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Judge Rejects Bid to Seal HTC’s New Apple Licenses

SAN JOSE, Calif. (CN) - Details of the settlement agreement between Apple and HTC will soon be available for the world to see after a federal judge refused to seal the file.

Though tight-lipped about most of the details of the settlement, the two companies acknowledged on Nov. 11 that they had signed a broad 10-year licensing agreement while settling a patent-infringement dispute.

The deal sparked the interest of Samsung, which is still reeling after a jury found in August that it owed Apple $1 billion for using iPhone and iPad technology in its Galaxy phones and tablets. Samsung says Apple's deal with HTC included "untouchables" - unique technology Apple executives tout as part of the "Apple experience" and vowed never to license.

The Korean company believes that the Apple-HTC settlement undermines Apple's assertion that an injunction is a more appropriate remedy than money damages.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal ordered Apple to hand over its settlement agreement with HTC to Samsung lawyers on Thanksgiving eve, over the vehement opposition of the much smaller HTC.

After Samsung got hold of the settlement, it requested leave to filed the license agreement under seal with the court.

A tireless opponent of improperly sealed documents, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh was unsympathetic to the request Monday.

"This court has repeatedly explained that only the pricing and royalty terms of license agreements may be sealed," Koh wrote. "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."

Samsung cannot redact parts of the Apple-HTC agreement, she added.

"The proposed redactions cover only: (1) the fact that Apple has made an argument regarding license agreements in its permanent injunction motion; and (2) which patents are covered by the agreement," Koh wrote. "Apple has already articulated its argument concerning license agreements in two publically filed documents. Thus, this information is not confidential."

Both companies are due back in Koh's courtroom Dec. 6 for a marathon hearing regarding Apple's demands for an injunction on a number of Samsung products, willfulness enhancements, and both companies' Rule 50 motions.

A second battle between the two companies - this time involving Samsung's claims that Apple copies its Galaxy line to produce the iPod Touch, iPhones and iPads - begins March 31, 2014.

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