh’s courtroom this week to resolve claims over the technology used in newer versions of their popular smartphones and tablets. Most of Apple’s infringement claims target features that are built into Google’s Android software, which is used on Samsung phones.
Price prodded Schiller to revisit Apple’s introduction in 2012 of its own mapping service, as a substitute for Google Maps. CEO Tim Cook later apologized for the new app, which was widely panned.
Yet Price noted that the iPhone 5 sold well despite the map’s flop, repeating Samsung’s refrain that isolated features do not dictate consumer demand for devices with scores of components. Schiller, though, said Apple’s mapping service became more popular than Google’s among Apple customers after the episode.
“No such thing as bad publicity,” Price said.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Schiller retorted.
Price displayed evidence suggesting that Google was on the top of Apple’s mind. According to a Samsung exhibit, Steve Jobs, Apple’s late CEO, set a “Holy War with Google” as the most critical item on the agenda for a meeting of the company’s top 100 executives in 2011. Jobs also called for Apple to “catch up to Google cloud services and leapfrog them.”
On redirect examination, Apple lawyer Harold McElhinny of Morrison & Foerster gave Schiller a chance to clarify those apparent mandates.
“Mr. Jobs felt that … we were focusing on our own work, and we weren’t looking hard enough at what others were doing,” Schiller said. “He wanted to make sure that we realized that these competitors were out there.”
McElhinny then ushered senior Apple software engineer Greg Christie to the stand to offer new details on the birth of the iPhone. Christie recalled that the device was a round-the-clock project for him and other members of the design team, who faced intense pressure from Jobs. When the phone finally debuted, Christie and his colleagues toasted the news with champagne purchased from a nearby supermarket.
“We knew for at least one day we were a huge success,” he said.
Christie testified that the iPhone’s “slide-to-unlock” feature, which is covered by one of Apple’s five asserted patents, was critical to the success of the phone. The feature addressed the risk of pocket-dialing, a big concern posed by the iPhone’s touch-screen technology, the engineer noted. Jurors watched close-up footage of Jobs sliding his index finger to unlock a device as Christie spoke.
Under questioning from Price, Christie conceded that he does not know how much of an impact the feature has on the sales of Apple’s phones or the devices of its competitors.
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