Patent Law

Judge mulls possible sanctions for Samsung and counsel over Apple info disclosure

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A federal magistrate judge in California is mulling potential sanctions against Samsung Electronics and its counsel over the possible violation of a protective order concerning discovery in a hard-fought, big-bucks patent-infringement case.

Apple provided confidential information to Samsung’s law firm, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, which was supposed to be kept confidential under a court protective order. But it appears that information about four patent license agreements was included in an unredacted expert report on damages that the law firm sent to Samsung, IDG News Service reports.

The information was then widely shared at Samsung, according to testimony. The claimed confidentiality breach came to light when a Samsung executive told a Nokia executive during a June negotiation session that he knew the terms of the Nokia-Apple licensing agreement—and then recited them to prove that he did, the article recounts. The Samsung executive later claimed he was just bluffing, and Quinn Emmanuel suggested there could well have been a misunderstanding, since those at the meeting didn’t speak English as a primary language.

“It appears … that sanctions against Samsung and its attorneys are warranted,” said U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal in a Friday opinion in the San Jose case. It orders Samsung and Quinn Emmanuel to show cause by Dec. 2 why they should not be penalized and asks Samsung to suggest sanctions by the same date.

A $1 billion award in the patent case last year was subsequently reduced by nearly half.

A new trial on damages is scheduled to begin Tuesday. However, few expect it to put an end to the ongoing court battle over the extent to which Samsung can legally sell products similar to Apple’s iPhone and iPad.

“I do think the main effect of the trial will be to set up the whole case for appeal,” law professor Mark Lemley of Stanford University tells the San Jose Mercury News.

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