Apple, Samsung Expert Witnesses Reap Big Bucks - InformationWeek
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Apple, Samsung Expert Witnesses Reap Big Bucks

How pretty was the pay day? Apple gave one expert witness $1.75 million to construct a damages figure in the case against Samsung.

Apple iPhone 5 Vs. Samsung Galaxy S III: What We Know
Apple iPhone 5 Vs. Samsung Galaxy S III: What We Know
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Despite all the contradictions and complexities in the Apple vs. Samsung patent infringement trial, one thing was abundantly clear: expert witnesses, supporting one side or the other, make a lot of money.

For them, their day in court is often the result of many hours of advance preparation leading to 15 minutes of fame and a big pay day.

Many of the witnesses were professors who have specialized in the user interface or wireless communications. Others were specialists in more narrow fields, such as icon expert Susan Kare, or entrepreneurs who had built companies and made fortunes selling them to Silicon Valley companies. Tim Williams has made over $1 million each of the past two years serving as an expert witness. He's an entrepreneur who sold one wireless company to Intel, another to Qualcomm in San Diego. As a Samsung witness, he was completely at home in the courtroom and seemed to relish the difficult questions that would come with Apple's cross examination.

Williams was the witness that Apple tried to keep out of the courtroom Aug. 14, with help from an impromptu appearance by an Intel lawyer. (Samsung is an Intel competitor in cell phone baseband processors that manage wireless transmissions.) The Intel lawyer claimed Williams had violated full disclosure requirements, which meant he had a conflict of interest that might compromise Intel if he disclosed Intel source code. That's a difficult charge to pin down when it's an accepted practice in Silicon Valley for witnesses to honor non-disclosure agreements with parties they've previously done work for. Both sides eventually agreed that Williams had made no attempt to mislead the court. In the end, U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh seemed to agree with Samsung's Charles Verhoeven that the Intel/Apple team was trying to create a last minute disruption of the Samsung witness list.

[ Want to see how a Samsung expert witness got some final points into the trial record? See Samsung Gets In The Last Word Against Apple. ]

Williams came back a second time Aug. 17 and was put on the stand near the end of proceedings. His unexcitable, plain language was understandable by laymen, in contrast to some other expert testimony, and he undid some of the damage that had been done by a parade of Apple witnesses. Apple's Bill Lee noted to the jury that this wasn't a rare encounter between the two of them. "He's testified against Apple seven times" in the past year, he said, which might explain why Williams made over $1 million as an expert witness in both 2011 and 2010. He didn't volunteer his hourly rate.

Many of the experts were professors who came from a range of universities, on both the East and West Coasts. But they charged a surprisingly similar rate for their expertise, usually $400 to $450 an hour. No one's expertise, it seemed, was worth a mere $375 or $395. Some of them racked up hundreds of hours of work preparing for their brief appearances in the big beige federal courtroom.

Terry Musika, an expert in patent infringement damages and managing director of the Invotex Group, said he and a team financial analysts determined that Samsung's infringement damage to Apple ranged between $2.5 billion and $2.75 billion. Apple had paid him $1.75 million to come up with those figures.

Samsung attorneys pointed out that the calculation had failed to deduct any business expenses from revenues to actually determine profits, even though Apple and Samsung both have to do such calculations to submit their quarterly results. The calculations also lumped all of Samsung's products together, while Apple actually named about 20 infringing phones and two infringing tablets, not all 150 phone models that Samsung produces. These and other accounting 101 errors cast doubt on how they had arrived at their figures.

Nevertheless, when Samsung in closing pointed out how much Musika had been paid to come up with a high damage figure, Apple attorneys responded part of his fee included building a computer model with the help of additional financial analyst staff to calculate damages.

Andries van Dam, professor of computer graphics at Brown University, testified that Apple's bounce back feature was neither unique nor invented by Apple. "I have taught 'snap back' to my introductory computer graphics class for ten years," he said. That testimony was worth 460 hours of preparation at $1,000 an hour, or $460,000.

Woodward Yang, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Harvard, testified that Apple's iPhone and iPad use technologies covered by three Samsung patents and they infringe on those patents. Yang charges $550 an hour and spent 400 hours on the case, earning $220,000. He previously earned $200,000 representing Apple in an Apple vs. Nokia case.

Susan Kare, one of the original Macintosh icon designers in 1982, also worked with Jobs at Next Computer, then left to establish her own design firm. She's done work for other computer firms, including Microsoft, and authored an authoritative text, Susan Kare Icons. She testified that Samsung's application screen on its Galaxy smart phones has some differences from the iPhone's home screen, but they are too similar for it to have happened by accident.

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User Rank: Ninja
8/24/2012 | 11:20:00 AM
re: Apple, Samsung Expert Witnesses Reap Big Bucks
How objective is an "expert" when they get that much money? This is a flaw in how these court cases are run. The parties should be allowed to name whatever expert they want, but there is a maximum pay that is reasonably and customary for consulting services.
User Rank: Apprentice
8/23/2012 | 5:57:13 PM
re: Apple, Samsung Expert Witnesses Reap Big Bucks
Good Lord, the behavior of both Apple and Samsung is totally reprehensible. Everyone involved with this trial is going to make a mint. Such a pity that all parties involved forget about the consumer, which in this case will get soaked.

I will not be buying any more products from Apple or Samsung. Ever. I'd like to see more of you out there do the same.This goes way beyond being a fan-boy for the products we think we must have, it's about doing the right thing.
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