US district Judge Lucy Koh has ordered Apple and HTC to disclose certain details involved in their recent patent licensing deal.
The decision comes as part of the ongoing patent case between Apple and Samsung. Samsung had argued that the patents in the agreement were relevant to the case.
Apple and HTC had been fighting the argument hoping to get the entirety of the deal sealed by the courts.
Judge Koh's decision means that the patents in question will be released to the public. However, it will not extend to patent pricing and royalty terms. Judge Koh wrote in her motion that releasing pricing and royalty terms could hurt the companies ability to negotiate future patent licensing deals.
"There are compelling reasons to seal pricing and royalty terms, as they may place the parties to the agreement at a disadvantage in future negotiations, but there is nothing in the remainder of the agreement that presents a sufficient risk of competitive harm to justify keeping it from the public." Judge Koh wrote.
"Accordingly, Samsung's motion to seal is granted with regard to the pricing and royalty terms of the agreement only, and denied with regard to the rest of the agreement."
While the some details of the patent agreement will not be allowed for use in court, Samsung has won the right to use the patent deal, in its entirety, for the case.
This case has long been gestating in court. Apple aims to get a sales ban on certain Samsung products it believes infringe its patents.
According to legal analyst Pamela Jones, if the patents in the HTC agreement are the same as those in the Samsung trial, Apple's chances of obtaining a sales ban recede.
Jones wrote on her Groklaw blog that Samsung may be able to use the HTC agreement to prove that Apple doesn't need an injunction.
"If the patents on the list are the same patents as in this case, it will make it much easier for Samsung to avoid an injunction. As you just saw in the Microsoft vs Motorola case in Seattle, if money can make you whole, you normally can't get an injunction," wrote Jones.
"And if they aren't, there is a Samsung argument that customers don't care about those features enough to pay for them, which could impact the damages figure."
HTC declined to comment on the news. Apple was unavailable for comment at the time of this posting.
The next round of the case between Apple and Samsung is expected to head to court on 6 December.
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