Federal Circuit No. 2012-1600, -1606, 2013-1146

In an appeal taken from what some have called “The Patent Trial of the Century”, the Federal Circuit in Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., held that the district court abused its discretion in refusing to keep private (i.e., under seal) particular documents that Apple and Samsung requested be kept out of public domain. The issue before the CAFC was whether or not public interest in patent litigation proceedings outweighs the desires of the parties to prevent information being made available to the public. The Federal Circuit reasoned, “We recognize the importance of protecting the public's interest in judicial proceedings and of facilitating its understanding of those proceedings. That interest, however, does not extend to mere curiosity about the parties' confidential information where that information is not central to a decision on the merits. While protecting the public's interest in access to the courts, we must remain mindful of the parties' right to access those same courts upon terms which will not unduly harm their competitive interest. For the reasons set forth above, we hold that the district court abused its discretion in refusing to seal the particular documents that Apple and Samsung challenge in these appeals.”

At the District Court, Judge Koh did not allow the parties to seal documents, although Apple and Samsung stipulated to this. Judge Prost indicated, “Consistent with the extraordinary level of interest in the case, the press was given extraordinary access to the judicial proceedings. Unlike many patent trials, which often contain mountains of sealed exhibits and occasionally have closed courtroom proceedings, the district court explained to the parties before the trial that "the whole trial is going to be open." Consequently, the district court agreed to seal only a small number of trial exhibits. And shortly after the close of business each day, the parties, by order of the court, provided the press with electronic copies of every exhibit used at trial that day. Similarly, most exhibits attached to pre-trial and post-trial motions were ordered unsealed.” This, according to the Federal Circuit, was improper because Judge Koh applied an incorrect standard (i.e., he required "compelling reasons" to seal) whereas the law requires only “good cause."