So far one of the biggest problems for the federal judge overseeing a
patent battle between the world's largest smartphone makers isn't about
stolen ideas. It's getting the roomful of smartphone devotees to turn
off their devices.
U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh has become
increasingly frustrated during the first few days of the trial pitting
Apple against Samsung because the many personal Wi-Fi signals interfere
with a network the judge relies on for a real-time transcript of the
The phones also ring, buzz and jingle, and can be used to take photos, a serious violation of court rules.
the first five days of trial, Koh has interrupted testimony with a
sharp "Phones off!" She's warned that she might force everyone to hand
over their phones. She's threatened to send everyone, except a select
few, into an overflow room. And she's shamed those with phones turned on
to "Stand up!" which a few sheepishly did.
The disturbances are unusual for a federal court, which is typically a quiet space with respect for tradition and decorum.
make sure your cellphones are off so we don't have the same real-time
issue we've been having," courtroom deputy Martha Parker-Brown warned on
Already that morning, before the judge or jury had
entered the courtroom, unusual shouts of "hey, hey, hey, hey, hey!" rang
out as Apple attorney William Lee pointed at Wharton School marketing
professor David Reibstein, who was taking photos from the spectator
rows. Reibstein was escorted out, questioned by a marshal and required
to erase the photos.
"I've never been in a federal trial before,"
Reibstein said after he was allowed to return. "I just didn't know the
Smartphone controversies were obviously expected
when the fiercest rivalry in the world of phone makers returned to court
in the heart of Silicon Valley. Just not this way.
Apple Inc. and
Samsung Electronics Co. are accusing each other, once again, of ripping
off designs and features. The trial marks the latest round in a
long-running series of lawsuits between the two tech giants, and is
being tried less than two years after a federal jury found Samsung was
infringing on Apple patents.
Samsung was ordered to pay about $900
million but is appealing. This time Apple is accusing Samsung of
infringing on five patents on newer devices. At stake is more than $2
billion if Samsung loses, about $6 million if Apple loses.
(Also see: Samsung's $1 billion penalty in Apple case slashed in half)
high-profile case has packed the courtroom, with dozens of black-suited
attorneys backed by rows of reporters and experts. Executives and staff
members from the two companies sit on opposite sides of the courtroom
and whip out their respective iPhones and Galaxy devices in the hallways
"It's a case of connection addiction," Columbia
University religious studies professor Robert A.F. Thurman said when he
was told about the drama. "They're afraid to be on their own, without
some sort of artificial assistance. It needs to be treated by some kind
of contemplative therapy."
Problems with smartphones surfaced
almost immediately after the trial started, despite a sign asking people
to turn off cell phones taped to the heavy courtroom doors.
As a jury was being picked, Koh ordered all phones off - several times. Nonetheless, some were occasionally heard ringing.
"Please turn your phones off. We don't want an angry judge," Parker-Brown said the next day before opening statements.
judge and attorneys use the live transcript feed from a court reporter
to review testimony and rulings when attorneys raise objections. But
with so many computers, tablets and phones in the room, the feed often
Breaking for lunch on day five, Koh's tone was more subdued but her aggravation was apparent.
the transcript died again this morning," she said. "Please if you're
going to come in, keep your cellphones off. If you need your phone on,
please go to the overflow room."
That didn't happen. Instead, when
the trial resumed, she caught someone using a phone in court,
threatened to bring in security, and then, irritated, asked why so many
lawyers are using Wi-Fi at all.
"I don't know what all of you do," Koh said, noting all the online activity during court.
The trial is expected to last until the end of this month.
For more stories related to Apple and Samsung patent case check out Apple vs Samsung.