Samsung executives might have been able to access patent-licensing terms between Apple and Nokia, despite rules disallowing such access.
Foss Patents' Florian Mueller on Thursday published court documents filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California on Wednesday that suggest Samsung might have been inappropriately given access to a patent-licensing deal between Apple and Nokia.
According to the order laid down yesterday by Magistrate Paul Grewal in its ongoing patent-infringement case with Samsung, Apple provided to Samsung's outside attorney confidential documents on the iPhone maker's patent-licensing deal with Nokia. That deal, the order says, was marked with a notice asking for confidentiality and for the details to not be disclosed to any other party. However, the magistrate claims that Samsung's attorney made it accessible via the firm's FTP site and e-mailed details of it to Samsung executives.
Here's what the magistrate says happened next:
At this point, things get murky. According to a declaration from Nokia's Chief Intellectual Property Officer, Paul Melin, on June 4, 2013, in a meeting between Samsung and Nokia licensing executives, Dr. Seungho Ahn informed Nokia that the terms of the Apple-Nokia license were known to him. Specifically, according to Mr. Melin, Dr. Ahn stated that Apple had produced the Apple-Nokia license in its litigation with Samsung, and that Samsung's outside counsel had provided his team with the terms of the Apple-Nokia license.
Mr. Melin recounts that to prove to Nokia that he knew the confidential terms of the Apple-Nokia license, Dr. Ahn recited the terms of the license, and even went so far as to tell Nokia that "all information leaks." Mr. Melin also reports that Dr. Ahn and Samsung then proceeded to use his knowledge of the terms of the Apple- Nokia license to gain an unfair advantage in their negotiations with Nokia, by asserting that the Apple-Nokia terms should dictate terms of a Samsung-Nokia license.
Although the judge noted that those events could have "happened very differently," he wants to know more. Within the next two weeks, the judge wants to see e-mails and other communications sent to and from Samsung employees. He also wants to make Samsung executive Dr. Seungho Ahn sit for a deposition. According to the judge, Dr. Ahn, who, as noted, may have had access to the Apple-Nokia deal, has not been allowed access to for deposition to this point.
Nokia will also be allowed access to the court proceedings.
For its part, Samsung declined CNET's request for comment on the matter. Apple has yet to respond to CNET's request for comment. Still, the judge's revelation will likely throw even more gasoline on a patent-infringement fire that won't go out. For years, both Samsung and Apple have been waging a battle that has yet to crown a victor. That Samsung might have seen confidential information throws yet another log on that proverbial fire.
We will update this story when we receive word back from Apple.