Court May Force Apple to Publicize Sealed Financial Information
Media organizations join the court fight.
ArsTechnica reported yesterday that US District Judge Lucy Koh denied part of Apple’s request to seal data and documents used in its case against Samsung that include "product-specific unit sales, revenue, profit, profit margin, and cost data." The company usually does not provide a breakdown of profits by product in financial reports, and Apple has argued this product-specific information would "provide its competitors with an advantage." (View Koh's order here.)
Koh is the same judge who presided over the Apple vs. Samsung trial in August of this year. Apple won the case on August 24 with the court handing Samsung an order to pay Apple $1.05 billion in damages for infringing on Apple's patents. However, Apple wants to increase the damage amount by $535 million, and the sealed information is critical to Apple's case. Koh argued in her order that the sealed information is important to Apple's case and should be made known to the public due to its importance. She also saw no "compelling reasons" in Apple's claim that unsealing the product-specific information would aid its rivals.
Courts may require companies to release information crucial to the court case because of its interest to the public. Koh explains in her order:
As this Court has explained in its previous sealing orders in this case, courts have recognized a “general right to inspect and copy public records and documents, including judicial records and documents.” ... Unless a particular court record is one ‘traditionally kept secret,’ a ‘strong presumption in favor of access’ is the starting point.... In order to overcome this strong presumption, a party seeking to seal a judicial record must articulate justifications for sealing that outweigh the public policies favoring disclosure....
As evidenced by the plethora of media and general public scrutiny of the preliminary injunction proceedings and the trial, the public has a significant interest in these court filings, and therefore the strong presumption of public access applies... [Apple] cannot both use its financial data to seek multi-billion dollar damages and insist on keep it secret.Koh’s order is not final, though. The documents won’t be unsealed until her order is reviewed by the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which is the higher court that handles all patent cases. The Federal Circuit is already reviewing a similar order issued on August 9 by Koh to unseal a different set of documents. The Federal Circuit stayed this prior order.