Apple v. Samsung timeline: The guide to what's happening

Legal jargon aside, what is actually going on in the high-profile Apple v. Samsung case, and how did it start? Let's take a look at the timeline.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

[Updated August 22, 2012]

The high-profile battle between technology giants Apple and Samsung has managed to cross not only country borders, but probably the comprehension of many trying to follow the trial, which is taking place in San Jose, Calif.

Samsung vs pple

So, without further ado and in bite-size portions, here is a rundown of the trial's events thus far, all the way from the beginning:

Key Facts

  • In the original lawsuit filed by Apple against Samsung in April 2011, the former stated that the South-Korean firm had ripped off the design and technology of Apple products.
  • The actual terms used? Apple alleges that Samsung "slavishly" copied its designs.
  • In response, Samsung counter-sued, saying that Apple had infringed a number of patents to do with 3G.
  • Hitting the ball back, Apple then pushed on, stating Samsung copied the "look and feel" of the Apple iOS range of devices, namely the Galaxy line of smartphones and tablets.
  • The lawsuit has spread to over 30 courts across four continents, and after negotiations failed, landed in front of a judge for the true showdown in July 2012.
  • Apple is seeking $2.5 billion in damages, and Samsung is also seeking financial restitution.

The Timeline

July 2011:

Apple sued Samsung for patent infringement, namely through products including the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. Samsung then counter-sued over 3G patents, which are owned by the firm. Samsung says that the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and iPad 2 infringe these patents.

August 2011:

Samsung's Galaxy 10.1 tablet was put on hold in Australia after an intellectual property and trade practises hearing. Apple Australia acquired the U.S. version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1, studied it, filed a lawsuit, and claimed intellectual property right infringement based on the design of the iPad.

The case Apple bought against Samsung was speedy -- and effective

The two smartphone and tablet giants then struck a deal. Samsung agreed to restrict the sales of its Galaxy Tab tablet in Australia and would also give Apple sample devices and source code of devices that apparent crossed the line for study -- and approval.

However, it did not end there. Apple then won a victory in a German court, securing a preliminary (i.e. temporary) injunction against the sale of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 throughout the European Union, with the exception of the Netherlands. This took immediate effect in Germany

Was that it? Not at all. In the same breath, researchers accused Apple of modifying images of Samsung's tablet, which were then presented to the Düsseldorf court who granted the original injunction. Afterwards, the judge claimed he also handled the tablets and did not rely purely on the supplied images.

In addition, Samsung filed an emergency complaint that the German court overstepped the mark in trying to impose a ban on sales in other EU countries. As a result, the ruling was lifted across the EU -- except for in Germany.

Basically, Apple believed that the 10.1-inch variant -- the American type -- of the Galaxy Tab looked far too similar to the iPad, and tried to prevent its sale. Not only this, but Apple alleged that Samsung had breached several of its patents, including "slide to unlock" and "edge-bump" functions. 

September 2011:

The new Galaxy Tab 7.7 was next to fall afoul of the German courts, being banned by a court injunction, and was unable to be showcased at one of the world's largest technology shows in Berlin, the IFA electronics show

Meanwhile, in Australia, Samsung set about counter-suing Apple after delaying the Galaxy Tab 10.1 launch down under. The claim was filed with the Federal Court of Australia in New South Wales, and stated that Apple infringed seven Australian patents related to 3G networking on its third- and fourth-generation iPhones and iPad 2 devices.

So far: Apple says Samsung's tablet infringes design patents, and Samsung says that iPhones and iPads infringe 3G patents. 

Samsung's move seemed to go against its original agreement to grant Apple samples of the tablet for study, and to restrict sales. In reprisal, the firm also gathered its army to sue Apple in order to prevent the iPhone 5 making its way to South Korea, taking its case to court on 16 September.

The seven patents that Apple allegedly infringed upon through its iDevices were for methods of data transmission, decoding, power management and mobile data management. Not only this, but Samsung demanded that Apple drop its complaint in Australian court.

These patents are what is known as 'standards-essential patents' -- in other words, 3G will not work without the technology. Samsung is required therefore to license them under reasonable, non-discriminatory and fair measures -- what are known as FRAND terms.

However, if Samsung is required to license the patents that Apple allegedly infringed, what happened to the licensing? Apple said that the terms were "not reasonable" and differed from other third-party vendors.

Up to this moment in our timeline, Apple also filed other similar claims in countries including Japan, the UK and France. 

