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Judge: Patents in Apple-HTC settlement deal can't be sealed

A California judge says the list of patents included in Apple and HTC's settlement cannot be sealed as part of Apple's court spat with Samsung.

Apple vs. Samsung

Major details of the legal settlement between Apple and HTCcould be made public following a ruling from a California judge.

In an ruling tonight, U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh said that while details of pricing and royalty rates for patents from both companies should be kept under wraps from public view, the same does not hold true for the rest of the agreement.

"This Court has repeatedly explained that only the pricing and royalty terms of license agreements may be sealed," Koh wrote in a ruling. "There are compelling reasons to seal pricing and royalty terms, as they may place the parties to the agreement at a disadvantage in future negotiations, but there is nothing in the remainder of the agreement that presents a sufficient risk of competitive harm to justify keeping it from the public."

That includes a list of the patents that were a part of the settlement deal announced last month, which made peace between Apple and HTC following a tedious legal fight, Koh said.

"The Court has just explained that the only sealable terms of the license agreement are the payment and royalty terms. Thus, the list of patents covered by the agreement does not meet the 'compelling reasons' standard," Koh wrote.

Late last month, Samsung's outside lawyers -- and no one else -- were given the go-ahead to view confidential details of the agreement. Samsung specifically said it wanted to see which patents were included as part of the agreement since there may be some overlap with the ones used in the case between it and Apple. That includes the '381 and '915 patents, which cover "bounce back" and scrolling and zooming, respectively.

"This license has direct bearing on the question of irreparable harm and whether monetary remedies are adequate," one of Samsung's lawyers wrote in the group's request.

But the license could also shed light on whether Apple included some of its "unique" user experience patents, which it typically doesn't share with other companies. In a testimony about that collection during the trial between Apple and Samsung, an Apple patent licensing director referred to that collection as "untouchables," since it was only shared with a very small handful of other companies.

Both companies are due back in court on Thursday for a hearing that is expected to iron out some of the aftermath of the August jury verdict that landed squarely in Apple's favor. Some of that includes a motion by Apple to permanently ban at least eight of Samsung's devices in the U.S., as well as one by Samsung that seeks to get the entire trial thrown out.