Phil Schiller Testifies: ‘You’re Stealing All the Value We’ve Created’
SAN JOSE, California — Phil Schiller was the first witness to speak at the Apple v. Samsung trial Friday, and his words sent a very clear message to the assembled jury: The iPhone and iPad’s designs are revolutionary and iconic, and Samsung outright copied all this unique (and patented) Apple-owned mojo.
“[Copying] creates a huge problem in marketing on many levels. We market our product as the hero and how distinctive it is, how consistent we’ve kept it over time,” said Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, as he was questioned by Apple lawyer Harold McElhinny. “Now when someone comes up with a product that copies that design and copies that marketing, then customers can get confused on whose product is whose…. If you steal [the way the iPhone looks] you’re stealing all the value we’ve created.”
Dressed in a suit (an unusual sight in Silicon Valley), Schiller came across as calm and practiced. Compared to his performances during high-stakes Apple media events (see image above), it appeared that speaking in front of a jury was a piece of cake for the senior VP. When he first took to the stand, Schiller talked about how Apple transitioned from the audio player business to the smartphone arena.
”There were many things that led to the iPhone at Apple,” said Schiller. “We were searching for what to do after iPod that would make sense. If we can make the iPod, what else can we do?” Apple employees tossed around ideas like making a camera, a car, and other “crazy stuff,” Schiller said.
“We realized at the time cellphones weren’t any good as entertainment devices,” Schiller said. Additionally, at the same time, Apple started working on a tablet device that would later become the iPad, which used multitouch so you could type directly on the screen. These ideas eventually led to the iPhone. Schiller testified that what the device did would be important, but Apple also cared about how it looked.
“It’s important to me that a product be unique and distinctive over time,” Schiller said. Looking at a slide of each iteration of iPhone design, Schiller commented that “you see the very consistent shape to it.” He also took Samsung to task for copying the iPhone’s design: “I was pretty shocked when I saw the Galaxy S phone and the extent to which it appeared to copy Apple’s products,” Schiller said, adding later, “My first thought was they’re going to steal our whole product line.”
Schiller also said making a tablet was a “big gamble” because it would mean entering a new device category. “People had tried to make tablets before and failed miserably,” he said, and the iPad was following in the footsteps of the very successful iPod and iPhone.
There were unique marketing challenges for the iPad, Schiller said. “The advertisement has to give you a sense of how it might work, and what it might do for you before you have a chance to head to the store and try it yourself,” he said. Apple’s TV ads have to “create a reason that you might want a tablet in your life,” he said.
Samsung Gets Its Turn to Dine on Grilled Schiller
After Apple’s legal team questioned Schiller, Samsung attorney Bill Price began cross-examining the senior VP. Schiller’s responses were generally terse, and often just supplied the bare minimum of a response. Much of Price’s questioning tried to establish that some of Apple’s patented design elements — such as the shape of the iPhone with its curved corners — were functional, not just aesthetic. Providing an example, Price said curved corners simply make it easier to put the device in one’s pocket. Schiller didn’t bite.
Whether consumers become “confused” by iPhone and Samsung smartphone similarities was also a hot topic. After seeing and reluctantly handling some Samsung smartphones (CNET’S Josh Lowensohn described Schiller’s handling of the Samsung Continuum “like it might give him a communicable disease“), Schiller said, “I looked at this phone and it was my opinion that Samsung has ripped off a number of our design elements and in doing that may be causing confusion.”
Price also tried to demonstrate that “ease of use” is more important than “attractive appearance and design” when people buy iPhones. He used data from Apple customer surveys in an attempt to undermine both the importance of Apple’s design patents, and the amount Apple is asking for in damages. Price followed this up with a bar graph showing that 78 percent of iPhone owners use a case or bumper with their iPhones.
At one point in the questioning, Price needled into the topic of future iPhone design — an area of intense interest for tech watchers worldwide. Trying to make a point that Apple changes its design every few years, Price asked Schiller if Apple would be changing the design of the iPhone for the iPhone 5.
The question was immediately objected to by Apple counsel Harold McElhinny, but Judge Koh, surprisingly, didn’t overrule — the query was relevant to Price’s point. Every reporter’s ears in the room perked up and the room hushed in anticipation of Schiller’s response. But unfortunately, after a brief back and forth with the judge, Schiller simply responded with, “I’d prefer not to tell confidential information about future products.”
In Apple and Samsung’s year-plus long court battles, Apple claims Samsung is infringing on design patents for the iPhone and iPad, as well as utility patents covering things such as the “bounce-back” effect when you reach the end of a list in the UI. Samsung is claiming Apple is infringing on its essential 3G transmission patent holdings. The jury trial for the case began on Monday, and each side made opening statements presenting its case to jurors on Tuesday.
Before the jurors entered the courtroom Friday morning, Judge Koh addressed a public statement made by Samsung in which the company released evidence excluded from the trial. “I will not let any theatrics or any sideshow distract from what we are to do, which is to fairly try this case,” Koh said.
“My sole concern is to preserve the impartiality of the jury,” Judge Koh said sternly. To this end, Koh questioned each juror individually to ask if he or she had been influenced by any media since last in court. One juror had seen a headline about Apple’s design team working at a kitchen table, but said this would not influence his judgment in the case.