Will Apple Be Forced to Spill These Secrets?

A judge has ruled that the patent licensing and settlement agreement between Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and HTC will not remain sealed, even though financial details of the arrangement could be kept out of the public eye. Judge Lucy Koh, who was making the ruling in context of the Apple-Samsung patent case from August, said the agreement information does not present “a sufficient risk of competitive harm to justify keeping it from the public.”

What Details Could the Judge’s Ruling Unveil?

The decision covers the unsealing of intellectual properties, possibly including user experience assets that Apple usually likes to keep private.

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“As regards the motion to file under seal, this court has repeatedly explained that only the pricing and royalty terms of license agreements may be sealed,” the judge’s order read, according to CNET. “Only these terms, and not the rest of the agreement, meet the ‘compelling reasons’ standard articulated by the Ninth Circuit for sealing filings related to dispositive motions and trial.”

Why is Samsung Interested in the Details?

Two weeks ago, Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal had also ordered Apple to disclose the details of the company’s settlement with HTC. While that allowed only Samsung lawyers to access the documents, Judge Koh’s ruling is more widespread…

Samsung specifically wanted to see which patents were included in the agreement, since it believes the list may have the “bounce back” and “scrolling and zooming” patents, both used against it by the iPhone maker in their San Jose jury trial. Post-trial proceedings in that case will begin on Thursday, with Apple seeking a ban on eight devices belonging to the Korean company and the latter trying to get the whole trial thrown out.

“This license has direct bearing on the question of irreparable harm and whether monetary remedies are adequate,” a Samsung lawyer wrote in the company’s request, according to CNET.

What Could This Mean for Apple?

Apple will not be pleased by the ruling, as the HTC agreement details could possibly hold ammunition that Samsung can then use to resist sales injunctions, or at worst for the iPhone maker, overthrow the jury decision that found the Korean company guilty of patent violation.

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