Samsung v Apple gets contempt of court-y

The Korean tech giant released prohibited evidence to the press, angering the presiding judge

Apple versus Samsung got off to a turbulent start yesterday, with the presiding judge, Lucy Koh, berating the Korean tech giant for what looks very much like attempted contempt of court.

Apple's lawsuit, which is over allegations that Samsung deliberately copied Apple's patented designs for the iPhone for its own smartphone products, is matched by a countersuit from Samsung, alledging that Apple is in breach of its own patents relating to mobile phone technology. Apple is attempting to portraty its opponent as an admitted copycat which only resorted to patent suits when it couldn't defend its designs on their own merits, while Samsung is trying to argue that Apple is the real copycat.

Some of the evidence presented yesterday is more compelling than others. Apple pointed to internal Samsung documents describing the iPhone as "easy to copy", while Samsung argues that much of what Apple claims is "magical" design was in fact industry standard long before the iPhone.

However, Samsung was angered by the judge's decision not to let them submit some evidence to the jury which they deemed crucial. Two arguments, that Apple itself may have ripped off Sony, and that Samsung had an iPhone lookalike in development before the phone's release, were prevented from being presented in court due to late submissions.

Both these arguments have been in the public domain for several days now, and the Sony claim isn't as strong as Samsung may hope. The company pointed out that Apple itself sent round an internal brief to design a "Sony-like" phone, which would eventually become the iPhone. The problem Samsung has it that this is the Sony phone (pic) they alledge Apple ripped off, and it is a far cry from the outcome of that prototyping session, the "Jony" phone (pic), named after Apple designer Jony Ive. Meanwhile, the difference between Samsung's Vibrant (pic) and an iPhone is less obvious.

But the latter defence is one that the company may regret not getting in. The Verge has a picture of the slide Samsung were hoping to show the jury, which shows five different internal prototypes of touchscreen, one-button phones in development before the iPhone's announcement in January 2007.

Unfortunately, while the decision by the judge not to allow that to be shown in court may have damaged Samsung's chances, the company itself may have done far worse. Immediately following Judge Koh's final rejection, Samsung "emailed its rejected slides regarding F700 development and the 'Sony-style' prototype to the press with a statement saying 'The excluded evidence would have established beyond doubt that Samsung did not copy the iPhone design,'" according to the Verge's Nilay Patel.

Worse still, the statement argues that "fundamental fairness requires that the jury decide the case based on all the evidence". One person's plaintive cry of unfairness sounds a lot like another's nudge-and-wink suggestion that the jury ought to see evidence banned from court anyway. Judge Koh was "livid" when she found out, and demanded to know who authorised the release. This is a move that could come back to haunt Samsung.

Spot the difference... A Samsung and an Apple phone.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Photo: Getty
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George Osborne's mistakes are coming back to haunt him

George Osborne's next budget may be a zombie one, warns Chris Leslie.

Spending Reviews are supposed to set a strategic, stable course for at least a three year period. But just three months since the Chancellor claimed he no longer needed to cut as far or as fast this Parliament, his over-optimistic reliance on bullish forecasts looks misplaced.

There is a real risk that the Budget on March 16 will be a ‘zombie’ Budget, with the spectre of cuts everyone thought had been avoided rearing their ugly head again, unwelcome for both the public and for the Chancellor’s own ambitions.

In November George Osborne relied heavily on a surprise £27billion windfall from statistical reclassifications and forecasting optimism to bury expected police cuts and politically disastrous cuts to tax credits. We were assured these issues had been laid to rest.

But the Chancellor’s swagger may have been premature. Those higher income tax receipts he was banking on? It turns out wage growth may not be so buoyant, according to last week’s Bank of England Inflation Report. The Institute for Fiscal Studies suggest the outlook for earnings growth will be revised down taking £5billion from revenues.

Improved capital gains tax receipts? Falling equity markets and sluggish housing sales may depress CGT and stamp duties. And the oil price shock could hit revenues from North Sea production.

Back in November, the OBR revised up revenues by an astonishing £50billion+ over this Parliament. This now looks a little over-optimistic.

But never let it be said that George Osborne misses an opportunity to scramble out of political danger. He immediately cashed in those higher projected receipts, but in doing so he’s landed himself with very little wriggle room for the forthcoming Budget.

Borrowing is just not falling as fast as forecast. The £78billion deficit should have been cut by £20billion by now but it’s down by just £11billion. So what? Well this is a Chancellor who has given a cast iron guarantee to deliver a surplus by 2019-20. So he cannot afford to turn a blind eye.

All this points towards a Chancellor forced to revisit cuts he thought he wouldn’t need to make. A zombie Budget where unpopular reductions to public services are still very much alive, even though they were supposed to be history. More aggressive cuts, stealthy tax rises, pension changes designed to benefit the Treasury more than the public – all of these are on the cards. 

Is this the Chancellor’s misfortune or was he chancing his luck? As the IFS pointed out at the time, there was only really a 50/50 chance these revenue windfalls were built on solid ground. With growth and productivity still lagging, gloomier market expectations, exports sluggish and both construction and manufacturing barely contributing to additional expansion, it looks as though the Chancellor was just too optimistic, or perhaps too desperate for a short-term political solution. It wouldn’t be the first time that George Osborne has prioritised his own political interests.

There’s no short cut here. Productivity-enhancing public services and infrastructure could and should have been front and centre in that Spending Review. Rebalancing the economy should also have been a feature of new policy in that Autumn Statement, but instead the Chancellor banked on forecast revisions and growth too reliant on the service sector alone. Infrastructure decisions are delayed for short-term politicking. Uncertainty about our EU membership holds back business investment. And while we ought to have a consensus about eradicating the deficit, the excessive rigidity of the Chancellor’s fiscal charter bears down on much-needed capital investment.

So for those who thought that extreme cuts to services, a harsh approach to in-work benefits or punitive tax rises might be a thing of the past, beware the Chancellor whose hubris may force him to revive them after all. 

Chris Leslie is chair of Labour's backbench Treasury committee.