updated 03:25 pm EDT, Wed August 1, 2012
Response to judge's order for explanation
[Updated with Apple's response] A lawyer acting on behalf of Samsung has defended the company's decision to seed evidence banned in court to the media. John Quinn, a managing partner of the lawfirm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, insists that the move was "lawful" and "ethical" in a new filing, submitted in response to federal Judge Lucy Koh’s request for an explanation, which was in turn prompted by a complaint from an Apple lawyer. The evidence was emailed to meet requests from the media, according to Quinn.
"Far from violating any order, Samsung's transmission to the public of public information disclosed in pretrial filings is entirely consistent with this Court's statements" that the "workings of litigation must be open to public view," he writes. "Samsung's brief statement and transmission of public materials in response to press inquiries was not motivated by or designed to influence jurors."
The evidence in question suggests that the iPhone may have been inspired by Sony products, rather than come about as a radically new design, as Apple argues. In its recent opening statements Samsung pointed out that iPhone-like devices were produced by other companies prior to the iPhone as well, such as LG, which put out the Prada touchscreen phone in 2006. Apple maintains that Samsung designs took a radical left turn after the iPhone, directly copying some ideas.
[Update] Apple has now filed a reply to Samsung's explanation of why it "leaked" barred evidence to the press, telling Judge Koh it found Samsung's letter "unsatisfactory." Apple lawyer William Lee said that the explanation, written by senior Samsung attorney John Quinn, "does not address two of the Court's questions: who drafted the statement, and who released it," and added that "Samsung's multiple references to the jury in its statement make plain its intent" to have jurors in the case learn about the excluded evidence through news reports and online coverage.
As a result, Apple now says it will file an "emergency" motion for sanctions against Samsung as well as "other relief that may be appropriate." The company is likely to find a friendly ear in Judge Koh, who was visibly upset when she learned of the release -- which appears to defy court orders that the evidence be barred. Samsung's contention is that a 2006 prototype -- one of dozens done for the original iPhone -- has documentation showing it was inspired by Sony's design ethos.
In a rebuttal, Apple produced a prototype from a year earlier that was bereft of Sony influence that clearly showed the company had already conceptualized the iPhone to a mature state, and that the Sony-inspired design was just a "fun" side project for comparative purposes. The judge decided that the older prototype proves Apple had no intent to copy other designs, and ruled the Sony-inspired drawings and a deposition from the former designer who created them as inadmissable.
Despite this, Samsung has seized on the so-called "Jony" design (meant to be a play on words between Sony and Apple designer Sir Jonathan Ive) and has (in the words of Quinn) "begged" the court to reconsider allowing it into evidence. Koh has expressed exasperation with Samsung's repeated requests, having ruled on the matter three times already, and threatened to censure Quinn if he did not contain his pleading with the judge.
Samsung's dependence on trying to prove that "copying is okay if others do it" as a defense has been seen by some observers as a fatal flaw. Apple's ability to dismiss the inference by producing earlier prototypes suggests that the evidence would have been discredited in court equally easily had it been admitted. Samsung made a point of not mentioning the exculpatory 2005 Apple designs in the material it "leaked" to the press.
Depending on the perceived amount of damage done, Judge Koh could find Quinn in contempt of court -- particularly if he admits to being the author or authorizer of the leak. The court could hand down sanctions, fines and even jail time for the attorney, and the stunt could backfire badly on Samsung.
Apple's counsel called the infraction "the most blatant example of contempt of court I've ever seen" and said it was a clear attempt to "pollute" the jury by making them think Apple and Judge Koh were hiding (incomplete) evidence. It called for a contempt citation even before its formal reply to Samsung's explanation was issued.