Apple asks court to punish Samsung for releasing documents in iPhone suit

Samsung gave media outlets documents that had been excluded from evidence

Apple will ask a federal court to sanction Samsung Electronics for releasing documents that were not allowed as evidence in the companies' dueling patent-infringement suits.

In a letter to Judge Lucy Koh of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Apple said it would file an emergency motion on Wednesday seeking "sanctions and other relief that may be appropriate" after Samsung's legal team gave some reporters exhibits that had been excluded from the trial. A Samsung statement that was sent with those exhibits shows that the South Korean manufacturer wanted to use the documents to influence jurors, Apple wrote.

"This deliberate attempt to influence the trial with inadmissible evidence is both improper and unethical," Apple wrote.

Apple sued Samsung in April 2011, charging that the company deliberately copied the iPhone and iPad in its smartphones and tablets, violating Apple patents on both designs and functions. Apple seeks US$2.525 billion in damages. Samsung countersued, saying Apple infringed some of its patents. The cases have been consolidated, and the companies gave their opening statements to a jury on Tuesday.

Apple and Samsung have been fighting over what evidence would be allowed in the trial for weeks. The exhibits that Samsung distributed include images meant to establish that Samsung developed a phone with several elements of the iPhone's design before the iPhone was introduced in January 2007. They also include documents concerning Apple's alleged use of a prototype inspired by Sony designs in determining the design of the iPhone.

Koh did not allow Samsung to show jurors those documents, but the company did distribute the exhibits to some media outlets along with an explanatory statement.

"The judge's exclusion of evidence on independent creation meant that even though Apple was allowed to inaccurately argue to the jury that the F700 was an iPhone copy, Samsung was not allowed to tell the full story...The excluded evidence would have established beyond doubt that Samsung did not copy the iPhone design," Samsung said in its statement, according to Apple.

In its letter on Wednesday, Apple slammed the company's actions.

"Samsung's multiple references to the jury in its statement make plain its intent that the jurors in our case learn of arguments the court has excluded through press," wrote William Lee, an attorney for Apple.

In a declaration filed on Wednesday, Samsung attorney John Quinn said he had approved the release of a brief statement and proposed trial exhibits after several requests from reporters. Quinn said all the documents had previously been in the public record. The move was not intended to influence jurors, he said. Quinn included the exhibits with his declaration.

However, Apple said Quinn had failed to follow the judge's instructions because he didn't include the statement or say who wrote and released the brief statement.

Apple's opening statement on Tuesday said Samsung dramatically changed its mobile phone designs after the iPhone was introduced, adopting minimalist rounded-rectangle designs with flush glass displays, black borders and bezels. It did that by copying the iPhone, Apple claims. Samsung seeks to argue that the F700 had those design elements before the iPhone ever came out. Unlike the iPhone, the F700 had a slide-out keypad.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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