Exclusive: Apple vs. Samsung ruling divulges secret details

Mon Dec 5, 2011 3:14pm EST
 
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By Dan Levine and Carlyn Kolker

(Reuters) - A U.S. court error on Friday offered a brief glimpse at information that Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics have tried to shield from the public during their high-stakes patent litigation.

The material appears to be less important for what it says about the companies than what it reveals about efforts to keep court proceedings secret.

In denying Apple's bid to stop Samsung from selling its Galaxy smartphone and tablets in the United States, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh's ruling inadvertently included details she had intended to black out. The judge's staff quickly realized the error, sealed the electronic document and posted a redacted version four hours later.

The fuller version, which Reuters obtained while it was publicly available, did not expose the technical inner workings of the iPad -- or anything close. Rather, it contained internal company analysis about the smartphone market, as well as some details about Apple's patent licensing relationships with other tech companies.

The lawsuit, which Apple filed in April in a San Jose, California, federal court, says Samsung's Galaxy products "slavishly" copy the iPhone and iPad. The South Korean electronics maker says Apple's arguments lack merit.

The case is scheduled for trial next year. The Friday ruling means Samsung can continue selling Galaxy products for now.

Sealing documents has become standard in intellectual property cases. Investors, academics and other observers have expressed concern that some judges too readily accede to litigants' claims that documents contain trade secrets and must be kept private.

Judges have wide latitude in granting company sealing requests, and Koh has granted all of Apple and Samsung's requests to keep documents secret in the case.   Continued...