Harold McElhinny, Morrison & Foerster partner
Harold McElhinny, Morrison & Foerster partner (Jason Doiy / The Recorder)

SAN JOSE — As their latest patent trial drew to a close Tuesday, lawyers for Apple and Samsung took a stab at answering a question at the top of observers’ minds: Why are they still going at it?

Delivering Apple Inc.’s closing argument, Morrison & Foerster partner Harold McElhinny stressed that Samsung reaps a handsome profit from sales of infringing phones. A modest damages award would do nothing to deter the infringement, he said.

“Whatever you intended, Samsung will end up as a big winner,” he told jurors.

Samsung Electronics Co. lawyer John Quinn, meanwhile, posited that Apple sued Samsung yet again to correct its slide in the market, noting the company has lost ground in recent years to manufacturers such as Samsung that use Google’s Android software.

“If they can cripple the most successful Android maker, they’ll go a long way toward accomplishing their goal,” the Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan partner said.

The parties panned to larger market dynamics after lobbing accusations of patent infringement and invalidity for a month in the San Jose courtroom of U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh of the Northern District of California. In their third jury trial over smartphone and tablet technology, Apple accuses Samsung of infringing five patents and seeks nearly $2.2 billion in damages. Samsung is asserting two patents of its own, but has asked the jury to award just more than $6 million.

Quinn jabbed at Apple’s steep request. “They’ll be dancing in the streets in Cupertino if you give them $100 million,” he said.

McElhinny anticipated the rhetoric, stressing Samsung’s every move in the case was geared toward lowering its bill.

The South Korean company was so reluctant to open its wallet that it attacked the value of software patents on the whole, said William Lee, who wrapped up Apple’s closing. The Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr partner added that Samsung lowballed the value of its own patents to drive home its point.

Before jurors were whisked away to begin deliberations, the parties gave wildly different send-offs. McElhinny, who has led the charge for Apple in each of the trials, recounted Apple’s familiar story of innovation in slow, cinematic fashion. Samsung followed with a more scattershot presentation. The last of four lawyers to address the jury, Quinn was apparently left with less time than he had anticipated.

“This is gonna be painfully quick,” he began.

He then dove into a rapid-fire speech in which he assailed the survey evidence underpinning Apple’s damages request and scoffed at the patented features. He paused only once, gasping for air.

“Very worried my dad is going to have a stroke at the podium,” his daughter, Kleiner Perkins partner Megan Quinn, tweeted from the courthouse. “Haven’t seen him lecture like this since I broke curfew.”

Though his voice was cracking, Quinn did not mince words about Apple’s true motives for bringing the case. Unsure of how to proceed after the blockbuster launches of the iPhone and iPad, the Cupertino-based company went on a litigation spree, he said.

“What Apple needs to understand is that the answer to that ‘innovator’s dilemma’ is not here in the courtroom suing people,” Quinn said. “The answer is to come up with some more great products.”

McElhinny, on the other hand, maintained that litigation was Apple’s only option to stop Samsung’s rampant infringement.

“Apple cannot simply walk away from its inventions,” he said.

A breathless Quinn suggested that Samsung was just as resolute.

“If there’s one thing you know about Samsung, they’re not just simply going to cave and capitulate,” he said.

Contact the reporter at jlove@alm.com.