Like a kid coming home with a bad report card, Samsung has been dragging their feet in presenting evidence to the court in their ongoing copyright infringement case versus Apple. Now it’s costing them the legal equivalent of a spanking.
Samsung Electronics Co. (005930), sanctioned by a U.S. judge for failing to produce source code, said a ruling last week barring some evidence isn’t central to its defense against Apple Inc. in a patent-infringement lawsuit.
In his May 4 ruling, U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal said that Samsung “plainly violated” a court order requiring it to turn over code to Apple, and ruled that Samsung won’t be able to offer evidence in the case about its efforts to “design around” three patents at issue in the case.
In the lawsuit, Apple claims that Samsung’s 4G smartphone and Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet infringe its patents. Apple and Samsung have filed at least 30 lawsuits against each other on four continents since April 2011.
While Grewal agreed in his ruling that producing source code in such litigation is “disruptive, expensive, and fraught with monumental opportunities to screw up.” He also said that under federal law there is no exception to the requirement, especially when a defendant in a patent suit challenges the opposition’s failure to analyze the accused product’s source code.
“The court’s decision is on just one of the many motions made by both companies in the process of the lawsuit,” Samsung said today in an e-mailed response to a Bloomberg inquiry. “It is not related to a final ruling on the patent-infringement case and Samsung Electronics will continue to actively seek to secure patent rights.”
Grewal said he focused on Samsung’s so-called “design-around” source code developed for products with the “specific intent” of avoiding Apple’s patent claims. The ruling targets that code because “by their very nature design-arounds impact key questions of liability, damages and injunctive relief,” Grewal wrote.
“They are inevitably designed with substantial input from counsel for the specific purpose of distinguishing other products at issue,” Grewal wrote. “In short, they matter. A lot.”
“It’s no coincidence that Samsung’s latest products look a lot like the iPhone and iPad, from the shape of the hardware to the user interface and even the packaging,” Apple said in a statement. “This kind of blatant copying is wrong, and we need to protect Apple’s intellectual property when companies steal our ideas.”
This isn’t the first time Samsung has been found guilty of non-compliance with a discovery order during this lawsuit. On April 23 Grewal ordered less drastic, monetary sanctions against Samsung for failure to provide on a timely basis internal documents relevant to Apple’s willful infringement claims, such as internal emails that show Samsung’s designers and engineers analyzed Apple’s products in detail, and six categories of “sales and financial information relevant to establishing damages”.
Samsung is appearing increasingly desperate in these matters. Their continuous stalling tactics in presenting requested evidence is just another example of their putting off the inevitable, a legal victory by Apple that sends Samsung back to the drawing board.