Judge again orders Apple, Samsung to streamline claims in iPad patent case

Apple and Samsung Electronics have until Monday to further boil down the number of claims to be considered in the sweeping intellectual-property lawsuit concerning their smartphone and tablet products, which is now scheduled to go to trial July 30.

Judge Lucy Koh of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ordered the companies to pare down the case, in which Apple and Samsung are suing each other over patent infringement and other claims, so a jury can understand and fairly judge the issues in one trial. It was the second time the judge had asked them to downsize their claims. The order came at a case management conference at the court on Wednesday afternoon.

In a joint statement filed Tuesday in preparation for Wednesday’s conference, Apple and Samsung each had offered to drop some patents and claims from the case but said lack of cooperation from the other side prevented greater streamlining. But that left 16 patents, six trademarks, five “trade dress” claims, and an antitrust case, with 37 products accused of violations. The companies each will have 25 hours to present their cases to a jury.

“I think that’s cruel and unusual punishment to a jury, so I’m not willing to do it,” Judge Koh said. “If you’re going to trial in July, this is not going to be acceptable.” If the companies don’t present a more workable set of claims, the trial date could be pushed back to 2013, she suggested.

Apple said it was the only party with an interest in bringing the case to trial on time, and attorney Harold McElhinny of Morrison & Foerster, representing Apple, did most of the pleading for another chance to pare the case down. He asked for guidance on how much the companies could bring to trial, but Koh would not spell it out.

“We will do whatever we need to do to hold the trial date,” McElhinny said.

Apple sued Samsung in April 2011, claiming that the South Korean electronics giant had violated a long list of Apple patents and trademarks in its Android smartphones and tablets. Samsung then sued Apple on patent claims of its own. In February, Apple sued Samsung again on similar grounds, citing products Samsung had introduced after the 2011 complaint was filed. The companies are now embroiled in an array of disputes in courts in several countries.

Also in the joint statement filed Tuesday, each side asked the court not to allow some opposing witnesses and made a variety of other requests for ground rules of the trial. Among other things, Apple asked that the Samsung logo on in-court video screens be obscured during the trial. Apple also wanted the court to exclude any arguments or evidence based on statements attributed to Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in the popular biography written by Walter Isaacson, as well as any references to working conditions in China or to the size of Apple’s tax bills.

On Wednesday, Judge Koh and lawyers for Apple and Samsung also briefly discussed preparations for a trial over Apple’s 2012 suit. She tentatively set the trial date in that case for March 31, 2014.

The suits pit the world’s top two smartphone makers against each other and is shaping up as a showdown between Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, the mobile operating systems that power the lion’s share of phones and tablets sold worldwide.

Apple CEO Tim Cook suggested last week that Apple might be open to a settlement. “I would highly prefer to settle versus battle,” Cook said during a conference call to discuss Apple’s financial results. However, he also said, “We just want people to invent their own stuff.”

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