Judge: Apple v. Samsung trial ‘not about Steve Jobs’


The Apple(s AAPL) versus Samsung legal showdown over the iPad and the Android-powered Galaxy Tab is set to kick off in a San Jose, Calif. courtroom at the end of July. And the presiding judge, Lucy Koh, took steps to ensure that Apple founder Steve Jobs — and more specifically, quotes from his biography published in October 2011 — are not a focus of the trial. On Wednesday, she instructed Samsung’s attorneys not to bring Jobs’ most controversial statements about Android(s GOOG) into the proceedings, according to Reuters.

Jobs’ incendiary comments about Android are, by now, famous, including “I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong” and “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”

Samsung, for obvious reasons, wants his quotes to be admitted. According to Reuters, which was present at the hearing on Wednesday:

In seeking to introduce Jobs’ statements in court, Samsung argued in a filing that the thermonuclear quote “speaks to Apple’s bias, improper motives and its lack of belief in its own claims in that they are a means to an end, namely the destruction of Android.”

Koh, who’s already issued an injunction on the Galaxy Tab 10.1, disagreed, saying, “I really don’t think this is a trial about Steve Jobs.”

It’s interesting how Koh’s response deviates from the answer Apple counsel got in another, similar patent trial. In the Apple v. Motorola case (that was ultimately tossed) Apple made the same request of Judge Richard Posner last month, and he rejected it, making the statements fair game. Posner did not offer an explanation as to why he thought the quotes were relevant. Since that case never made it to trial, we don’t know if Jobs’ comments were actually a distraction from the case at hand.

But it’s notable that he and Koh weren’t that far apart on the Apple founder being a potential distraction. His reputation clearly is a factor to consider. Posner also warned Apple’s lawyers not “to insinuate to the jury that this case is a popularity contest and jurors should be predisposed to render a verdict for Apple if they like Apple products or the Apple company or admire Steve Jobs.”

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