Samsung v Apple gets contempt of court-y

The Korean tech giant released prohibited evidence to the press, angering the presiding judge

Apple versus Samsung got off to a turbulent start yesterday, with the presiding judge, Lucy Koh, berating the Korean tech giant for what looks very much like attempted contempt of court.

Apple's lawsuit, which is over allegations that Samsung deliberately copied Apple's patented designs for the iPhone for its own smartphone products, is matched by a countersuit from Samsung, alledging that Apple is in breach of its own patents relating to mobile phone technology. Apple is attempting to portraty its opponent as an admitted copycat which only resorted to patent suits when it couldn't defend its designs on their own merits, while Samsung is trying to argue that Apple is the real copycat.

Some of the evidence presented yesterday is more compelling than others. Apple pointed to internal Samsung documents describing the iPhone as "easy to copy", while Samsung argues that much of what Apple claims is "magical" design was in fact industry standard long before the iPhone.

However, Samsung was angered by the judge's decision not to let them submit some evidence to the jury which they deemed crucial. Two arguments, that Apple itself may have ripped off Sony, and that Samsung had an iPhone lookalike in development before the phone's release, were prevented from being presented in court due to late submissions.

Both these arguments have been in the public domain for several days now, and the Sony claim isn't as strong as Samsung may hope. The company pointed out that Apple itself sent round an internal brief to design a "Sony-like" phone, which would eventually become the iPhone. The problem Samsung has it that this is the Sony phone (pic) they alledge Apple ripped off, and it is a far cry from the outcome of that prototyping session, the "Jony" phone (pic), named after Apple designer Jony Ive. Meanwhile, the difference between Samsung's Vibrant (pic) and an iPhone is less obvious.

But the latter defence is one that the company may regret not getting in. The Verge has a picture of the slide Samsung were hoping to show the jury, which shows five different internal prototypes of touchscreen, one-button phones in development before the iPhone's announcement in January 2007.

Unfortunately, while the decision by the judge not to allow that to be shown in court may have damaged Samsung's chances, the company itself may have done far worse. Immediately following Judge Koh's final rejection, Samsung "emailed its rejected slides regarding F700 development and the 'Sony-style' prototype to the press with a statement saying 'The excluded evidence would have established beyond doubt that Samsung did not copy the iPhone design,'" according to the Verge's Nilay Patel.

Worse still, the statement argues that "fundamental fairness requires that the jury decide the case based on all the evidence". One person's plaintive cry of unfairness sounds a lot like another's nudge-and-wink suggestion that the jury ought to see evidence banned from court anyway. Judge Koh was "livid" when she found out, and demanded to know who authorised the release. This is a move that could come back to haunt Samsung.

Spot the difference... A Samsung and an Apple phone.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

Why are boundary changes bad for Labour?

New boundaries, a smaller House of Commons and the shift to individual electoral registration all tilt the electoral battlefield further towards the Conservatives. Why?

The government has confirmed it will push ahead with plans to reduce the House of Commons to 600 seats from 650.  Why is that such bad news for the Labour Party? 

The damage is twofold. The switch to individual electoral registration will hurt Labour more than its rivals. . Constituency boundaries in Britain are drawn on registered electors, not by population - the average seat has around 70,000 voters but a population of 90,000, although there are significant variations within that. On the whole, at present, Labour MPs tend to have seats with fewer voters than their Conservative counterparts. These changes were halted by the Liberal Democrats in the coalition years but are now back on course.

The new, 600-member constituencies will all but eliminate those variations on mainland Britain, although the Isle of Wight, and the Scottish island constituencies will remain special cases. The net effect will be to reduce the number of Labour seats - and to make the remaining seats more marginal. (Of the 50 seats that would have been eradicated had the 2013 review taken place, 35 were held by Labour, including deputy leader Tom Watson's seat of West Bromwich East.)

Why will Labour seats become more marginal? For the most part, as seats expand, they will take on increasing numbers of suburban and rural voters, who tend to vote Conservative. The city of Leicester is a good example: currently the city sends three Labour MPs to Westminster, each with large majorities. Under boundary changes, all three could become more marginal as they take on more wards from the surrounding county. Liz Kendall's Leicester West seat is likely to have a particularly large influx of Tory voters, turning the seat - a Labour stronghold since 1945 - into a marginal. 

The pattern is fairly consistent throughout the United Kingdom - Labour safe seats either vanishing or becoming marginal or even Tory seats. On Merseyside, three seats - Frank Field's Birkenhead, a Labour seat since 1950, and two marginal Labour held seats, Wirral South and Wirral West - will become two: a safe Labour seat, and a safe Conservative seat on the Wirral. Lillian Greenwood, the Shadow Transport Secretary, would see her Nottingham seat take more of the Nottinghamshire countryside, becoming a Conservative-held marginal. 

The traffic - at least in the 2013 review - was not entirely one-way. Jane Ellison, the Tory MP for Battersea, would find herself fighting a seat with a notional Labour majority of just under 3,000, as opposed to her current majority of close to 8,000. 

But the net effect of the boundary review and the shrinking of the size of the House of Commons would be to the advantage of the Conservatives. If the 2015 election had been held using the 2013 boundaries, the Tories would have a majority of 22 – and Labour would have just 216 seats against 232 now.

It may be, however, that Labour dodges a bullet – because while the boundary changes would have given the Conservatives a bigger majority, they would have significantly fewer MPs – down to 311 from 330, a loss of 19 members of Parliament. Although the whips are attempting to steady the nerves of backbenchers about the potential loss of their seats, that the number of Conservative MPs who face involuntary retirement due to boundary changes is bigger than the party’s parliamentary majority may force a U-Turn.

That said, Labour’s relatively weak electoral showing may calm jittery Tory MPs. Two months into Ed Miliband’s leadership, Labour averaged 39 per cent in the polls. They got 31 per cent of the vote in 2015. Two months into Tony Blair’s leadership, Labour were on 53 per cent of the vote. They got 43 per cent of the vote. A month and a half into Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Labour is on 31 per cent of the vote.  A Blair-style drop of ten points would see the Tories net 388 seats under the new boundaries, with Labour on 131. A smaller Miliband-style drop would give the Conservatives 364, and leave Labour with 153 MPs.  

On Labour’s current trajectory, Tory MPs who lose out due to boundary changes may feel comfortable in their chances of picking up a seat elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog. He usually writes about politics.