Today's final arguments in Sun Microsystems' request for a preliminary injunction against Microsoft remain off-limits to the public, an assistant to U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte said this morning.
Judge Whyte upheld his earlier decision to close the proceedings after a hearing today at which an attorney for San Jose Mercury News, a Knight-Ridder newspaper, argued that final arguments should be open.
The judge earlier barred the public from today's hearing after attorneys for both Sun and Microsoft said they intended to discuss confidential information. The information is considered so sensitive, in fact, that employees from both Sun and Microsoft will also be barred from the courtroom, a Sun spokeswoman said.
But while the public is not allowed to attend, the court will make a transcript of the hearing available. It will contain a verbatim account of testimony, but sensitive information will be censored, or redacted.
Sun also is expected to hold a teleconference later today to discuss the case. Microsoft has no plans for comment yet but may do so after final arguments are completed.
Cases involving trade secrets are routinely closed to the public. But with the press now focusing more heavily on court battles involving high-technology companies, such rulings are generating more and more controversy.
Last year, some dozen media companies sued to obtain materials related to the Justice Department's earlier action filed against Microsoft. Just last month, a lower court awarded journalists the right to attend depositions given by Microsoft executives, including chief executive Bill Gates. An appeals court subsequently overturned the decision to allow the journalists to attend, but may later allow the press unfettered access to transcripts.
Two media companies also have taken legal action to get access to some 10,000 pages filed in Sun's scrape with Microsoft. So far, they have obtained about 1,000 pages that were previously sealed, sometimes with references to certain events blacked out. A special master now is in charge of reviewing the remaining documents in the case to determine if they in fact contain material that is subject to trade secret protection.
In addition to the 1,000 pages already released, Knight-Ridder, one of the two interests suing to get access to documents in the case, received a bonus when a document containing sensitive information was mistakenly released to the Mercury News.
Whyte ordered the Mercury News not to publish any articles based on the document, and the paper's executive editor has said the paper would abide by the ruling.