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Appeals Court bars First Amendment nonprofit from intervening in Apple-Samsung case

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  1. Court Access
A federal appeals court earlier this week temporarily resealed exhibits and evidence in a legal battle over smart phones and…

A federal appeals court earlier this week temporarily resealed exhibits and evidence in a legal battle over smart phones and tablets, staying a trial judge’s order that certain records be released to the public. The court also denied an advocacy group’s attempt to intervene and keep the records open on appeal.

In the highly publicized patent litigation between Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co., news organization Reuters America LLC had filed a motion asking the trial court to unseal certain evidence and trial exhibits.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh in San Jose ordered that some of the records be unsealed, while allowing others to remain hidden. The order unsealed business records detailing the profitability of certain Apple and Samsung products and market research, among others. The court kept certain trade secrets under seal.

Despite being adversaries on the overall issues in the multi-billion-dollar case, both Apple and Samsung appealed Koh’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., in an attempt to keep the exhibits private.

Reuters did not pursue the appeal, and the California-based First Amendment Coalition, a nonprofit organization, asked the Federal Circuit for permission to intervene in the case.

If granted, the coalition would have become a party to the case and could have submitted a brief and participated in oral argument, asking the appellate court to affirm the trial judge’s decision.

The Federal Circuit denied the motion on Tuesday. Because the coalition did not move to intervene at the trial level, the court held that the coalition could prevail “only in an exceptional case for imperative reasons.”

Even though Reuters’ decision not to pursue the case on appeal left no party to argue for unsealing, the Federal Circuit said the coalition did not meet that standard. The court did not completely foreclose the coalition’s participation, leaving open the possibility of the coalition joining the case by filing a friend-of-the-court brief instead.

The Federal Circuit also issued a stay of Koh’s unsealing order, delaying its enforcement until the appeals court fully weighs in on the issue. Apple has already filed its brief appealing its decision of Koh’s decision, and Samsung’s brief is due to the Federal Circuit on Oct. 1.

Related Reporters Committee resources:

· NM&L: Uncivil Secrecy