Judge Critical of Apple Invites Controversy to Work for Samsung

A UK judge who was very critical of Apple, going so far as to question the company's integrity, has invited controversy by taking a job from the firm that benefitted from his ruling. The situation is complex and nuanced, but it begs the question, "WTF were you thinking?"

The situation began when another judge ordered Apple to take out advertising telling the UK that Samsung had not copied Apple's iPad with its own Galaxy-branded tablets. Apple complied with the order, but did so in a way that was clearly to the letter of the order, rather than the spirit.

Apple's ad effectively acknowledged that it had been ordered to say Samsung didn't copy Apple, but also pointed out that other courts in Germany and the U.S. disagreed. The ad copy also used the judge's own words, quoting him as saying Samsung's devices were "not as cool" as Apple's.

Samsung wasn't pleased with this, of course, nor was the original judge, and an appeals court was asked to rule on the efficacy of Apple's compliance. That's where the judge at the center of Thursday's story—one Sir Robin Jacob—enters the picture.

Sir Robin Jacob

Sir Robin Jacob
Source: University College of London

Sir Robin is a retired judge, as noted by FOSS Patents, having retired from the bench in March of 2011 to become a professor. It would seem that retired judges in the UK can be asked to return to the bench. He was part of the three-judge panel handling the appeals process of the Apple v. Samsung trial.

That appeals panel was not at all pleased with Apple's compliance with the lower court's order. Sir Robin, retired judge who is judging a case, went so far as to say, "I'm at a loss that a company such as Apple would do this. That is a plain breach of the order."

According to Patently-O, His written opinion also said, "I hope that the lack of integrity involved in this incident is entirely atypical of Apple."

Clearly integrity is important to Sir Robin. Right?

Imagine the surprise, then, when it was discovered that Sir Robin has been hired as an expert witness for...you guessed it, Samsung. Now, this isn't a case involving Apple, and it's not in the UK, but it is a patent infringement case involving Samsung.

The case is in front of the U.S. International Trade Commission between Samsung and Ericsson (Ericsson brought patent infringement claims against Samsung). In addition, the retired Sir Robin isn't presiding over any other cases involving Samsung, Apple, or Ericsson.

As we noted above, the situation is complex and nuanced, but as the title of our piece noted, accepting a high-paying job from a party benefitting from one of your rulings invites controversy. It encourages criticism. Some might even question the integrity of a judge who would do such a thing.

A reasonable mind will immediately wonder if there was some quid pro quo hanky panky going on.

Is there any evidence of that? Not that we've seen, and we can't imagine that this is the case. Has Sir Robin or Samsung violated the law? Not that we can tell, and we'd be shocked if that were so.

That's not the point, however. The point is that when you rule in favor of one party, questioning the very integrity of that party's opponent, and that same party then offers you a paying gig after the fact, propriety dictates that you turn it down.

Why? Because you look like a biased jackass with no integrity otherwise. That's just a little common sense from this side of the pond.

Maybe Sir Robin sees it differently. Maybe the UK judicial system sees it differently. Clearly Samsung couldn't care less. As Florian Mueller noted, Sir Robin is a bona fide patent expert, and Samsung will benefit from his expert testimony.

Even if that's the case, however, reasonable people now have doubt and questions.