US District Judge Lucy Koh is shown in this courtroom sketch during Apple's patent infringement lawsuit against Samsung in a California district court on Tuesday. An Apple attorney showed a 2007 clip of Apple founder Steve Jobs unveiling the first iPhone, which transformed the cellphone market. Photo: Reuters

San Jose - Lawyers for Apple and Samsung exchanged barbs as a major new patent trial opened on Tuesday, debating the role of a firm not even part of the case: Google.

Apple’s legal team vowed to prove that Samsung flagrantly copied iPhone features and should pay more than $2 billion (R21bn) in damages, as the two smartphone giants squared off anew in a California courtroom.

Apple attorney Harold McElhinny opened his presentation with a video showing legendary Apple co-founder Steve Jobs introducing the first iPhone in 2007. By putting computing power in smartphones powered by fun software and easy-to-use touch-screens, Apple had transformed the market, sending Samsung onto its heels, McElhinny maintained.

The attorney told jurors in his opening statement that they would see internal Samsung documents and messages showing that the company felt it was suffering “a crisis of design” with the difference between its devices and the smartphone “a difference between Heaven and Earth”.

Apple said evidence would show that the South Korean electronics giant sold more than 37 million infringing smartphones and tablets in the US. Apple would have demanded royalties of about $40 per device to license the patented technology to Samsung, McElhinny said.

The overall amount being sought by Apple in damages from Samsung would top $2bn, the lawyer explained. “This case is not about Google,” McElhinny said. “It is Samsung, not Google, that chose to put these features into its phones.”

But Samsung’s lawyer told the jurors that the case was indeed about Google, and Apple’s struggle against the maker of the Android operating system, which is now winning in the global marketplace.

“It’s an attack on Android, that is what this case is,” attorney John Quinn said. “Apple is trying to limit consumer choice and gain an unfair advantage over Google’s Android.”

Quinn contended that four of the five patents at issue in the trial were not used in Apple mobile devices, but because of features built into Android, litigation was pursued.

He told jurors that Google engineers would testify to how they designed Android independently and did not copy Apple. Samsung is the leading maker of smartphones and tablets using Google’s free Android mobile operating system.

Android smartphones dominate the global market.

“Apple is an amazingly innovative company, but in some respects, Google’s Android has passed them,” Quinn said. “Apple is trying to gain from you in this courtroom what it has lost in the marketplace.”

In August 2012, a jury in the same court decided that Samsung should pay Apple $1.05bn in damages for illegally copying iPhone and iPad features.

The award was later trimmed to $929 million and is being appealed. If this new trial goes in Apple’s favour, it could result in a bigger award as it involves better-selling devices, such as the Galaxy S3 smartphone.

Quinn contended the lawsuit extended from a war that Jobs declared on Google because of Android in 2010. Jurors will also consider Samsung’s claims that Apple infringed on patents for transmitting digital video and storing digital images.

McElhinny called Apple vice-president of worldwide marketing Philip Schiller as the first witness. Schiller described how Apple took a big risk betting on the iPhone, which was created during a top-secret project over the course of three years.

He said he reacted with shock when Samsung released its Android-powered Galaxy smartphone as it appeared to copy the iPhone. – Sapa-AFP