October 2011:

The Australian ban on the Galaxy Tab continues, and the two sides continue to squabble. Reports stated that the court sided with Apple on two of the patents Samsung allegedly infringed. 

See also: All of Apple's patent claims against Samsung in one chart

Next: Victory for Samsung?


November 2011:

Samsung's victory against Apple is announced. An Australian federal appeals court unanimously chose to lift the preliminary sales injunction which banned the sale of the Galaxy tablet.

However, a stay was also one of the conditions, which prevented the company from selling the product until 2 December 2011, 4 p.m. local time. 

The physical design of the tablet also changed in order to comply with requests from Apple's legal team after the sales ban issued by the court in Germany

December 2011:

Apple's legal requests to block Samsung from selling certain 4G-enabled products to consumers based in the United States fail.

March 2012:

We come back to the original agreement between Samsung and Apple concerning the handover of mobile device models for inspection. The iPhone maker accuses its South-Korean rival of "failing to comply" with the order set against them as part of the deal, and the "partial compliance" was due to not handing over everything that was agreed.

Only one device that allegedly infringed on Apple's patents was handed over with its source code, rather than all of them.

The filing was submitted to a San Jose, California federal court -- where we find ourselves now. 

April 2012:

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, who has presided over a number of the Apple v. Samsung cases, orders the two sides to talk. It seems cooler heads want to prevail by now, with settlement talk dates set for May 21--22 in San Francisco, with Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero acting as moderator.

The nature of the talks was deemed "voluntary".

Apple's chief executive Tim Cook said during Apple's Q1 earnings call:

"I would highly prefer to settle than to battle. But it's important that Apple not become the developer for the world. But the key thing is that it's very important that Apple not become the developer for the world. We need people to invent their own stuff."

Agreeable or not? AllThingsD's John Paczkowski had an interesting point to make:

"If Samsung is willing to concede to that, then these two days of court-ordered settlement talks ought to go quite smoothly. But that seems unlikely, which means this battle will probably roll on for a good long time."

May 2012:

Apple was given the go-ahead to seek a sales injunction on Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1, to see the product banned from U.S. stores after failing in December. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit also said a sales ban should be imposed until a trial can be held.

Apple sought the ban because "each day that Samsung continues to sell its infringing Tab 10.1 causes additional harm to Apple through design dilution, lost sales, lost market share, and lost future sales of tag-along products," according to a court filing.

This ruling was given just a week before settlement talks were due to begin... 

Well, that didn't go well. Unsurprising when Apple was given permission to steam ahead with the U.S. sales ban. A lengthy and costly trial becomes the final option, and the trial date is set for July 30. 

June 2012:

Following the appeals court ruling, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh had to reconsider the preliminary sales injunction against Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Koh ruled that Apple's request to prevent Galaxy Tab sales in the U.S. would have to wait for court procedures to be completed. A higher appeals court was required to formally cede jurisdiction back to her before the request could be granted.

The motion was denied

July 2012:

Kicking off in San Jose, Calif., a few miles away from Apple and Google's headquarters, the dispute between the two rival firms was estimated to take a minimum of four weeks to resolve.

10 individuals, based in Santa Clara, Calif., were chosen for the jury from a pool of 74. The jury included a social worker, a systems engineer, an AT&T supervisor, a store operations manager, a city worker for Gilroy, a benefits and payroll manager, and an unemployed video gamer. 

On 18 July, a U.K. judge ruled that Apple must publicize a notice on both its U.K. website and in British newspapers stating that Samsung did not copy the iPad's design -- and the notice has to be left on its website for six months. 

The judge said:

"Samsung products are very thin, almost insubstantial members of that family with unusual details on the back. They do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design. They are not as cool."

A week after, Apple was granted a reprieve on the adverts. A London court offered the corporation breathing space, so Apple has time to launch an appeal in October. 

A few days before the trial began, the late co-founder Steve Jobs' commented on Android are deemed "irrelevant" in court, much to Samsung's chagrin. 

On the 22 July, the trial officially begins, marking what is now three months of hearings over the patent infringement case.

After months of directional hearings, evidence submission and exclusion, jury re-shuffling and testimony seeking, it's about to kick off.

In the meantime, Apple releases a new iPad and iPhone, and Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Galaxy S III enter the marketplace properly.

Through the trial, an odd business triangle appears. Apple says Samsung copied its designs, but Samsung counter-claims saying that the rival firm ripped off Sony -- internal emails that may enforce this being excluded from court.

