Judge Grants Heavy Redactions for Microsoft vs. Google Federal Trial
November 2, 2012 12:50 PM
(An example of a redacted document is shown.)
(Source: Getty Images)
Trial will be held 16 mi from Redmond; home court has already granted Microsoft key victories in legal battle
When U.S. District
Judge James Robart
U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington
makes his final ruling in
the legal battle
between Microsoft Corp. (
) and Google Inc. (
), it's entirely possible that the public won't be able to read parts of the ruling -- or all of it.
I. Gotta Redact Them All
That's because the Judge Robart has agreed to several requests from Google to redact sensitive details in pre-trial briefs regarding business contracts of its subsidiary -- veteran phonemaker Motorola Mobility. Judge Robart did warn Google that he might get tougher on the issue, if he feels Google is using secrecy request in an abusive manner.
The federal judge has yet to rule on Google's biggest request, which is to redact any discussion of royalties from the verdict, to clear the courtroom of reporters during portions of the trial discussing royalties, and redacting information about its rates in other key courtroom documents.
Google argues that allowing the information to go public would give its rivals "additional leverage and bargaining power and would lead to an unfair advantage."
The trial kicks off two Tuesdays from this week, on Nov. 13th.
The case involves claims by Microsoft that its software patents cover key pieces of Google Android operating system. Google, meanwhile, wants to force Microsoft into favorable licensing agreements of its wireless and video codec patents.
Google says the release of information on Motorola's licensing deals would be damaging.
[Image Source: PocketLint]
A jury will decide the Microsoft portion of the case, while Google's royalty demands will be decided directly by Judge Robart.
II. Redactions are Growing in the Smartphone War
Google is not alone in its request for secrecy. Both Apple, Inc. (AAPL) and Google have been actively filing secrecy requests in their pending court case re-try, which is now being kicked around in the
U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin
under the jurisdiction of Judge Barbara Crabb.
that while she is now asking the pair to ask permission before filing redacted documents, that most requests are summarily approved, commenting, "We're paddling madly to stay afloat."
Indeed, the courts have been struggling with limited resources and a barrage of documents ever since the smartphone wars consumed the federal court system.
While legal experts agree that there is some precedent to redacting sensitive details in corporate cases, many argue that the new secrecy defeats the idea of a public court.
Some legal experts argue allowing excessive redaction discourages settlements and wastes taxpayer money.
Professor Dennis Crouch
, who teaches intellectual property law at the
University of Missouri
School of Law
, argues that forcing disclosure of sensitive details has long been a driving incentive for settlement and peacemaking, which saves taxpayer money and court resources. He comments, "There are plenty of cases that have settled because one party didn't want their information public."
most high profile case
of the smartphone wars,
Judge Lucy Koh
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
ruled that Android phonemaker Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (
) and Apple could hide certain sensitive details of their financials. However, she did not allow the companies to hide their licensing relationships, which led to the release of
rather interesting details
regarding Apple and Microsoft's cross-licensing pact.
Microsoft and Google have both supported each other in their redaction requests, a sort of gentleman's agreement in their legal war, so to speak. However, Microsoft has not yet voiced its support for Google's largest filing to Judge Robart.
III. With Trial in Washington, Microsoft Has Home Court Advantage
So far Google v. Microsoft has gone heavily in Microsoft's favor. While the federal court in Microsoft's home state of Washington ruled that it was fine for Microsoft to enforce a sales ban in Germany on Motorola's products, that will likely
lead to the destruction of existing handset stock
, the court
from enforcing a nearly identical ban.
The case is being tried in Seattle, Washington, just 16 miles from Microsoft's headquarters. The local court has already said it's okay for Microsoft to ban/destroy Motorola's products overseas, but not okay for Motorola to do the same. [Image Source: Foreclosure Listings]
The court gave little explanation as to why it allowed its local software giant to damage its competitor, but decided the exact opposite when Motorola had the opportunity to damage the local firm.
As Microsoft v. Motorola is being tried in Washington, Microsoft may be on the receiving end of some special favoritism, if the seeming contradictory pass verdicts are any indication.
"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)
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