Judge Has Tough Words for Attorneys on Both Sides of Apple-Samsung Dispute

Apple and Samsung are locked in a bitter patent war that spans the globe, with legal actions pending in Australia, the Netherlands, and the U.S., to name a few.

The battle began in April when Apple filed a lawsuit the California, alleging that Samsung’s Galaxy phones and tablets infringed upon Apple patents and unlawfully copied design and functionality elements of its iPhones and iPads. Samsung subsequently fired back allegations of its own, contending that Apple had violated a number of Samsung’s wireless networking patents.

Most recently, attorneys for both sides got caught up in the fray. Apple filed a motion for a protective order seeking to prohibit one of Samsung’s attorneys from participating in any further depositions. Alternatively, Apple asked the court to restrain the attorney from engaging in abusive conduct during depositions, including belligerent and insulting treatment of witnesses and uncivil treatment of opposing counsel. Samsung, meanwhile, contended that none of the actions of the attorney were inappropriate given the adversarial nature of the proceedings.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, who is hearing the case, made is more than clear that she was not happy that the issue made it all the way to the courtroom. In her opinion, she wrote, “In support of their respective positions, both sides file transcript after transcript. Both sides encourage the review of deposition DVD after deposition DVD. And yet, remarkably, neither side confronts to even truly acknowledges evidence undermining its preferred conclusion, in textbook examples of what psychologists refer to as ‘confirmation bias.’”

The court also noted that neither party followed the district court’s requirement that lead trial counsel meet and confer before filing this type of motion. “Nor does either side point to even one instance in which it followed Judge Koh’s explicit instruction for lead trial counsel to meet in person before imposing on the court what is essentially a motion to behave.”

Accordingly, the court denied Apple’s motion. The opinion states, “In light of this unfortunate record of non-compliance with Judge Koh’s instructions, the court denies Apple’s motion. These instructions were not optional, and at no point have the parties sought relief from these instructions even after the undersigned reminded them of that opportunity. The court must therefore decline to share the conclusions it has reached about what is depicted in the transcripts and DVDs stacked on the court’s desk.”

Clearly, this is a situation where neither party came out on top. It reminds us that, even it the most contentious legal disputes, counsel should work together to find common ground.

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