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Free speechers want into Apple and Samsung sealed court filings

Want everything but the formula for Coke, complains beak

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A coalition of media and free speech advocates have tried to convince a US court that sealed documents in Apple and Samsung's patent smackdown should be made public.

The group, which includes news outlets like the New York Times and Bloomberg along with nonprofits like the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals that folks need to know what's in the closed documents so they can understand the judicial process and why one of the tech companies will ultimately win the litigation.

But the three-judge panel said it was worried that the definition of what constitutes trade secrets was being taken too narrowly while the group promotes a sweeping definition of public interest.

"You really seem to be saying that a trade secret is the formula for Coke and not much else," said Judge William Bryson, according to Reuters.

"If there are investors out there who are very interested in the [sealed financial data], are they part of the public interest?" he asked.

District Judge Lucy Koh allowed Apple and Samsung to keep source code and details of patent licensing deals under wraps along with some other financial information, but ordered them to out other data they wanted kept secret. Those orders are on hold pending the appeal court's decision.

If the court forces the warring firms to reveal their secrets, the decision could set a precedent for intellectual property cases, where companies tend to try to file under seal as a rule rather than an exception.

Apple and Samsung are arguing that forcing companies to give up all their financial data will stop them from getting the courts' protection for their patents. However, both firms cut down the list of documents they wanted kept sealed after the appeals court allowed the media group to present oral arguments. ®

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