updated 05:33 pm EST, Mon November 11, 2013
Improper use of trial-obtained data claimed by Apple
According to Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal of Federal Court of the Northern District of California, Samsung and its law firm Quinn Emanuel should face sanctions for their reveal of Apple confidential data following the landmark smartphone patent trial between the pair in 2012. The court order, filed Friday, is a significant change from the previous opinion by the judge, in which he claimed that "an abundance of caution" was needed before calling for sanctions. Yet another hearing on the matter is scheduled for December 9, after the completion of the damages retrial on select devices from the first trial.
The breach was made public in a hearing in the beginning of October, yet originally occurred in December of 2012. The law firm was informed of the breach, when Apple discovered that an associate at Quinn Emanuel sent an improperly un-redacted document to a Samsung official with sensitive licensing information on Apple's terms with Nokia. Quinn Emanuel did nothing about the breach for months after being informed of the problem. As a result of the issue, at least 220 Samsung employees now have knowledge of Apple's confidential data.
When the court informed Samsung of the leak, the Korean manufacturer provided heavily redacted -- and "nearly useless" -- documents to the court, according to Apple attorneys. Apple lead attorney William Lee said of the documents provided by Samsung in response to the court order that it was "remarkable" that Samsung's answer to to the controversy was simply, "we're not going to give you the documents."
The judge wrote in his order on Friday that "having finally crawled out from under the boxes [of documentation on the incident], it appears to me that if anything was breached, it was this court's protective order, and that sanctions against Samsung and its attorneys are warranted." Additionally, with a nod to Samsung coming in just under the wire and in some cases after court-ordered due dates with document filing, "Samsung significantly burdens not only Apple and Nokia's ability to address the sanctions issue, but also the court's ability to tell the full tale of what has been seen." Samsung exceeded the deadline for document submission by nearly a week, submitting some information the day before the judicial review.
Patent analyst Florian Mueller believes that "this doesn't look good for Samsung. After Judge Grewal recently declared himself unconvinced of the need for sanctions, I thought Samsung and its lawyers might get away with what they've done -- but now they are under reasonably serious pressure again."
This leak isn't the first example of potential judicial misconduct by Quinn Emanuel in the Apple versus Samsung case. Samsung appeared to defy trial judge Lucy Koh's order to exclude its contention that Apple copied the iPhone design from Sony by releasing specifically-excluded slides to the press ahead of the Apple versus Samsung trial in 2012, along with an inflammatory statement that questioned the court's impartiality and implied that Judge Koh was deliberately withholding exculpatory evidence from the jury.
Senior Samsung attorney John Quinn admitted authorizing the release, but claimed it was sent only to media outlets that requested it. Quinn Emanuel wasn't censured or fined, but was sternly rebuked by the judge for the stunt before the trial.