Yoni Heisler

Samsung: Dog ate my e-mail

May 11, 2012: 11:58 AM ET

Apple accuses Samsung of taking a slash-and-burn approach to evidence preservation

Image: trancessive.com

FORTUNE -- Samsung's failure to produce evidence in a timely manner is emerging as a pivotal issue in the California federal court where Apple (AAPL) has sued the Korean smartphone manufacturer for allegedly infringing Apple's iPhone patents.

Last week, FOSS Patents' Florian Mueller reported that the judge in the case had ordered harsh "preclusive sanctions" against Samsung for what Mueller described as "a particularly inexcusable violation" of a court order to deliver source code.

As Mueller noted, "This is not the first time that Samsung is found guilty of non-compliance with a discovery order."

Now NetworkWorld's Yoni Heisler has taken a deeper look at Samsung's record of non-compliance. As he reported Friday:

"I pored over Apple's motion along with Samsung's subsequent motion in opposition and suffice it to say, Samsung likes to play fast and loose with its legal obligations. Specifically, Samsung has a policy whereby custodian emails are automatically deleted every two weeks, even in instances where the company is required by law to preserve any and all emails that might reasonably be pertinent to a foreseeable or ongoing lawsuit."

In its motion, Apple accused Samsung of destroying "vast quantities of relevant evidence in blatant disregard of its duty to preserve all such evidence," something it charges Samsung did in a similar case before the International Trade Commission.

It also cited other instances of wholesale document destruction:

  • In a lawsuit involving Samsung and Mosaid Tecnologies it was discovered that Samsung had an ongoing policy of automatically deleting emails from custodian computers every two weeks, even when they were required to keep e-mail evidence relevant to an ongoing legal dispute.
  • While being investigated by Korea's Fair Trade Commission (KFTC), Samsung allegedly obstructed justice by purposefully destroying a large amount of data during the course of a price fixing investigation.
  • According to a recent KFTC press release, the commission found that high level Samsung executives instructed company security personnel to physically block KFTC officials from entering the facility while "Samsung employees from the department subject to the investigation destroyed relevant data and replaced the computers of those employees who were subject to investigation."

Apple has asked the judge to instruct the jury:

1. Samsung had a duty to preserve relevant evidence, failed to do so, and acted in bad faith in failing to meet its legal duty.

2. The jury may infer that documents Samsung failed to produce would have been advantageous to Apple's position.

3. If the jury finds Samsung liable for infringement, they may presume that the infringement was "intentional, willful, without regard to Apple's rights."

The case is scheduled to go to trial on July 30.

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