A federal judge in California has sanctioned Samsung for destroying e-mail evidence in its ongoing patent infringement case with Apple. In an order issued Wednesday, Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal wrote that Samsung "failed to prevent the destruction of relevant evidence" that Apple could have used in court, claiming that the Korea-based company could have done more to preserve company e-mails. As a result, Grewal granted Apple's request for an "adverse jury instruction," and agreed to inform jury members that Samsung improperly handled evidence.

Under Samsung's current system, all company e-mails are destroyed after two weeks, unless saved by employees. Samsung instructed employees to save relevant e-mails, but Judge Grewal said the company never verified that its orders were being followed. The judge also pointed out that Samsung could have disabled the system altogether. Instead, the manufacturer continued to automatically delete potentially significant e-mails even after the court case had already been filed.

"In effect, Samsung kept the shredder on long after it should have known about this litigation," Grewal wrote. The judge was careful to note that Samsung may not have acted in bad faith, though he did criticize the company for taking a "mend it don't end it" approach to its auto-delete e-mail system. His order also leaves it up to the jury to decide whether Samsung's infraction is critical to their verdict.

A Samsung spokesman said the company plans to appeal Grewal's order, noting that an ITC judge ruled in its favor after Apple filed similar accusations earlier this year.