We've seen the tone in the tech world's biggest patent case take a turn for the worse over the last several days, and the hits just keep on coming. Whether it's coming from lawyers frustrated by time constraints or verbal lashings from an irrate judge, the negative vibe is everywhere: this thing needs to end...now. Judge Lucy Koh's frustrations with the parties and the overall progress of the case may have peaked today, but the court is really represented by the combined voice of Koh and her magistrate judge Paul Grewal, and it turns out he has an opinion on the matter as well. In response to an 11th-hour attempt by Samsung to get its own negative inference jury instruction against Apple (Apple has one against Samsung for failing to preserve important documents for trial), Judge Grewal sort of went off — albeit in a poetic kind of way. There's no doubt he had a bit of fun in squashing this particular motion:
There is nothing at all unfair about denying relief to one party but not the other when the one but not the other springs into action long after any rational person would say it could have done so. The court has bent itself into a pretzel accommodating the scheduling challenges of this case.
It's not a civil rights case after all
And it gets better. Putting special emphasis on what he seems to see as an arrogant sense of entitlement by the parties, Grewal states that "at some point the accommodation must end, lest the hundreds of other parties in civil rights, Social Security, and other cases also presently before the undersigned and presiding judge might reasonably ask: what makes the parties in this patent case so special?" You have to admit that he has a point.
This is a case about smartphones and neat UI features. It's important to many of us, but the broader implications are far less impressive. In the end, there really are more important things for a US federal court to deal with than two fabulously wealthy companies fighting over who's the bigger copycat — the court's resources are stretched and it may be time to pack this one up and move on. We'll see if the scheduled meeting between the CEOs of Apple and Samsung ultimately brings an end to the trial. It's not unusual for these types of cases to settle even after the jury has begun its deliberations and it's now clear the court would openly embrace such an outcome. We'll be back in court tomorrow with the latest, so stay tuned.