A federal judge Friday rejected a motion by Apple for heavy sanctions against rival Samsung as punishment for leaking blocked evidence to the media in connection with the patent-infringement trial involving the two companies.
But U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh said there could be more investigation into Samsung's actions after the trial, according to Reuters, and added: "I will not let any theatrics or any sideshows distract us from what we are here to do."
She also questioned each of the nine jury members in the trial individually, asking if they had read anything about the case since Tuesday, Reuters said. Jurors have been warned repeatedly by Koh not to do their own research into the case, and to not speak with anyone about the trial, including on social media.
The jurors all said they could still be impartial.
The controversy stems from Samsung's decision Tuesday to send media outlets, including The Times, links to evidence that was previously blocked by Koh. Along with the links, Samsung sent a brief statement saying the excluded evidence "would have established beyond doubt" that Samsung did not copy Apple's iPhone. The statement ended: "Fundamental fairness requires that the jury decide the case based on all the evidence."
Koh quickly demanded an explanation from Samsung lawyer John Quinn, who submitted a five-page declaration Wednesday morning in which he said the company's actions were legal and ethical.
Apple's advocates weren't satisfied. In a two-page letter sent to Koh a few hours later, the trial lawyer for the Cupertino, Calif.-based company, William F. Lee, said Quinn's declaration failed to identify who wrote the statement and who released it.
"Samsung's multiple references to the jury in its statement make plain its intent that the jurors in our case learn of arguments the court has excluded through the press," Lee said. "This deliberate attempt to influence the trial with inadmissible evidence is both improper and unethical."
Apple went on to say it would file an emergency motion for sanctions "and other relief that may be appropriate." That motion, filed Thursday, asked Koh to issue sanctions "granting judgment that Apple's asserted phone design patent claims are valid and infringed by Samsung."
The filing continued: "This press statement wrongly calls into question the very integrity of the Court and the judicial process, and undermines Apple's fundamental right to a fair trial by impartial jurors uninfluenced by extrajudicial statements. The Court should not condone this behavior; the Court can, and should, severely sanction it."
The closely watched trial between the two tech giants began Monday in San Jose with the selection of jurors. The case, in which Apple is seeking more than $2.5 billion in damages from South Korea-based Samsung, is expected to last about four weeks.
Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple, is currently testifying.