Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd do not have to make public the financial details submitted to a U.S. court during high-profile patent litigation, a federal appeals panel ruled on Friday. The Federal U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington reversed a lower court ruling that ordered the two companies to disclose portions of documents that contain profit and sales information.
One result from their near interminable battle about patents and who stole what from whom is that there has been an award to Apple of some $1 billion from Samsung. That's been reduced by the judge from the jury award down to some $450 million or so.
But in looking at that award obviously it has been necessary to have a detailed look at the profits and sales on smartphones. For, recall, this is a civil trial, over a tort. And the solution to a tort is that whoever has been injured should be put back into the position they would have been in if the damage had not been inflicted. Thus, in a patent case like this, one has to make some sort of estimates about how much each company would have sold if Samsung hadn't been violating Apple's patents. And then at how much each company would have made in profit on such sales.
That's obviously very useful information to all of the many competitors of both companies. A detailed look at operating margins and so on is something you don't get to see all that often.
The court ruling is simply that that information, while necessary to the court, is not to be released to the general public. The court has to have it to be able to work out damages. But the public don't need it, the release would harm both companies, and thus it's not necessary to release it.