Samsung hires judge who ruled against Apple

SkyFire 5.1 for iOS (iPad screenshot 001)

Remember a UK judge who took at face value the ruling that Galaxy devices didn’t infringe any of Apple’s patents because Samsung’s tablets “are not as cool” as the iPad? The one who recently chastised Apple for lack of integrity and opined for the appeals court it should be ordered to apologize in newspaper ads for asserting Samsung’s tablets had copied the iPad? Yeah, that guy.

A well-known patent blogger revealed Thursday that same judge is now receiving paychecks from Samsung as a legal expert through a law firm which represents Samsung Electronics in its case against Ericsson. Conflict of interest, much?

Patent expert Florian Müeller broke the news on his blog FOSS Patents, writing that Sir Robin Jacob is now hired by Samsung. Per Wikipedia, Jacob “retired from the Court of Appeal in March 2011” to become a professor so he wasn’t really a judge when the “not as cool” phrase was first mentioned by Judge Colin Birss in July 2012.

Speaking of which, ordering Apple to apologize on the basis that Galaxy tablets “aren’t as cool” as the iPad is really absurd, at least in my view. Anyways, per Section 9 of the Senior Courts Act 1981, ex-judges can still be invited to sit on the bench.

Samsung responded by issuing this statement to International Business Times:

Sir Robin Jacob is not a legal representative of Samsung Electronics. A highly reputed intellectual property expert and academic, Sir Robin has been contracted as an expert by a law firm that represents Samsung Electronics in its case against Ericsson.

I’m sure this isn’t illegal, but the move has conflict of interest written all over it.

Here’s a screenshot (via MacRumors) of Samsung’s filing from yesterday in the ITC investigation of Ericsson’s complaint that makes Sir Jacob’s involvement all too blatantly evident.

Judge Jacob hired by Samsung

Müeller notes “Samsung and Sir Robin Jacob wouldn’t be doing this if there was any risk of this conduct violating the law,” adding the following:

I have no doubt that at the time of the ruling Sir Robin Jacob was not being paid, or improperly promised to be paid, by Samsung, and he won’t have had any contact with Samsung or Samsung’s counsel that would have been against the rules and barred him from adjudicating the Samsung v. Apple case.

However, he also notes the hiring leaves an unfavorable impression because “this just doesn’t feel right”:

It gives the impression that a judge who deals Samsung’s number one rival a huge PR blow, in a way that I found very extreme and unjustified, will be generously rewarded.

Sir Jacob in his UK ruling ordered Apple to pay Samsung’s legal fees on an “indemnity basis” and indirectly accused Apple of lying three months ago on the basis that the company’s public apology to Samsung was insincere. “I hope that the lack of integrity involved in this incident is entirely atypical of Apple,” Sir Jacob wrote at the time.

In other words, after Apple’s apology had failed to impress the court, Sir Jacob came out of retirement to chastise the firm for handling the ruling without integrity.

And now this same judge is taking paychecks from Samsung.

Hey, Sir Jacob, how’s your integrity these days?

Müeller adds:

For someone so concerned with ‘integrity,’ it is utterly unusual to issue a high-profile and extreme ruling in favor of a particular party (Samsung in this case) only to be hired as an expert by that same party in another dispute.

Some folks took an issue with Müeller’s blog post, like Google cheerleader Seth Weintraub who asserts Müeller shouldn’t be trusted because he is a paid blogger:

Here’s where it gets sad/hilarious: Florian Mueller is an expert in taking after-trial money from companies involved in trials or “lack of integrity”, as he calls it. Oracle was forced to disclose that it paid Mueller during his “independent” coverage of the Oracle vs. Google trial last year.

Indeed, Mueller has a long history of paid lobbying for companies like Microsoft and others that you can read all about at Groklaw, The Verge, and other places.

Be that as it may, this doesn’t change the fact that Sir Jacob’s behavior casts a shadow of doubt over both his motive and handling of the UK’s Apple v. Samsung iPad trial.

What do you make of this?

Is there a conflict of interest somewhere in there?