Samsung Smackdown: Judge calls Apple Info Leak Inexcusable

Judge Lucy Koh had harsh words for Samsung and its involvement in sharing confidential information about Apple's contracts with Nokia and very likely could impose sanctions on the company and its legal firm for their actions. Judge Koh called the leaking of the documents improper and Samsung's attempts to coverup what happened inexcusable.

Samsung's courtroom tactics backfireSamsung's courtroom tactics backfire

Samsung and Quinn Emmanuel, the lawfirm representing the company in its ongoing patent fight with Apple, ran afoul of the court when information surfaced showing confidential licensing agreements between Apple and Nokia had been given to Samsung executives. The documents were intended only for special witnesses and were to remain confidential, but Quinn Emmanuel instead posted them to Samsung's FTP servers -- and this happened at least four times.

Once the documents were in Samsung's hands, they made the rounds to several executives, the company's own attorneys, and legal teams outside of Samsung working on other deals where the information could be used unfairly. All in all, more than 50 Samsung employees were given access to the confidential documents.

Federal Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal ordered Samsung and Quinn Emmanuel to hand over information about what happened once Samsung executive Doctor Seungho Ahn let slip that he'd been given access to the documents, but so far neither has cooperated. Dr. Ahn even went so far as do dismiss the issue saying, "All information leaks."

Quinn Emmanuel attorneys have also tried to wash away the situation by saying it was all just a simple accident and that no one was really to blame. The lawyers said the documents were unintentionally given to Samsung, and that Samsung didn't know they were confidential, therefore no one did anything wrong.

Once those documents were in Samsung's hands, however, the company used them to gain the upper hand in its own negotiations with Nokia, and may have used them in an unrelated ITC case, too. Considering the sensitive nature of the contracts, it's reasonable to expect that both Samsung and Quinn Emmanuel should've known they were confidential.

Samsung's cavalier approach to the issue isn't playing well with Judge Koh. She has denied all three of the company's motions to delay proceedings and is ready to get the court involved in the discovery process saying,

Despite the fact that three months had passed since the alleged violation came to Quinn Emanuel's attention, Samsung and Quinn Emanuel still had no answers for Magistrate Judge Grewal at the hearing regarding the extent of the disclosures, to whom they were made and what was disclosed, and how the disclosed information has been used and is currently being used. Samsung's lack of information after three months is inexcusable, and necessitates Court-supervised discovery.

Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents noted, "If it turns out that the use of improperly-disclosed information influenced the ITC investigation of Samsung's complaint against Apple, which is what Apple appears to be convinced of, then this would be 'particularly egregious' in the judge's opinion."

In other words, Judge Koh's patience has worn thin and the court is done with Samsung's tactics.

Apple won a big victory against Samsung over patent infringement claims more than a year ago, although part of the damages Apple was awarded turned out to be improperly calculated. A new trial to determine exactly how much Apple is owed from the portion that was calculated wrong is only weeks away, and Samsung's current headaches won't play well in those proceedings.

Samsung has been accused of blatantly stealing Apple's patented mobile device designs, and a jury said the evidence proved that's what actually happened. The electronics maker has continued to make smartphones and tablets that may well infringe on Apple owned patents, and its business practices seem to show it sees the legal headaches that go along with that as routine and acceptable.

That routine has led to leaked confidential documents that have been used improperly by Samsung, and now its executives could find themselves personally liable for the company's actions. The rules are changing for Samsung, and the game isn't getting any easier. November's court dates could prove to be awkward for Samsung, and especially difficult, since Judge Koh has clearly had enough.

Following Apple's patent infringement fight with Samsung in the United States is like watching a soap opera, and Samsung is doing everything it can to make sure the story stays interesting. This ride isn't over yet.