By Khurram Aziz | Nov 23, 2012 09:31 AM EST
Samsung has won an order to gain access to the full details of Apple's 10-year licensing deal with HTC, but only the parties in the litigation will be privy to its contents. The South Korean company successfully argued in front of judge Paul Grewal of the US District Court for the Northern District of California, that the agreement was relevant to its own patent infringement dispute with Apple.
Apple and HTC had earlier agreed to produce a version of the agreement but with key sensitive information redacted. That information, which HTC believes is highly "competition sensitive" includes the amount the company is paying to license Apple's patents and how that fee is calculated.
However, judge Greval has ordered a full un-redacted version to be made available to Samsung's attorneys.
"Many third parties to this case have had their licensing agreements disclosed - without any redaction of financial terms - subject to an Attorneys-Eyes-Only designation because the confidential financial terms were clearly relevant to the dispute between Apple and Samsung," wrote Judge Grewal in his order. "HTC is not entitled to special treatment, particularly as it has recognized the general sufficiency of the protective order and the integrity of Samsung's outside counsel."
Apple is among several companies engaged in a so-called "patent war" over smartphone technology, which includes Motorola, Samsung, HTC, and Microsoft. Apple, in particular, has taken aim at companies using Google's Android operating system which it believes copies the software patents for its iPhone and iPad. It has had litigation against all the major Android manufacturers in courts around the world. However, in October, Apple settled all litigations against HTC, agreeing to license its patents for 10 years.
A copy of the redacted patent settlement posted on the Foss Patents blog, run by Florian Mueller, shows that the patent litigation between Apple and the Taiwanese firm dismisses all litigation between the two "without prejudice".
"This is presumably part of the protection that Apple wanted against a change of control," said Mueller. "The change-of-control rules and the kind of dismissal apply to both parties, but realistically, Apple is not going to be acquired during the ten-year term, while HTC is small enough that many other industry players could afford a deal. If anyone wants to buy HTC now, it's still possible, but the Apple agreement won't benefit the new owner."
Samsung has several patent cases against Apple in the US. In August, a separate court in California ordered the South Korean firm to pay $1.05 billion in damages for infringing the designs of Apple's iPad and iPhone. That decision is currently in appeal and Samsung has separate countersuits against Apple also in California.
Samsung asked the court to see a copy of the HTC settlement because it almost certainly covers at least some of the patents in the suit, and Apple's willingness to agree a license may undermine its claim of irreparable harm and demonstrate that monetary remedies are adequate.
The company said during a hearing that the financial terms of the agreement support its argument that a royalty is a more suitable alternative to a permanent injunction against its product.
The court is scheduled to hear arguments to decide on Apple's plea for a permanent injunction on the sale of some Samsung phones in December.