SAN JOSE, Calif. (CN) – Samsung Electronics has been sanctioned for the second time in recent weeks in a messy patent-infringement fight with Apple over smart phones and tablet computers. A federal judge ruled that Samsung will not be allowed to argue at trial that certain product features are uniquely Samsung’s, and not copies of Apple designs.
Samsung failed to meet a year-end deadline to hand over computer source code for various features, including its version of a bounce-back feature that lets scrolling phone and tablet users know when they have reached the end of a list, Friday’s order says, leaving Apple little time to compare the code to its own before a late July trial.
“The amount of data at issue is enormous. Apple cannot be expected to perform such a massive undertaking and spend valuable time and resources this late because of its opponent’s failure to follow the court’s orders. Deadlines have to matter,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal said in the order.
Product developers can avoid patent infringement claims if they create what are know as ‘design-arounds,’ which have the same functions as patented designs but were built from scratch. If Samsung cannot claim at trial that its source code is different, it will be harder to defend against Apple’s infringement claims.
Apple filed suit in April 2011, accusing Samsung of selling knockoff smartphones and tablet computers that “slavishly copy” iPhone and iPad products.
The most recent order shows that the court views Samsung’s discovery violations as particularly bad because some of the code that Samsung failed to produce on time had been incorporated into Samsung products that went on the market as far back as August 2011.
Samsung was not at liberty to choose to produce only “source code that Samsung deemed most relevant. In sum, Samsung was not permitted to exclude from production the design-around code Apple requested,” the order says.
“Samsung’s actions plainly violated the court’s December 31 deadline,” says the order, which bars Samsung from arguing it had designed around three of the eight patents Apple says Samsung copied.
“Samsung offers no explanation why it could not produce code in commercial release months before the deadline, or produce other code in commercial release until months after the deadline,” according to Judge Grewal.
The judge acknowledged that Samsung faced a difficult task in producing the requested code, “Put simply, source code production is disruptive, expensive, and fraught with monumental opportunities to screw up.”
However, Grewal found that, “Samsung offers precisely zero evidence to show that its actions were in good faith, or otherwise justified,” and that, “Nothing Samsung offers justifies a conclusion other than that Apple suffered substantial prejudice from Samsung’s violations.”
“Samsung’s delay until after the close of fact discovery undoubtedly prevented Apple from conducting any follow-up discovery on code that lies at the center of critical issues in this case.”
In other developments, both Apple and Samsung offered a preview by filing papers Monday night that identify the claims they will make at trial.
Samsung says in its filing that Apple has not narrowed its claims enough to fit within the 25-hour time allotment the court has given for each side to present its case.
“Unable to compete in the marketplace, Apple is instead seeking to compete through litigation, requesting injunctions against the full lineup of Samsung’s mobile phones and tablet products,” the Samsung statement reads.
Apple’s papers make note of Samsung’s recent move into the worldwide leader in sales of “copycat products” that have “already resulted in damages that reach billions of dollars,” adding that because “Samsung’s infringing conduct imposes massive, continuing harm on Apple,” Apple “is prepared to limit its offensive intellectual property claims to four (4) utility patent claims, and design rights in its iPhone and iPad.”
This Thursday, a hearing is set in San Jose regarding Apple’s motion for summary judgment. A settlement conference will commence on May 21, and trial is set for late July.
Apple is represented by Morrison Foerster attorneys Harold McElhinny, Michael Jacobs and Jennifer Taylor.
Charles Verhoeven, Kevin Johnson and Victoria Maroulis of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan represent Samsung.
In a parallel patent infringement and injunctive relief case Apple filed in February, Judge Grewal partially granted an Apple motion to compel Samsung to respond to certain interrogatories.
The next hearing in the parallel case is set for June 7.