Most of these new tablets and phones are running Google’s operating system, Android, which now holds more than 68 percent of the worldwide smartphone market, according to Gartner. So the trial has enormous implications for Google as well — which may explain why the company took a preemptive strike against Apple recently, seeking to ban import of iPhones and iPads into the U.S.

This case reaches well beyond the two litigants.

Regardless of the outcome, the trial will set a strong precedent that will affect the interpretation of patent law for years to come. The entire industry may have to shift in order to respond to the new conditions.

“This case reaches well beyond the two litigants, both of which were asserting intellectual property rights,” said Linda D. Kennedy, an intellectual property lawyer and a shareholder in the Detroit office of law firm Butzel Long. “The winner can expect to face new competitive innovations emerging in the marketplace that don’t tread as closely to its rights.”

That’s on top of a significant reform of U.S. patent law that went through in 2011, which patent lawyers — and the U.S. Patent Office — are still adjusting to, Kennedy told us.

“We are all getting our hands around the new laws and regulations, and developing strategies with our clients to best grow their businesses and profit margins in the new regime,” Kennedy said.

(Aside from that, intellectual property needs still more reform — but that’s a separate topic.)

So, who’s most likely to win? Neither Kennedy nor Milone accepted our offer to predict the outcome ahead of time, but Kennedy put Apple slightly ahead of Samsung.

“Of course, one can never be certain,” Kennedy said. “That’s the nature of risk. Given what we’ve seen so far, and with the impact of the evidentiary rulings, I give a slight nod to Apple.”

In that, Kennedy agrees with VentureBeat readers, who favored Apple 36 percent to 13.7 percent in a highly unscientific poll over the weekend. Note that Apple came out only slightly ahead of “Neither,” with 33.5 percent of readers expecting that the trial’s quotable Judge Lucy Koh will put the hurt on both companies.

Naturally, this trial isn’t the end of the story: Whichever side loses is sure to appeal anything that can be appealed, which means the legal questions won’t be fully settled for a long time, Milone said.

“In the meantime, the industry and public have had a rare glimpse into the inner workings of two worldwide brands representing different views of the smartphone markets,” said Milone. “Regardless of the outcome, the clash of these titans has been a privilege to observe.”

Photo credit: Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat