Apple financial data may be unsealed in Samsung case

Information on specific products would be made public in its suit against Samsung, but only pending an appeal

Information about sales, profits and margins for specific Apple products should be made public, the judge hearing the company's lawsuit against Samsung Electronics ruled on Wednesday, though a higher court's decision could keep the data from ever being revealed.

Apple used the financial information in a motion to hit Samsung with more damages above and beyond the US$1.05 billion award that a jury decided on in August. The jury had found Samsung copied iPhones and other Apple devices in several of its products. However, Apple wants to keep the financial information under seal, saying it constitutes trade secrets.

In an order released on Wednesday, Judge Lucy Koh of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said those figures should be publicly available. But she ruled that the information should not be unsealed before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rules on an appeal by Apple. Both courts have stays in place until that ruling is made.

Apple discloses its sales and profits every quarter as a publicly traded company, and it periodically gives unit sales figures for certain products. But it carefully guards other types of information about how its individual products are doing and how much they cost to make. On Aug. 9, before the jury even decided the case, Koh issued an order that said such financial data shouldn't be sealed. That order has been stayed pending Apple's appeal to the higher court.

"As this Court explained in the August 9 Order, Apple has not established that public availability of its product-specific unit sales, revenue, profit, profit margin and cost data would actually provide its competitors with an advantage," Koh wrote in Wednesday's ruling. In addition, there is great public interest in the data, she said. Since then, "Apple has not provided any new arguments for why this information should be protected," she wrote.

Koh's decision on Wednesday involves different documents from the ones covered in the Aug. 9 order, but they are subject to the same analysis, she wrote. Putting her new order into effect immediately would undermine the stays that are in place on that earlier ruling, Koh wrote.

In Wednesday's order, Koh also denied a motion by Apple to seal another set of documents, but she granted its motion to keep some market-share data from research company IDC under seal. Making that data public could hurt IDC's ability to sell reports to other companies, Koh said in her decision. (IDC is a division of IDG, the parent company of IDG News Service.)

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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