Late last night, the Northern District of California Judge Lucy Koh, the federal judge presiding over the Apple vs. Samsung trials, denied Samsung's request for a retrial in their patent dispute with Apple, but 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 last trial ended in November with the $290 million being awarded 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."
As a reminder, the aspect of Apple's closing argument that was at issue reads as follows:
"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 didn't protect their intellectual property. They couldn't protect their ideas. And you all know the result. There are no American television manufacturers today."
In yesterday's order, Koh wrote several times that she found the remarks "troubling." Koh added that "Counsels argument clearly suggested an "us versus them" American versus non-American theme to the jury, which could have evoked national origin prejudice."
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."
Furthermore, 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."
While Apple is likely to proceed with greater caution in this regard at next month's trial, it's rather preposterous to say that Apple appealed to "racial" or "ethnic" prejudice. It was just about economic interests. Though I must say, I was glad that Apple made that point in their closing argument as it's on the minds of many. While it wasn't the heart of the matter by any means, it did act as a reminder that Apple had the right to protect their intellectual property unlike those of the past.
In the end, Apple and Samsung filed post-trial motions addressing the jury's latest verdict. Specifically, Apple sought additur, suppliemetal damages and prejudgement interest, while Samsung filed a Motion of Judgement as a Matter of Law. The Court Denied each of the parties requests. The details are noted in the order below.
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