The legal phoney war between Apple and its biggest rival in smartphones and tablet computers, Samsung, finally gave way to real courtroom hostilities yesterday, as a patent case with billions of dollars at stake got underway in Silicon Valley.
Samsung stands accused of "a deliberate decision to copy Apple's iPhone and iPad" by doing away with keyboards, antennae and other paraphernalia of old smartphones and developing a new range of devices with the sleek look and feel as Apple's designs.
The court, under judge Lucy Koh, has already granted Apple an injunction banning Samsung from selling one version of its Galaxy Tab in the US, pending the outcome of the trial, and the result could severely hamper the South Korean firm's ability to design new phones and tablets without making licensing payments to Apple.
The jury is expected to hear about four weeks of argument, not just on three design patents Apple says Samsung is infringing, but also on more complicated technology patents that Samsung, in a counter-suit, says Apple is infringing.
One star witness is scheduled to be Phil Schiller, the worldwide marketing head at Apple, who will tell jurors how the company's adverts always emphasise the easy-to-use interface of the iPad and iPhone, and how the sleek design has generated positive media coverage – important reasons, Apple is arguing, why Samsung should not simply be allowed to copy these elements.
The presence of the late Steve Jobs will also be felt at the trial. Judge Koh ruled at a preliminary hearing that the Apple founder's hatred for Google, whose Android operating system is used in Samsung devices, is not relevant to the case. Samsung had hoped to introduce remarks from a biography of Mr Jobs in which he is quoted promising to go "thermonuclear" in an effort to "destroy" Android, so as to imply Apple's patent claims are meretricious. However, the judge will allow images of Mr Jobs launching the iPhone in 2007.