DAVID GREENE, HOST:
If you own a smartphone, chances are it's made by Apple or a company that Apple is suing. And for the first time tomorrow, one of those lawsuits is going to a jury trial. Apple wants more than two and a half billion dollars from Samsung for what it claims is patent violation.
NPR's Laura Sydell has been following this story and joins us. Hey, Laura.
LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Hi.
GREENE: So, two and a half billion dollars? I mean is that real? That's a huge amount of money.
SYDELL: If they were to get it, would be the largest patent verdict in history. What this is about is way back when Steve Jobs was alive and he saw the Android phones coming out - and that's Google software - he said they are ripping us off, they're stealing our ideas. And so, he said I'm going to go thermonuclear on them. I think that this may be Apple going thermonuclear. They say they've stolen our designs and unique features.
GREENE: You say using these Android phones, made by Samsung but with Google technology, some people see this as kind of a proxy war between Apple and Google in a way.
SYDELL: Yes, I think it is. I think that Apple is threatened by Google. For example, I believe right now you are holding a phone that is made by Samsung.
GREENE: I am. We brought props.
SYDELL: You brought props, OK. I want you to look at a phone. Now, tell me, what shape is it?
GREENE: Rectangle, I guess...
SYDELL: It's a rectangle...
GREENE: ...like an iPhone.
SYDELL: Right, and it has glass on the front?
GREENE: Right, yeah. I mean it looks very iPhone-ish.
SYDELL: It looks very - it is a kind of rounded, you know, on the edges?
SYDELL: It's not like sharp edges?
SYDELL: OK, Apple says that is our design.
GREENE: Oh, wow. Rectangular with rounded edges.
SYDELL: That's right. There's another thing. If you go into the phone and you scroll down through your contacts.
GREENE: OK, I'm doing that now.
SYDELL: You see that?
SYDELL: You go all the way up to A, and when you pull it down it bounces back?
GREENE: Oh, like when I flip my thumb down to go up higher, it will go higher and it bounces back up. Yeah.
SYDELL: Apple says they have a patent on that.
SYDELL: Now, when you start to look into this though, which I did, there are other patents that are awfully similar. And this is something you see happens a lot, particularly in the technology business these days. The patent office which everybody thinks, oh, they granted a patent - it must be really unique. Well, turns out, you know, I went and I took a look at some other patents that predate the iPhone. And I looked at the drawings and they are awfully similar to what Apple ultimately brought to market.
GREENE: And we should say, Laura, that there were all these patents flying around. Samsung has actually countersued and argues that Apple has stolen from them in this whole lawsuit.
SYDELL: That's right. There are patents that Samsung has that are essential to all phones. And Samsung does have to license them out. They're throwing them at Apple and saying we want more money from you for these patents.
Listen, these companies all own thousands and thousands of patents. And every time somebody sues somebody else, they go to their bag, they pull out some patents and they throw them back at the other side.
GREENE: And we said there's a lot of money at stake here. What is at stake for consumers, if anything
SYDELL: I ultimately think I don't see much good in this for consumers. Apple is an innovative company and they're saying we deserve to make money from it. But they are spending hundreds of millions of dollars, as is Samsung, on lawsuits that are going all over the world. I mean, right now, the Galaxy Tab 7.7 has been banned in Europe because of this. So that's less choice for consumers.
Chances are if the companies are putting out hundreds of millions of dollars to fight these suits, where are they going to get it back? Probably the price of your cell phone will go up to pay for the lawsuits.
GREENE: Well, will be watching this jury trial that we're expecting to begin tomorrow. Laura, thanks very much.
SYDELL: You're welcome.
GREENE: That was NPR's Laura Sydell. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.