It’s possible that Media advocacy groups and news organizations may face rough-sledding in future attempts to unseal financials and other secret documents when covering future high-stakes trials. A federal appeals court hearing related arguments in the Apple v. Samsung trial has questioned just how crucial such information is to the public interest.
The question before the Federal U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is whether or not to uphold Judge Lucy Koh’s ruling that Apple and Samsung, in the course of their long-running patent dispute, had to reveal certain financial information for inspection by the court and the public. Reporting on the matter, Reuters notes that the three-judge CAFC panel did not seem particularly swayed by the argument that unsealing such information is critical to the public interest.
“You really seem to be saying that a trade secret is the formula for Coke and not much else,” Judge William Bryson said. “If there are investors out there who are very interested in the (sealed financial data), are they part of the public interest?” He added that his belief was that such knowledge wouldn’t affect any perception of the fairness of the proceeding.
Judge Koh had allowed the two companies to keep trade secrets such as source code and patent deals sealed. However, she had ordered financial and other sensitive information be revealed.
Apple and Samsung both say the could should once more seal the requested information, arguing that, if the court did uphold Judge Koh’s order, it could have long reaching effects on future patent suits.
Arguing to unseal such information are media groups and free speech advocates, which include publishers such as The New York Times and Bloomberg. The groups contend that the information in the documents would help the public to better understand the judicial process.