updated 07:05 pm EDT, Sat May 5, 2012
Company failed to produce 'design-around' source code
The ongoing Apple vs. Samsung case being tried in the United States took an unusual turn yesterday as Judge Paul S. Grewal granted an unusual "preclusive sanctions" order against Samsung for failing to produce source code for Apple in a timely fashion. The judge had already found Samsung in violation of the order two weeks earlier, and found that the company was guilty of blatantly stalling the case.
As patent-issues analyst Florian Mueller notes, this is not the first time Samsung has been in violation of court orders to produce evidence. This time, however, the judge agreed with Apple that the delays were especially egregious, and has now ordered as a penalty that Samsung is precluded from offering any evidence of "design-around efforts" on the patents it is being sued for violating. The penalty could have a detrimental effect on liability and damages if Samsung loses the case, as they cannot show in court any effort to fix possible violations of Apple patents.
Samsung had originally been ordered to produce the source code for their design-arounds that avoided Apple patents (in particular one dealing with the "overscroll bounce" effect seen when scrolling to the top or bottom of a page) by the end of 2011, but did not deliver the code until nearly a month later (for which the company received a monetary fine). Apple has also won the right to re-depose witnesses due to Samsung stalling.
The action that triggered the evidence penalty, however, related to two other contested patents. Samsung failed to produce source code on patents related to tapping and zooming to navigate and timed windows were not delivered until March 10th -- two days after the close of discovery. Because of the delay, Apple was unable to analyze the source code in time for the hearings.
It could be that Samsung feared Apple would find additional evidence of deliberate patent infringement in the code, which would explain Samsung's hesitance to produce it (proof of non-infringing revised source code would normally help a company in Samsung's position). The company was producing products that used the design-around alternatives that were actually on the market even before it produced the source code for its work.
The company's actions may also have a detrimental effect on the upcoming federal trial under Judge Lucy Koh, as Samsung has now been seen to be repeatedly and deliberately attempting to stall and withhold relevant evidence. Apple itself has been reprimanded by the judge for only making the minimum effort in producing documents or filing in a timely fashion, but so far has stayed within the boundaries of its legal obligations.
The set of hearings are part of the setup for the federal trial, which is currently scheduled to begin at the end of July. Apple and Samsung are currently scheduled for settlement talks later this month, but remain very far apart on the issues. Both Apple and Samsung were recently requested by Judge Koh to further reduce the number of claims in an effort to streamline the jury trial. [via Florian Mueller]