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Will Samsung's patent court doc leak backfire spectacularly?

Running off to reporters could hand Apple an easy win

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Analysis Samsung's decision to leak evidence banned from court could hand Apple an automatic win in the warring tech titans' patent trial.

The South Korean giant had prepared slides to potentially prove its rival was wrong to claim Samsung had copied the iPhone design - but after the judge barred the evidence from being put before the jury, Samsung decided to circulate the information anyway. Apple and Judge Lucy Koh were apoplectic.

In response, John Quinn, a lawyer for the South Korean firm, denied that his company had tried to influence the jury by slipping the slides to selected reporters to publish. The divulged information included a few Apple internal memos and the designs for Samsung's F700 mobe, which predates the iPhone.

Apple said that releasing the slides counted as misconduct and it wants the US court to decide in its favour on the phone design patents dispute as a punishment for Samsung.

Vicki Salmon, solicitor and patent attorney of IP Asset and the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA), told The Register suggested these demands and acts of mischief are a spectacle to win over a jury that probably doesn't understand patent law very well.

"This is a case about highly complex patent and design issues, the details of which the parties may believe to be beyond the comprehension of the jury," she said.

"So a lot of the case will be about presentation and trying to persuade the court that the other side has misbehaved and should be punished - regardless of whether the niceties of the legal case are actually made out."

In a filing to the court, Quinn said that the jury had already been selected and its members were told not to read news coverage of the case, so any statements given to reporters shouldn't reach them. He also said that the information in the evidence had been reported on by various outlets, and Samsung only released a statement in response to questions.

"As this court has acknowledged, this is a case with genuine and substantial commercial and public interest and with enormous potential commercial impact," he said in the filing.

"The media has been reporting in salacious detail Apple's allegations of Samsung's supposed 'copying', causing injury to Samsung's public reputation as a company. Moreover, Apple's baseless and public assertions that Samsung's transmission to the media of public information constituted contempt of court and that these actions were intended to pollute the jury were themselves glaring falsehoods, highlighting why Samsung has every right to defend itself in the public domain from unfair and malicious attacks."

"They didn't play fair! I want to win!"

Apple was standing firm on its moral high ground and said Samsung deserved a roasting for running off to hacks.

"This press statement wrongly calls into question the very integrity of the court and the judicial process, and undermines Apple’s fundamental right to a fair trial by impartial jurors uninfluenced by extrajudicial statements. The court should not condone this behaviour; the Court can, and should, severely sanction it," Apple legal eagle William Lee said in a filing.

He went on to make some fairly serious allegations, including that "litigation misconduct" was part of Samsung's strategy.

Lee said that even if reporters had asked Samsung for the excluded evidence, the firm should have refused to hand it over. He also quoted news sources that had said the release simply arrived in their inboxes without them ever requesting it.

Manfully, he said the fruity firm was not seeking a mistrial, just a judgment that Apple was right about Samsung's alleged infringement of its phone design patents. That was the only way the South Koreans could learn their lesson, according to Lee, although he admitted that it would be "a significant sanction".

UK-based Salmon said that she wasn't an expert in Californian law but she would be "very surprised" if the court gave Apple what it wanted. The lawyer said: "If the judge did go along with it, then I would expect Samsung to take the issue straight up to the appeals court."

However, she added that Samsung's decision to release the press statement was "highly controversial". Salmon said: "It appears to be me to be disrespectful to the judge and is likely to incur the court’s wrath."

While Apple and Samsung's posturing to the judge and jury could win either of them this landmark case, both companies will be keeping an eye on the court of public opinion: neither want their reputations scuffed by their legal spats.

Any juicy information that emerges from this particular showdown could also have a bearing on other court rulings the firms are facing, so influencing a few judges and future jurors is probably not too far from their minds either, whatever their shenanigans achieve in this lawsuit. ®

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