Samsung's Win: No Sanctions in Apple, Nokia Document Leak

Samsung won't be facing any sanctions for its involvement in leaked confidential licensing documents between Apple and Nokia. Quinn Emanuel, the law firm representing Samsung in the patent infringement fights, is being saddled with all the costs and fees related to the leaks for handing over the documents to Samsung, which ultimately lets both off the hook without any serious consequences.

No sanctions for Samsung in Apple, Nokia document leaksNo sanctions for Samsung in Apple, Nokia document leaks

Quinn Emanuel came under fire for sharing confidential documents related to Apple and Nokia's licensing deals with Samsung that were intended only for special witnesses. Samsung found itself in hot water for then using those documents to gain an unfair advantage in its own negotiations with Nokia, and for sharing the documents with more than 50 employees.

The law firm posted the documents to Samsung's FTP servers on more than one occasion, and also emailed documents directly to some employees. Samsung executive Seungho Ahn later bragged about the leaks during licensing talks with Nokia. He dismissed the concerns saying, "All information leaks."

Judge Grewal, who has been reviewing the case, initially talked of sanctions for both Samsung and its outside counsel. Judge Lucy Koh, the Judge overseeing the ongoing patent infringement fight between the two companies, called the leak and Samsung's subsequent lack of cooperation inexcusable.

As Judge Grewal dug deeper, however, he turned more to Quinn Emanuel as the real culprit and not Samsung. In his ruling he stated,

Quinn Emanuel shall reimburse Apple, Nokia, and their counsel for any and all costs and fees incurred in litigating this motion and the discovery associated with it, as required by Rule 37 in the absence of 'substantial justification' or other showing of 'harmlessness,' neither of which the court finds here. That expense, in addition to the public findings of wrongdoing, is, in the court's opinion, sufficient both to remedy Apple and Nokia's harm and to discourage similar conduct in the future.

The end result is that Samsung isn't getting sanctioned, and Quinn Emanuel won't suffer any hardship for its sanctions because Samsung will most likely cover the costs for the law firm.

Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents noted, "The order does not clear Samsung of wrongdoing: misuse is not ruled out at all, but Apple and Nokia were unable to prove the worst part of the original allegations. I'm sure Samsung is very happy about this outcome, also with a view to the March 31 California trial."

Judge Grewal's ruling makes it easier for Samsung to focus on its upcoming second patent infringement trial with Apple at the end of March. Even though it doesn't do much to help Samsung's reputation, the ruling does let the company say that no one proved it did anything seriously wrong, according to Mr. Mueller.

Unless something changes during the appeal process, it looks like Samsung avoided a legal black eye. More importantly, Samsung found once again that it can push to the edge of the legal envelope and work the system. In this case, Judge Grewal's ruling does little more than reinforce Samsung's bad behavior.