By Dan Levine and Poornima Gupta
SAN JOSE, Calif., July 30 (Reuters) - An insurance agent, an unemployed video game enthusiast and a project manager for wireless carrier AT&T were among the 10 jurors selected to decide a high-stakes U.S. patent battle between Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, with billions of dollars in the balance.
U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh on Monday spent several hours examining jurors about their backgrounds and biases, as the companies began the trial after more than a year of pretrial jousting. Opening statements by the lawyers are expected to begin on Tuesday.
Apple and Samsung, the world’s largest consumer electronics corporations, are waging legal war around the world, accusing each other of patent violations as they vie for supremacy in a fast-growing market for mobile devices.
The fight began last year when Apple sued Samsung in a San Jose, California, federal court, accusing the South Korean company of slavishly copying the iPhone and iPad. Samsung countersued.
Long lines outside the federal courthouse in San Jose marked the beginning of the trial as lawyers, media and analysts flooded the building to watch the proceedings.
Seven men and three women were eventually picked for the 10-member jury, which also includes a store operations manager for a cycling retailer, a systems engineer and a benefits and payroll manager who works with startups.
The jury was selected after Koh questioned nearly three dozen members of the jury pool on a host of issues, including their choice of phones, how the economic downturn impacted their lives, experience with the legal system and connections to either Samsung, Apple, Google Inc or its Motorola Mobility unit.
Google is a background actor in the trial as Samsung’s smartphones run on Google’s Android operating system. Many analysts see Apple’s global patent wars as a proxy war against Google.
The questioning of prospective jurors on Monday demonstrated the unique challenge of finding a Silicon Valley jury with no bias toward either Apple or Google, companies that are headquartered just a few miles away from the federal courthouse. Both Apple and Google employ thousands in Northern California.
A Google employee in the pool did not make it onto the jury, and an Apple employee was excused after he said he hoped his employer would win.
Another juror was excused after saying the case reminded him of Apple’s legal war against Microsoft over Windows in the 1990s, in which Apple was largely unsuccessful. The potential juror said he couldn’t understand how such a similar case could be brought again.
“In my mind this is practically the exact same thing, but now just dealing with slightly different technology,” he said.
A few holders of technology patents -- including one man with over 120 patents -- were also excused by lawyers for the companies, who get a handful of peremptory challenges to eliminate individual jurors.
The stakes are high for Samsung, which faces potential U.S. sales bans of its Galaxy smartphones and tablet computers, and for Apple, for which this is a pivotal test of its worldwide patent litigation strategy.
It has been tough going so far for Samsung in the case. Judge Koh halted U.S. sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1, giving Apple a significant early win. This was followed by a pretrial ban on the Galaxy Nexus phone. Samsung has appealed both orders.
The trial is expected to last at least four weeks.
The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, is Apple Inc v. Samsung Electronics Co Ltd et al, No. 11-1846.