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Judge orders Samsung to explain why it shouldn't be fined for leaking secret Apple docs

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A judge has determined that Samsung probably violated a court-ordered agreement to keep Apple documents secret, the latest snit in the epic patent battle between the companies that started in the summer of 2012.

Judge Paul Grewal asked to look over the documents himself last month. Now, "having finally crawled out from under the boxes," he says it does look like the order was breached and "sanctions against Samsung and its attorneys are warranted."

Apple gave Samsung copies of confidential patent licensing agreements with Nokia, Ericsson, Sharp, and Philips as part of the legal discovery process. The court issued a protective order that said the information could only be used by litigation counsel in the context of the patent case.

"All information leaks."

But Samsung also used the information to gain a competitive advantage in the market, Apple claims, leaking the documents to more than 90 Samsung employees and 130 unauthorized lawyers. Samsung has admitted that proper protocol wasn't followed, but claims it was an "inadvertent disclosure" that "we deeply regret."

Nokia joined Apple's motion for sanctions. Nokia's chief intellectual property officer, Paul Melin, says Samsung executive Dr. Seungho Ahn tried to use the Nokia-Apple licensing agreement as leverage in negotiating a Nokia-Samsung agreement. "All information leaks," Dr. Ahn allegedly told Melin.

Judge Grewal has asked Apple and Nokia to present recommendations for punishment, and told Samsung to prepare a defense. A hearing is scheduled for December 9th.