Monday, 25 November 2013

Apple eats Samsung: Round one to Apple in the trial of the century

So what's your preference, Apple or Samsung? Apple owners say they'll never use anything else, as do Samsung owners.  Being the two biggest players in the world's (extremely lucrative) mobile phone market, it's unsurprising that these two are fighting each other - in the courts of Australia and just about every other big market economy's country's courts.  In the Federal Court of Australia, though, it's round one to Apple.
OK, so what's the fight about? Well this is about as hard as understanding how a mobile phone actually works, but, simply put, it's something like this: Samsung sued Apple saying it has infringed 3 patents held by it and Apple counter-sued saying Samsung had misused its market power in contravention of the Australian Competition and Consumer Act.  
These proceedings are on foot in the Federal Court and are at the point where the parties have exchanged evidence, by way of witness statements.  In fact, all evidence had to be in by August 2012.  Despite this, in August 2013 Samsung sought to serve two further witness statements.  So Apple's lawyers did what any good lawyers would do and OBJECTED to this new evidence, and Samsung sought leave to rely on the statements.
Judge Bennett is handling the case and she refused the application for leave to introduce the new evidence.  And Samsung's lawyers did what any good lawyers would do and appealed against Judge Bennett's decision to the Full Federal Court.
The appeal was heard by Judges Jacobson, Flick and Griffiths (reported as Samsung Electronics Co Ltd v Apple Inc) and they quickly dismissed it, confirming that Judge Bennett was correct in her reasoning.  The Judges relied on a few grounds in dismissing the appeal but the thrust of their reasoning was that Samsung had not given any good and cogent reason for why these statements were so late - almost 12 months out of time.
Of course Samsung complained that the refusal to allow this evidence to be tendered would prejudice their case and result in substantial injustice but the Judges were unmoved.  They put their response to this as follows:
"... there are limits to the opportunity that a court will afford to a litigant to agitate a case not previously raised, particularly if the litigation is well advanced.  This principle applies not only to applications to amend pleadings but to all interlocutory rulings that bear upon the timely resolution of proceedings".
The parties are back in court on 26 November 2013 and hopefully proceeding with what will no doubt be a long and ugly battle.  When it's all done though, you may well be forced to break that vow that you will never use another make of phone.  The findings in the case could well damage either party substantially, such that they may never recover.  And could it all be because of what seems to be a relatively unimportant ruling on evidence?  Time will tell.

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