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Samsung avoids court sanctions for leaking secret Apple licensing agreement

Samsung avoids court sanctions for leaking secret Apple licensing agreement

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Samsung and Apple's drawn-out legal battle has been so contentious that the two companies spent the last few months in court fighting over the events of the trial itself. In November, Judge Paul Grewal found that Samsung's legal team had likely violated a court order by distributing a legal report that contained confidential information from Apple and Nokia licensing agreements. On Wednesday, Grewal affirmed his earlier decision and ordered Samsung to pay Apple and Nokia's court costs for the case, but he stopped short of imposing sanctions that would hit Samsung with more than merely monetary losses.

Samsung attorney John Quinn said the team had simply failed to redact some details from a report prepared by legal expert David Teece before sending it to Samsung executives and employees. Grewal noted that even if the error was inadvertent, Quinn had learned afterwards that it contained confidential information and failed to either stop its spread or tell Apple and Nokia about the leak. He took Quinn to task for managing a team without enough oversight to catch and fix problems, and for waiting over two weeks after Nokia had filed suit against Samsung to tell Apple about the leak, "as though hoping that would make the problem go away."

Nonetheless, Samsung managed to escape the harshest possible penalties. Apple claimed that not only did Samsung not contain the leaks, company executive Seungho Ahn actually used the information to influence a deal with Nokia's chief intellectual property officer, quoting the details of the Apple deal and saying that "all information leaks." Samsung has denied this, saying that Nokia was misinterpreting what was essentially a bluff based on good industry estimates and that Ahn would know better than to incriminate his own legal counsel. Grewal agreed that Samsung executives clearly had seen the report and therefore caused real damage to the companies involved, but the argument that they were leveraging information for unfair gain ultimately fell apart in court.

Given this, Grewal rejected what he called "ludicrously overbroad" sanctions suggested by Apple and Nokia, including two-year bans on Samsung or Quinn putting themselves in any situation where they might use the leaked details. Besides court costs, Samsung's only real punishment is an official finding of guilt and an order to make sure every copy of the offending report is permanently deleted within the next two weeks. Apple and Samsung will still be fighting in court for a long time, but the books could be closed on this particular issue.