Several hundred people filed into a United States courtroom this morning as jury selection begins in the Apple vs Samsung patent war in San Jose.
Ironically, Judge Lucy Koh ordered everyone to turn off their cell phones -- in a case that's all about cell phones. The first jurors seated were a cross-section of Silicon Valley, with varying ethnicities and ages.
Of the first 20 potential jurors polled, 10 had an iPhone, 18 were non-iPhone (including one Casio) and two did not own a cell phone at all. Another said his microwave was a Samsung. Five jurors have asked to be immediately excuse as they could not possibly be impartial. Koh told them they can explain their reasons in private.
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There are several hundred potential jurors, but just 30 started the process.
Koh has asked the jury pool if anyone works for or is related to someone who works for Apple, Samsung, Google or Motorola -- adding, "I think that's going to be a lot of people."
One juror indicates he's a user-interface specialist at Google -- making him both the best and worst juror possible, and causing a laugh throughout the room.
The judge also warned that "everyone will have a viewpoint" and that potential jurors should ignore outside influence.
Walter Isaacson's recent biography of Steve Jobs also came up. Judge Koh, one by one, asks the panel if it gave them a negative opinion of Apple. One man said it "didn't change the opinion he already had" of the company.
Koh described the U.S. District Court of Northern California trial simply, adding "this will be an interesting case."
The rest of the world, it seems, has already had its shot at adjudicating the battle.
Germany, Australia and the United Kingdom have all previously weighed in. Apple recently won a European Union ban on sales of Samsung's Galaxy Tab 7.7. However, the UK threw out Apple's claims and ordered the company to take out advertisments, stating Samsung did not copy the iPhone.
These two companies have been at it for two years -- even fighting over where they should physically sit in the courtroom, since each will act as plaintiff/defendant over the course of the trial.
And if we think of the tech markets as a sort of betting house, the money is on Apple, whose stock is up about 1.5-2 percent just prior to the opening gavel.
That may have something to do with a potential "home field advantage" -- what with Apple being a huge Silicon Valley employer and Samsung, with a definite presence here, is still a South Korean company.
Apple is seeking $2.5 billion in damages, claiming that Samsung knowingly used Apple's patented technologies when it designed and produced the Galaxy smartphone and tablet. Apple's market cap peaked in April at $600 billionk, so it's not like it's cash-shy.
Apple has some Samsung documents they say shows the South Korean company knew well and good that it was relying on other's patented property.
Samsung has countered that Apple relied on patents from Sony in devising its own smartphone, the iPhone.