Here’s Why Google Should Care About the Apple-Samsung Trial

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Samsung (SSNLF.PK) entered the first phase of their latest court battle on Monday as the jury selection for the next patent-infringement trial began. The new trial is just the latest episode in a long-running series of legal battles that that the companies have been engaged in since the iPhone maker filed its first patent-infringement lawsuit against Samsung in 2011. However, the latest trial is different, because it could also have consequences for Google (NASDAQ:GOOG). Since Apple is targeting technologies that are found in the Android mobile operating system, Google will be playing a more direct role in the latest patent-infringement trial.

As noted by The Telegraph, Samsung will call Hiroshi Lockheimer — vice president of engineering for Android — as a defense witness. The Korea-based company is expected to argue that some of the patented features claimed by Apple had already been independently invented by Google. For its part, Apple will argue that several of Samsung’s Android-based mobile devices are infringing on five of its software patents. The patents cited by Apple cover a universal search feature used by Siri, a “slide-to-unlock” feature, an “autocomplete” feature, a “quick links” data detection method, and a background synching technology.

Although Apple was awarded about $930 million in damages by a jury in the previous patent-infringement trial, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh denied Apple’s request for a permanent sales ban on Samsung’s infringing products. However, the sales ban may have been a moot point since the products that Apple was seeking a sales ban on are no longer sold by Samsung.

As the maker of just the smartphone software and not the hardware, Google cannot be directly sued by Apple. However, many industry watchers believe the lawsuits against Samsung can be viewed as a proxy war on Android. There is evidence that Google views Apple’s lawsuits from that perspective as well. According to United States Patent and Trademark Office data cited by Apple Insider, Google acquired almost 2,000 patents last year in order to secure an arsenal of intellectual property for protection against any potential patent-infringement lawsuits. Approximately 75 percent of the Internet search giant’s total stockpile of about 4,000 patents was acquired in 2012 and 2013.

Many of Google’s patents that were acquired in 2012 came from its purchase of Motorola Mobility, the company it later sold to Lenovo. Not surprisingly, the purchase was made soon after Apple initiated its patent-infringement war against Samsung. “Our hope is to avoid a war,” Google’s chief patent lawyer, Allen Lo, told the Financial Times. “Hopefully we can learn from the smartphone litigation.”

As noted by The Telegraph, Apple has not yet gone “thermonuclear” on Google as former CEO Steve Jobs once threatened to do. However, the focus on Android in the latest patent-infringement trial between Apple and Samsung may put Google uncomfortably close to the line of fire.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter (@ArnoldEtan_WSCS)

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