Case: Apple Inc. v. Samsung Elecs. Co., Ltd., Nos. 2012-1600, -1606, 2013-1146 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 23, 2013) (precedential). On appeal from N.D. Cal. Before Prost, Bryson, and O’Malley.
Procedural Posture: The parties appealed two district court decisions denying requests to seal various confidential exhibits attached to the parties’ pre-trial and post-trial motions. The appeals were consolidated. CAFC reversed and remanded.
- Appellate Jurisdiction: CAFC had jurisdiction over the immediate appeals of the district court’s interlocutory orders under the collateral order doctrine since the appealed orders (1) conclusively determined the disputed question, (2) resolved an important issue completely separate from the merits of the action, which in this case was the balance between the public’s interest in understanding judicial proceedings and the parties’ right to access the courts without being unduly required to disclose confidential information, and (3) were effectively unreviewable on appeal from final judgment, since confidential information cannot be made secret again once revealed.
- Sealing/Unsealing Judicial Records: In deciding whether to seal documents, a court must balance the public interest and the interest of the party seeking to seal. The Ninth Circuit has a strong presumption in favor of public access to court records, which can be overcome by sufficiently compelling reasons. An exception to the presumption of public access exists with respect to attachments to non-dispositive motions. To preserve the secrecy of such sealed discovery documents, the Ninth Circuit requires only a showing of good cause under Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c). Here, the district court committed legal error in applying the “compelling reasons” standard when it should have applied the “good cause” standard. Nonetheless, CAFC found the documents at issue should have been sealed even under the “compelling reasons” standard. In reaching the determination that the district court abused its discretion by ordering the documents to be unsealed under the compelling reasons standard, CAFC found that the parties could suffer competitive harm if the documents were not sealed, and that the public interest in the documents was minimal given they were neither bases for the damages award nor essential to the court’s rulings on the pre-trial motions. CAFC also found that shareholders’ interests in determining financial risks, and consumers’ interests in manufacturing and pricing decisions, are not relevant to the balancing test. Accordingly, CAFC reversed the district court’s decisions and remanded.