Samsung destroyed evidence that could have been used in its US courtroom battle against Apple, a judge has informed the jury ahead of next week's trial.
Magistrate Paul Grewal issued the notice of what is legally called 'spoliation' on Wednesday, telling the jury that they could take it into account if they want, when deciding whether Samsung really did copy the iPhone and iPad's design and other patents in its subsequent Android products.
Samsung's employees use a proprietary, web-based email system called mySingle, which has a default policy that ensures the deletion of all emails after two weeks, largely for security reasons.
Samsung was supposed to put that policy on hold for relevant emails when Apple told it in August 2010 that it was allegedly infringing on Apple's design patents, but it only definitively ordered its employees to retain relevant emails when Apple sued in April 2011. As a result, swathes of likely evidence from key Samsung executives were not retained as they should have been.
However, Grewal did not find that Samsung had destroyed the evidence deliberately — if he done so, he could have ordered the jury to take the incident into account when reaching their verdict.
"Relevant evidence was destroyed after the duty to preserve arose," Grewal told the jury. "And second, the lost evidence was favourable to Apple. Whether this finding is important to you in reaching a verdict in this case is for you to decide."
Both briefs contain strong allegations, largely based on the kind of emails that Samsung's systems swallowed up.
Apple showed a picture that depicted Samsung's smartphone portfolio before and after the iPhone's 2007 release, highlighting how its preceding designs were very different to those after that release:
However, Samsung also included a picture in its submission, showing "internal Samsung design presentations from the summer of 2006" that have many of the same, simplified features as the iPhone:
Samsung also noted that, in February 2006, Apple executives were sent an interview with a Sony designer, describing "Sony portable electronic device designs that lacked 'excessive ornamentation' such as buttons, fit in the hand, were 'square with a screen' and had 'corners [which] have been rounded out.'" Shortly afterwards, they started designing the iPhone.
The versions of the briefs that are public are redacted. However, All Things D appears to have seen an unredacted version of Apple's brief, showing several fresh allegations.
According to that story, Google warned Samsung in February 2010 that its tablet designs were too close to that of the iPad; Samsung's own product design team acknowledged 'regrettable' similarities between the Galaxy S smartphone and early iPhone models; and "famous designers" also warned Samsung over the same device.