Samsung has been barred from presenting its workaround efforts to avoid overstepping an Apple patent in mobile UI, after refusing to reveal source code to a US district court. Apple had petitioned the court for access to Samsung’s TouchWiz code, specifically the “bounce back” animation used to highlight when scrolling had reached the end of a list; Samsung tarried, despite the court acceding to Apple’s request, instead pushing forward with a “blue glow” alternative. However, as it did not release the source to that “blue glow” design-around until after the court’s deadline, the magistrate judge has now deemed it [pdf link] inadmissible.
“Samsung shall be precluded from offering any evidence of its design-around efforts for the [relevant] patents, and shall not argue that the design-arounds are in any way distinct from those versions of code produced in accordance with the court’s order. Samsung must instead rely solely on the versions of code that were produced on or before December 31, 2011” Paul S. Grewall, US Magistrate Judge, District Court, Northern District of California
For Samsung, that means that the court will now judge its potential infringement of Apple patents based on its original code, rather than the reworked version present on more recent devices. Should that original code be found to indeed overstep the mark, both it and the newer “blue glow” alternative will be considered to infringe.
It’s a strict penalty against Samsung, and one the Korean company is likely to appeal to the presiding case judge. Nonetheless, the magistrate is clear in his justification for the decision: Samsung’s excuse that the code was sensitive is groundless, he argues, as the “blue glow” UI was already present in commercially available devices.
“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. This was not code akin to that otherwise produced save for immaterial differences. This code was specifically written to design around Apple’s claims in this case. In other worse, it was code specifically written to be materially different from that otherwise produced. And source code is not something that can be reviewed casually. It often takes even highly trained, high paid experts extraordinary time and effort to understand, let alone fit into the framework of this case” Paul S. Grewall, US Magistrate Judge
Instead, it’s suggested, Samsung purposefully dawdled so as to prevent Apple’s experts from having time to sift through the workaround code to decide whether they agreed it sufficiently bypassed patented technologies. That behavior is sufficient to justify the tough decision, the magistrate judge says.
It’s not the first time the courts have clamped down on behavior of the two firms; recently, each was instructed to simplify its case so as to make the trial more understandable to the jury. Samsung and Apple are yet to comment publicly on the ruling.