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Samsung goes on offensive against Apple at trial

Apple is now on the defense against two claims of patent infringement as the San Jose case approaches its end

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After three weeks of defending itself against patent infringement claims, Samsung switched gears Monday and began presenting its argument that Apple is the one that infringes others' intellectual property.

But with only about a day of testimony to go, and Samsung demanding just US$6 million for the alleged infringement, the arguments won't last as long as Samsung's defense against Apple, which is seeking $2 billion from the Korean electronics giant.

Samsung claims that the FaceTime app in the iPhone 4, 4S and 5 infringes on U.S. patent 5,579,239, which covers transmission of compressed video over cellular networks. And it says the media gallery app in the same phones, and in two models of the iPod Touch, infringes on its U.S. patent 6,226,449, which concerns the classification of images and video in a digital library.

Samsung isn't the original inventor of either. The image classification patent was developed by engineers at Hitachi, while the video transmission patent was awarded to a Michael Freeman and family members. Samsung has since acquired both of them. It bought the video patent after bidding $2.2 million for it in 2011.

In court Monday, Freeman, who's a witness for Samsung in the trial, took the jury back to the days when few people had cellphones. He said he applied for his patent in 1994 after developing a first-of-its-kind portable system, called FirstLook, that could send video across digital cellular networks.

Freeman's company was based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and came up with hardware that would allow video to be compressed and transmitted in real time. Until then, live transmission required the deployment of expensive microwave or satellite trucks.

The second Samsung patent is almost as old, having been filed by Hitachi in the U.S. in 1997.

It was part of Hitachi's development of a digital camera that shot both still images and video. Users needed a way to organize the images and video, by either type or subject, and that's what the patent describes.

Apple has yet to launch its defense, but the court got a taste of its possible arguments when it cross-examined Samsung's expert on the '239 patent.

Apple's lawyers focused on systems described in the patent that would have been state of the art at the time, including a video cassette recorder and a laser disc player. The company might argue the patent refers to technology long since obsolete.

Whatever the argument, time is fast running out for both companies. Judge Lucy Koh gave each side 25 hours to make its case at the federal court in San Jose and, by the end of Monday, Apple had used 19 hours and 54 minutes and Samsung 23 hours and 58 minutes.

Closing arguments are expected next Monday, April 28, after which the jury will begin daily deliberations until they come up with a verdict.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com



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