Judge rebukes Apple for invoking nationalist bias but denies Samsung a retrial

Apple's remarks in a patent trial suggested an 'American-versus-non-American theme' to the jury, Judge Koh said

A U.S. judge has denied Samsung's request for a retrial in a patent dispute with Apple, but she also chastised Apple's lawyers for making the Korean firm's "foreignness" an issue in closing remarks to the jury.

The order from Judge Lucy Koh late Friday means a damages award against Samsung of $290 million still stands. But she clearly took issue with the way Apple summed up its case to the jury, saying it suggested an "American-versus-non-American theme."

The case at the District Court in San Jose, California, is the one in which Apple was initially awarded just over a billion dollars in damages in August 2012. Koh struck down $410 million of the award, partly because the jury hadn't calculated it properly, and ordered a new trial to determine the correct damages.

The new trial ended in November with the $290 million award to Apple, but Samsung asked for another retrial, in part, it argued, because Apple's lawyers had appealed to "racial, ethnic, and national origin prejudice."

It highlighted portions of Apple's closing argument in particular.

"When I was young, I used to watch television on televisions that were manufactured in the United States," an Apple attorney told the jury. "Magnavox, Motorola, RCA. ... They were inventors. They were like the Apple and Google today.

"But they didnt protect their intellectual property," the Apple attorney said. "They couldnt protect their ideas. And you all know the result. There are no American television manufacturers today."

In her order Friday, Koh wrote several times that she found the remarks "troubling."

"Counsels argument clearly suggested an us-versus-them, American-versus-non-American theme to the jury, which could have evoked national origin prejudice," she wrote.

The impact of the remarks is minimized by the "cold transcript," she wrote," which "elides counsels strategic and effective pauses, timed in a way that created silence for listeners to connect the dots and make troubling inferences."

She also noted the "context of the courtroom," in which the seats behind the attorneys were "filled with client representatives with obvious differences in terms of racial and ethnic backgrounds."

Moreover, Koh wrote, the impact of the remarks must be considered in the wider context of whether juries in the U.S. can "fairly adjudicate patent disputes between American companies and foreign companies."

She cited a study which found that in jury trials, the win rates of foreign firms against domestic infringers (38 percent), are significantly lower than wins by domestic firms against foreign infringers (82%). In contrast, in cases decided by judges rather than juries, "the patentee win rate is almost identical."

Despite that, Koh concluded the remarks by Apple's attorneys did not warrant another trial. The misconduct did not "permeate the proceedings," she wrote, but was "confined to a few seconds of the closing argument." She also found there was no evidence that the jury had been influenced by the "problematic comments."

After Samsung complained about the remarks in court and made its plea for a retrial, Koh brought the jurors back in and re-read the instruction that they should "not be motivated by sympathies or prejudice."

[T]he law presumes that jurors carefully follow the instructions given to them, Koh wrote in her order Friday, citing an opinion from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

She also noted that she had given Samsung the option to bring the jury back and rebut Apple's remarks.

Nevertheless, she was clearly unhappy with how Apple concluded its case, and reminded both sides they'll be back in court soon for another trial about a different set of products.

"Next month, these parties and these counsel are set to go to trial for a third time. Counsel are encouraged to be mindful of the important role that lawyers play in the actual and perceived fairness of our legal system," Koh wrote.

Her order Friday also rejected a motion from Apple seeking additional damages, saying it has to await the outcome of Samsung's appeal. And she denied motions from Samsung seeking to reduce the jury's award.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Appleintellectual propertycopyrightpatentSamsung ElectronicsCivil lawsuitslegal

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

James Niccolai

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?