Potentially in rebellion, some of the evidence Samsung wanted to include in the trial that was excluded is released to the press, including data on its F700 smartphone design, which predates the iPhone. Samsung said it was following the rules

Reaching the end of July, Koh is reported as "livid" because of Samsung's disclosure to the media. This, naturally, made her deaf to the pleas of Samsung lawyer John Quinn, who threw himself to the court's mercy to try and have the evidence accepted, saying:

"In 36 years, I've never begged the court. I'm begging the court now. What's the point in having a trial?"

Apple was not best pleased, and its counsel William Lee said the company would file an "emergency motion for sanctions" as well as "other relief that may be appropriate." 

This was denied by Koh. The judge said:

"Some of these objections are ridiculous, they're five paragraphs long. If you're going to do that messy objection, you're going to do it in front of the jury, and the time clock is going to be ticking. I will not let any theatrics or sideshows distract us from what we're here to do, which is to fairly and timely decide this case."

Hearings got underway on the 23rd. According to the Federal Court online portal, the trial's complex nature is set to run its course in the last week of February -- a hearing scheduled for every day -- until 17 May 2013.

Next: August 2012 .. until now



August 2012 .. until now:

The second week of hearings begins. Samsung counsel Katrina Howard accused Apple of meeting with 3G patent experts that provided evidence to previous court cases in Australia, and convincing two to "change their minds".

Who said what?

  • A Samsung executive testified that the company has as many as 100 different smartphones available in the U.S. market at any given moment, many of which are and look "distinctly different".

  • During the cross-examination of Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller, Samsung's attorney tried to get the executive to talk about a product that hasn't been announced yet. He asked whether Apple's next iPhone model would look anything like existing versions, or if changes were in store. 

  • Peter Bressler -- a former president of the Industrial Designers Society and the founder and board chair of product design firm Bresslergroup -- said numerous Samsung designs infringed on Apple's patents, implying it is possible that consumers may confuse the two devices.  

  • Samsung chief strategy officer Justin Denison denies that the company is copying anything, finding the idea "offensive". 

     "At Samsung, we're very very proud of the products we produce, of all the hard work that goes into bringing those products to market. What we would like to be able to do is simply compete in the market, continue what we've been doing for the last 15 years in the market."

  • An Apple expert acknowledged that even if Samsung's products are similar enough to Apple's to confuse consumers, it doesn't stand to follow that Apple's sales are harmed. 

  • Apple called upon the testimony of Massachusetts Institute of Technology marketing professor John Hauser to explain survey results claiming that Samsung consumers would pay anywhere from $39 to $100 for Apple's features --  the same ones being fought over in court. 

  • The testimony of one of Samsung's key designers was scrapped by Koh. Lead designer for Samsung's F700 phone, Hyong Shin Park, was barred after an Apple request. Park had previously said that the designs were inspired by a "bowl of water" rather than copied technology. Apple argued her testimony was irrelevant.  

Evidence points of note:

  • Some of Apple's entered exhibits seem to show that Samsung's phones only began looking similar to an iPhone in 2010. Other slides were submitted but had to be changed following objections by Samsung. 

  • A piece of evidence which is submitted to court is obtained by AllThingsD, which is a translation of a report prepared by Samsung in 2010 that directly compares the iPhone to the Galaxy S. In the document, the firm compares hundreds of aspects between the two devices, noting key differences and areas for improvement.

  • Following on, one of the first iPad prototypes is excluded as evidence in the trial, despite it having been shown to jurors. 

  • In addition, another report produced by Samsung at court, contained Apple's internal research data. It suggests that most U.S. phone shoppers bought an Android device instead of an iPhone in order to stick with their carrier.
  • A consumer survey Apple sponsored and completed in 2008, shown as evidence, found there was confusion about whether the Galaxy Tab was a Samsung product or an iPad. In reprisal, Samsung used the simple function of turning different device models on -- two phones and a tablet -- to contend the idea that consumers could become confused looking at each model.

  • During the testimony of Ravin Balakrishnan, a professor in the department of computer science at the University of Toronto, Apple brought out two of Samsung's internal usability studies -- one for a smartphone and another for a tablet. Direct instructions were found within to "mimic" Apple's software

  • An internal memo raised at court, addressed to Samsung's "UX [user experience] executives," makes it clear that designers and developers should take "lessons" from the iPhone, but not copy it

    See also: Apple's original 'copying' presentation to Samsung

.. anything else?

