Apple, Samsung Get to Keep Financial Documents Confidential
|Written by Gene Quinn
President & Founder of IPWatchdog, Inc.
Patent Attorney, Reg. No. 44,294
Zies, Widerman & Malek
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Posted: August 28, 2013 @ 8:00 am
Last week the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a decision in the latest appeal in the Apple/Samsung epic patent battle. See Apple, Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. (Fed. Cir., August 23, 2013). In this situation the parties really were not fighting against each other; instead finding themselves arguing on the same side against the decision of the district court to allow sensitive information to be publicly available.
On August 9, 2012, Judge Lucy Koh of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued a decision that denied in part the parties’ motion to seal certain filings. In general, Judge Koh sealed information about the parties’ production and supply capacities, confidential source code, third-party market research reports, and the pricing terms of licensing agreements. However, Judge Koh ordered unsealed documents disclosing the parties’ product-specific profits, profit margins, unit sales, revenues, and costs, as well as Apple’s own proprietary market research reports and customer surveys and the non-price terms of licensing agreements.
In her ruling Judge Koh ordered the parties to take an immediate appeal to the Federal Circuit, which occurred on August 13, 2012. The Federal Circuit consolidated the appeal by Apple and the appeal by Samsung, designating Apple as the appellant and Samsung as the cross-appellant. On August 15, 2012, the district court granted a stay pending the final resolution, thus the August 9, 2012 order that sensitive financial information would be made publicly available has been stayed pending disposition of the appeal.
A Very Brief History
Apple sued Samsung on April 15, 2011, asserting among other claims that Samsung’s smartphones and tablets infringed several of Apple’s patents and infringed Apple’s trade dress embodied in its iPhone and iPad products. Samsung filed counterclaims, alleging that the iPhone and iPad infringed several of Samsung’s patents. The case was tried to a jury beginning on July 30, 2012. On August 24, 2012, the jury returned a verdict substantially in Apple’s favor, awarding Apple more than $1 billion in damages.
The trial drew an extraordinary amount of attention from the public and the media, leading the Wall Street Journal to refer to the case as The Patent Trial of the Century. Indeed, the last patent trial of this magnitude was the epic battle between Polaroid and Kodak, which ultimately culminated in Kodak paying a $925 million settlement to Polaroid in 1991. Still, the level of interest in the worldwide dispute between Apple and Samsung has been extraordinarily high, which has lead the district court to grant the press extraordinary access to the judicial proceedings.
In many patent trials there are often mountains of sealed exhibits and occasionally proceedings will occur behind closed courtroom doors. Given the extreme public interest in the case Judge Koh rather famously proclaimed to the parties before the trial that “the whole trial is going to be open.” It would appear as if she was not kidding. The level of information she would have go public is extreme. One does not normally see sensitive, proprietary financial information disclosed for the public (and competitors) to see.
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