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Seal & Class Denied in HP Wireless Card Dispute

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A federal judge denied various motions to seal in a lawsuit alleging that Hewlett-Packard misrepresented the dual-band capability of computer wireless cards.

Ned Karim's 2012 complaint was filed one year after a federal judge dismissed similar but unrelated claims. It concerns a laptop Karim bought via HP's Home and Home Office Store website in 2010. When prompted to select a wireless card for wireless Internet connection, Karim allegedly used the website's "Help Me Decide" feature.

"The website represented that the available wireless cards could connect to wireless networks operating on two different frequencies - the 2.4 GHz frequency and the 5.0 GHz frequency," according to the ruling's summary of the complaint.

Karim said the two wireless options used identical language, claiming "flexibility to connect to most available industry standard base WLAN (802.11b, 802.11a, 802.11g, and 802.11 draft N) infrastructures."

"Because the 802.11a protocol operates only on the 5.0 GHz band, and the 802.11b and 802.11g protocols operate on the 2.4 GHz band, plaintiff understood the wireless card to be dual-band," according to the ruling's summary of the complaint.

But Karim said the computer he received was equipped with an "Intel Centrino-N 1000 802.11 b/g/n wireless card" that allegedly operated only on the 2.4 GHz frequency.

When Karim bought a new wireless card with dual-band capacity, he found that it was incompatible with his computer, according to the complaint.

Karim hope to represent a class of U.S. residents who bought various computers from HP's website between October 2009 and April 2011, but HP argued that "many states require an affirmative showing of consumer reliance," or require consumers to "show knowledge of the statement prior to purchase."

U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton agreed and refused to certify a class on Feb. 10, finding that HP identified "material" differences in state laws.

"Given the court's previous finding that California's express warranty law does not require a showing of reliance, the court does find that the differences in state laws regarding 'reliance' are material," the opinion stated.

Both Karim and HP meanwhile lost bids to seal a stipulation the parties filed "regarding summary of electronic data."

"While the court agrees that actual customer information would warrant sealing, the parties' stipulation contains no such 'granular' information, and is (as the title suggests) merely a summary of customer data, listing only the raw numbers of computers sold," Hamilton wrote.

Hamilton also refused to seal a portion of Karim's motion for class certification or HP's opposition to that motion.

A declaration that describes the number of visitors to HP's "help me decide" screens and the number of "clicks" on those screens, but does not disclose anything about the functioning or design of HP's website, likewise does include information that would harm HP's competitive interests if disclosed, according to the ruling.

Both HP and Karim wanted to seal a similar declaration, and Hamilton rejected that motion for the same reason.

Karim appeared through counsel Jenelle Welling. Hewlett-Packard appeared through counsel Samuel Liversidge and Blaine Evanson.

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