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Finally, she noted that many Americans view Apple and its late founder Steve Jobs as legendary innovators. “Apple changed the world when it came to computers. Apple changed the world when it came to phones,” she said.

Samsung has vowed to fight the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. It will first ask the trial judge to toss the verdict. Failing that, Samsung will appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington D.C., a specialized court that hears nearly all patent appeals.

Apple itself benefited from a judge last year reversing a jury’s verdict in a patent trial in Tyler, Texas. A jury had awarded software company Mirror Worlds $625.5 million after concluding Apple infringed three patents related to how documents are displayed on computer screens.

“Mirror Worlds may have painted an appealing picture for the jury, but it failed to lay a solid foundation sufficient to support important elements it was required to establish under the law,” U.S. District Judge Leonard Davis wrote in April 2011 in tossing out the jury’s verdict.

The number of jury trials, as opposed to “bench” trials presided over exclusively by a judge, has greatly increased in the last 20 years, a 2011 PriceWaterhouseCoopers study concluded. It found that only 14 percent of patent trials were held before juries in 1980, 25 percent in 1990 and nearly 60 percent since 2000.

The consultants attributed that dramatic rise in part to a tendency of juries to award higher damages than judges. The average jury award was a little more than $10 million during the last decade while the average award after a bench trial was barely more than $1 million.

Both sides must agree in order to have a case decided by a judge rather than a jury.

The number of patent suits in the technology sector has soared in recent years.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers reported that 182 lawsuits were filed between 2006 and 2010 involving patents in “computer hardware/electronics, software and telecommunications.” That was an increase from 77 filed during the previous five years.

Losing companies often appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which received 432 cases from the federal district courts in the 12-month period ending March 2011. The court reported that it reversed 19 percent of those cases, without differentiating between bench trials versus jury trials.

“The purpose of the patent system is to encourage innovation, but the system is still too often exploited in pursuit of other goals,” Steven Zipperstein, the chief legal officer of Blackberry phone maker Research in Motion Ltd., said in a statement earlier this month. “This case clearly highlights the significant need for continuing policy reform to help reduce the amount of resources wasted on unwarranted patent litigation,” he said.

Zipperstein was responding to U.S. District Judge James Ware tossing out a $147.2 million jury verdict against Ontario, Canada-based RIM after a monthlong patent trial in San Francisco.

The judge said the “clear weight of the evidence” couldn’t support the jury’s verdict that RIM used the patented technology of New Jersey-based software maker Mformation Technologies.


AP video journalist Haven Daley in Palo Alto, Calif., contributed to this report.