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Apple patents were actually Google inventions, says Samsung

April 14, 2014
Google Hiroshi Lockheimer

Apple and Samsung are again in locked horns in a bitter patent dispute that has, so far, spanned two years. After Apple’s 2012 win against Samsung involving a $930 million settlement, the two companies are at it again.

This time, Apple is accusing Samsung of having infringed on five software patents involving quick-linking, slide-to-unlock, universal search, automatic word correction and background sync. Meanwhile, Samsung is also accusing Apple of infringing on two patents that involve camera and folder organization and video transmission functionality. These involve a newer set of devices, including the flagship Galaxy S2 and S3, as well as the iPhone 4, 4S, 5 and iPad 2,3, 4 and mini, among others.

Apple has rested its case, giving its concluding statements in the previous week. Damages were computed at $2.191 billion, including lost profits and a fair amount for royalties. As Samsung begins its defense, it has called on Google executives to aid in proving Android has not copied Apple in developing the popular mobile operating system. Rather, the argument is that the innovations being claimed by Apple as its own were actually invented — or at least first utilized — by Android and Google.

Android beginnings

First on the stand on behalf of Samsung was Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google’s executive vice president for engineering at Android. Lockheimer gave an account of Android’s early days, starting with its fledgling team of less than 30 employees, which has fast grown to about 600 to 700 after Google’s acquisition. He recalled how, during this time, the team actively intended to make Android a discrete operating system — not locked into any hardware — and something that is not like other mobile operating systems.

“We like to have our own identity,” Lockheimer said. “We were very passionate about what we were doing, and it was important that we have our own ideas.”

We were very passionate about what we were doing, and it was important that we have our own ideas.
He then described the work habits at Android, which often involve 60 to 80 hour workweeks, and which “continue to be grueling.” The testimony is aimed at proving the Android team had been hard at work developing these features, and not simply copying from other technologies. According to Lockheimer, his first involvement with Android was in January 2006, when co-founder Andy Rubin invited him to view a demonstration of the OS. This means development on Android was well underway even before the iPhone first came out.

Google’s innovations, not Apple’s

Samsung is relying on Google experts’ testimony to debunk the claim that there is any value to Apple’s patents. For example, with regard to universal search — the ability to search both web and local content from a single interface — Lockheimer says internal Google data indicate that users are 98 percent more likely to click on web results rather than local ones.

Apple has tried to question the Google executive’s role in the trial, with counsel stating that the presence of Google personnel might confuse the jury. After all, it’s not Google that is on trial here, but rather Samsung. However, since the initial 2012 lawsuit and other legal and oversight proceedings involving Apple and Samsung, the sentiment is that Apple is using Android device manufacturers as a proxy in its war against Android itself, and by extension, Google.

For Samsung, Google’s involvement is meant to convey the message that the innovations are Google’s and not Apple’s, which means the Cupertino, CA company is claiming damages arising from the use of innovations that it did not invent in the first place.

Lockheimer is only one of the several Google executives and experts Samsung is calling in as witnesses. The Korean company is expected to present a total of 17 witnesses throughout the month to bolster its defense.

The question here is this: is Samsung on the right track? Is this the right argument to defend itself against Apple’s patent complaint, and is tapping Google’s help the correct means in achieving this?