By Dan Levine and Poornima Gupta
SAN JOSE, California (Reuters) - Apple Inc spent years developing its iconic iPhone, but Samsung took a shortcut by copying its rival's designs after realizing it could not keep up, an Apple attorney said as the high-stakes patent infringement trial drew towards a climax.
Closing arguments kicked off on Tuesday at the closely watched trial between Apple and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd in a federal court in San Jose, California. The jury will likely begin deliberating on Wednesday.
Samsung attorney Charles Verhoeven countered by saying consumers are not confused between the products from the two mobile companies. He urged jurors to consider that a verdict in favor of Apple could stifle competition and reduce choices for consumers.
"Rather than competing in the marketplace, Apple is seeking a competitive edge in the courtroom," Verhoeven said. Apple thinks "it's entitled to having a monopoly on a rounded rectangle with a large screen. It's amazing really."
Apple and Samsung are going toe-to-toe in a patents dispute that mirrors the struggle for industry supremacy between the two companies, which control more than half of worldwide smartphone sales.
A win for Apple could have a major impact on the industry because the South Korean company's mobile products are run on Google Inc's Android operating system, a popular software that is used by many other manufacturers.
Apple attorney Harold McElhinny urged jurors to consider the testimony of a South Korean designer who said she worked day and night on Samsung's phones for three months.
"In those critical three months, Samsung was able to copy and incorporate the result of Apple's four-year investment in hard work and ingenuity - without taking any of the risks," McElhinny said.
Apple is seeking more than $2.5 billion in damages from Samsung. An Apple expert said Samsung earned 35.5 percent margins on the phones in the lawsuit from mid-2010 through March 2012, on $8.16 billion in U.S. revenue. Samsung has disputed that figure.
Apple accuses Samsung of copying the design and some features of its iPad and iPhone, and is asking for a sales ban in addition to monetary damages. Samsung, which is trying to expand in the United States, says Apple infringed several patents, including some for its key wireless technology.
McElhinny laid out what he said was chronological evidence that showed Samsung copied Apple's designs. He also told the jury that, while Apple brought many of its top executives to testify and face cross examination, Samsung had presented no major decision makers.
"From the very beginning, Samsung has disrespected this process," he said.
McElhinny urged jurors to consider Samsung's internal documents, which compared its products with Apple's and determined it had a crisis of design.
Scores of journalists, lawyers, analysts and observers turned out to watch the arguments. By 7:30 a.m. (14:30 GMT) on Tuesday, the line outside the courthouse was nearly a block long. The nine member jury spent over two hours listening to granular legal instructions before Apple's McElhinny began his presentation just after lunch.
McElhinny focused on a meeting between Samsung and Google executives in February 2010, where Google asked Samsung to stop imitating the iPad so closely.
"Samsung executives chose to ignore that demand and continue on the path of copying," he said.
Apple said the products looked so similar that it led to confusion in the marketplace.
Samsung's Verhoeven said Apple had not shown any evidence that consumers were actually deceived into buying Samsung products instead of the iPhone or iPad.
"Consumers make choices, not mistakes," he said.
The trial, which is in its fourth week, has revealed details about the famously secretive maker of the iPhone and iPad, some substantive and some just colorful.
An Apple industrial designer described working around a kitchen table with his team to come up with the company's mobile products. [ID:nL2E8IVKYA] Its patent licensing director said Microsoft Corp was one of the few companies to get a license for Apple design patents, but only because Microsoft consented to an anti-cloning provision. [ID:nL2E8JD6Y7]
The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, is Apple Inc v. Samsung Electronics Co Ltd et al, No. 11-1846.
(Reporting by Dan Levine and Poornima Gupta; Editing by Gary Hill and Andre Grenon)