Microsoft Vs Google Trial: Secret Court Proceedings?

Two weeks before trial with Microsoft Inc., Google Motorola Mobility requested courtroom secrecy.

The searching giant made what has become a common request for a tech company fighting for billions of dollars: to conduct court proceedings with Microsoft in secret. Photo: Ben Oswest/Flickr

It seems like Google intends to keep sensitive business information under private – in this case, the royalty deals that Motorola cuts with other companies on patented technology, Reuters reports.

Such royalty rates are one of the top-priority issues in the upcoming trial, which is scheduled on November 13 in Seattle.

U.S. District Judge James Robart has already granted requests in order to hide some pre-proceeding legal briefs from public view.

Despite the warn, the judge may get tougher on the issue, thus, the nature of the case raises the possibility even his final decision might include redacted, or blacked-out, sections.

There’re rising speculations among legal experts considering the level of secrecy in the Google-Microsoft proceedings – the tendency that has become commonplace in intellectual property cases where overburdened judges often pay scant attention to the issue.

“Widespread sealing of documents infringes on the basic American legal principle that court should be public”, says law professor Dennis Crouch, who urges companies to use a costly, tax-payer funded resource to resolve their disputes.

“There are plenty of cases that have settled because one party didn’t want their information public,” said Crouch, an intellectual property professor at University of Missouri School of Law.

Tech companies believe that they would not be force to present to public private business information as the price for having their day in court.

According to the law, confidential information can be kept private in certain cases, though the companies must compellingly show the disclosure would be harmful.

The tech giant suggests that revelations about licensing negotiations would give competitors “additional leverage and bargaining power and would lead to an unfair advantage.”

Robart hasn’t not yet decided whether to accept Google’s request, which includes clearing the courtroom during crucial testimony as well.

It’s still not clear whether the U.S. District judge would redact any discussion of royalty rates in his final opinion.

The Californian iPhone maker and Microsoft Corp have been suing in courts around the world against Google and partners like Samsung, which use the Android operating system on their mobile devices.

Apple insists that Android is a copy of its iOS software, and Microsoft Inc holds patents that it contends cover a number of Android features.

The searching giant Google purchased Motorola for $12.5 billion, in order to use its large portfolio of communications patents as a bargaining chip against its competitors.

Robart is to decide how big a royalty Motorola deserves from Microsoft for a license on some Motorola wireless and video patents.

By the way, Apple is scheduled to square off against Motorola on Monday in Madison, Wisconsin, in a case that includes many of the same issues.

Judge Crabb in Wisconsin, who will also decide the case without a jury, said that even though she will require litigants to ask permission to file secret documents, it is highly unlikely that she will actually read those arguments – unless someone else flags a problem.

“We’re paddling madly to stay afloat,” the judge said.

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