A wealth of sensitive company data concerning both companies has been released, despite both firms pleading for exclusion from the public domain. Since the iPad launched in Q2 2010, Apple has sold 32 million iPads in the United States. In comparison, within the timeframe, Samsung sold only 1.4 million tablets.

Apple has also accused Samsung of stealing their icons, in addition to the original patent complaint. Apple's director of patent licensing and strategy also said that the firm approached Samsung in 2010 over patent infringement. 

In court, it was revealed that Apple offered to license patents to Samsung based on fees of $30 per smartphone, and $40 per tablet.

A long-running patent deal between Apple and Microsoft came to light next at the trial, which acknowledges there's no cloning of the iPhone on the Windows phone model. Specific rules are in place to prevent "clone" products. 

Three of Samsung's allegedly infringing phones were excluded from the trial yesterday. The Galaxy Ace, Galaxy S i9000, and Galaxy S II i9100 are now no longer under contention.


"I want papers. I don't trust what any lawyer tells me in this courtroom. I want to see actual papers."

We may be seeing more new details appearing which include business dealings between both the rival firms and other corporations enter the public domain soon. In a court ruling issued by Koh, taking into consideration many appeals of privacy have been ignored, the judge wrote:

"Although the Court has generally allowed royalty terms of licensing agreements to be sealed, Samsung is seeking to seal a proposed royalty rate between the two litigants. This information is important to the parties' damages calculations and therefore important for the public's understanding of this case."

So far in the high-profile battle, information has been made public that the two firms probably both regret. However, as the trial is highly unlikely to finish any time soon, these facts will not be the last we learn about the two technology giants. 


14 August: Samsung's senior designer Jeeyuen Wang takes the stand, and attempted to quash claims that Samsung's phone and photography app iconography was a copy of Apple's. 

14 August: U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh seems to have had her fill of 'courtroom theatrics' (think back on Apple appeals and Samsung releasing information to the press). She told the court on Tuesday after Apple raised objections to one of Samsung's witnesses, trying to block Tim Williams, Ph.D., one of Samsung's expert witnesses from testifying:

15 August: Koh told the CEOs of the two firms to lock themselves in a room and fight it out before the jury decides, talks in court resulted in a discussion of a low-level cellular-communications chip in Apple's iPhone, and one of Samsung's head designers says the company was working on tablet design well before the iPad's debut.

See also, just for fun: CNET's Chris Matyszczyk acts the clueless consumer in Best Buy to confuse Apple and Samsung products.

16 August: It seems the judge's patience is wearing thin, after asking if Apple was "smoking crack" when handed a last-minute witness list -- all 75 pages of it. Hours afterwards, Koh questioned Samsung's strategy, saying it may have burned up too much of its time cross-examining Apple's witnesses -- using 14 of its 25 hours -- rather than presenting its own case. 

Samsung rested its case after putting witnesses on to the stand that said the iPhone maker may owe as much as $421.8 million in royalty payments.

17 August: Apple and Samsung today both ran through the last few hours -- or in Samsung's case, just minutes -- of their allotted 25 hours for rebuttals and clarifications. Still ahead are closing arguments in which the two companies get their last chance to convince a jury of nine that the other company is infringing on its technology. 

20 August: Samsung CEO Kwon Oh Hyun had a chat with Apple CEO Tim Cook, but failed to reach a deal. In addition, Motorola Mobility filed new patent infringement claims against Apple, and wants its range of desktop and mobile devices banned from U.S. sale.

In court, one of Apple's experts recreated a 1994 tablet prototype.

Facing disclosure to a jury that both Apple and Samsung failed to uphold document retention laws, the two companies struck a deal to keep the matter of lost emails private. However, Koh had her own problems to deal with -- believing that the jury will have trouble tallying up damages for the two rival firms.

In a separate case from the one in San Jose, Apple began arguing for an appeals court to go through with a ban on Samsung's Galaxy Nexus.

See also: Mutually Assured Destruction: Google/Motorola vs. Apple

21 August: Interested in seeing sketches from the courtroom? 

22 August: The closing arguments are in. Apple relied on Samsung's documents to try and prove patent infringement, whereas Samsung argued that siding with the rival firm would change the "way competition works in this country".

Deliberations begin on Wednesday.

25 August: The verdict is in.

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