Apple claims that Samsung smartphones and computer tablets are illegal knock-offs of the iPhone and iPad.

London - The billion-dollar Apple vs Samsung patent case is under way in a San Jose courtroom. The two bitter rivals are arguing over a cluster of phone patents, each alleging that the other is infringing on intellectual property as they vie for top place in the smartphone wars.

The companies are seeking potentially billions from each other in royalties – and whatever decision the 10 people on the jury take, it is likely to change the industry for ever.

Apple claims that Samsung smartphones and computer tablets are “illegal knock-offs” of the iPhone and iPad.

If the case goes Apple’s way, Samsung may be forced to pay out $2.5 billion (R20.6bn), an award that would dwarf the largest patent-related verdict to date, and experts say the Android community may find itself mired in lawsuits – with Google itself dragged into the fight.

If the case goes Samsung’s way, Apple may need to pay out on patents owned by Samsung – and this may mean iPhone prices will increase.

Opening arguments in federal court will be followed by Apple calling its first witness, a company designer.

The witness lists of both sides are long on experts, engineers and designers and short on familiar names. Apple CEO Tim Cook, for example, is not scheduled to testify.

Apple filed a lawsuit against the South Korean company last year alleging smartphones and computer tablets made by the world’s largest technology company were illegal knock-offs of Apple’s popular iPhone and iPad products.

Samsung countered that Apple was doing the stealing and that some of the technology at issue – such as the rounded rectangular designs of smartphones and tablets – had been industry standards for years.

The case is just the latest skirmish between the companies over product designs. A similar trial began last week, and the two companies have been fighting in courts in the UK and Germany.

US District Judge Lucy Koh last month ordered Samsung to pull its Galaxy 10.1 computer tablet from the US market pending the outcome of the trial, though she barred Apple attorneys from telling the jurors about the ban.

“That’s a pretty strong statement from the judge and shows you what she thinks about some of Apple’s claims,” said Brian Love, a Santa Clara University law professor and patent expert.

He said that even though the case would be decided by 10 jurors, the judge had the authority to overrule their decision if she thought they got it wrong.

“In some sense the big part of the case is not Apple’s demands for damages but whether Samsung gets to sell its products,” said Mark A Lemley, a Stanford Law School professor and director of the Stanford Programme in Law, Science and Technology.

Lemley said a verdict in Apple’s favour could send a message to consumers that Android-based products such as Samsung’s were in legal jeopardy.

A verdict in Samsung’s favour, especially if it prevails on its demands that Apple pay its asking price for certain transmission technology it controls, could lead to higher-priced Apple products.

Apple lawyers argue there is almost no difference between Samsung’s products and Apple’s and that Samsung internal documents show it copied Apple’s designs and its interface.

Samsung denies the allegation and counter-claims that Apple copied its iPhone from Sony. Samsung lawyers noted the company had been developing cellphones since 1991 and that Apple jumped into the market in 2007.

To the consumers, they are arch-rivals, with the Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone competing directly with the iPhone and being the runaway success of Android handsets. In the courts the fighting is even more fierce, with Apple repeatedly trying to stop Samsung selling phones and tablets around the world.

But in business, Samsung is one of Apple’s top suppliers – and Apple will spend an estimated £7bn (R90bn) on Samsung parts for their products, including iPhones and iPads, this year. The amount is expected to increase until at least 2014 under the current terms of their contract, according to a deal reported earlier this year.

The Korea Times said that Apple bought around £4.9bn worth of parts from Samsung in 2011 including displays, mobile application processors, NAND flash chips and mobile memory.

You will find Samsung processors, displays and memory chips inside the new iPad.

Apple’s much-admired “Retina” displays are also manufactured by Samsung. – Daily Mail