There has been a lot of coverage of the Apple v. Samsung case going on. I’ve posted on the value of design patents that this litigation highlights. One topic is that of the public release of excluded evidence by Samsung’s lawyers. Some tech blogs have taken issue with the ruling saying Samsung should be able to show evidence that the design was their own idea.
This misses a critical point. Independent development is not a defense to patent infringement. Even if you never saw the design or the patent you are accused of infringing, that will not protect you. This is true even in you came up with the idea first.
Unless an earlier developed design fits into a statutory category of prior art (such as a printed publication, patent, article for sale, etc.) then its existence is irrelevant to validity and infringement. This surprises some people and it is different than other areas of intellectual property law.
For example, trade secret law protects against misappropriation; copyright law protects from copying. In these areas, a defendant can avoid liability by demonstrating independent development. I’m sure the attorney’s for Samsung were well aware of this, and it will be interesting to see what Judge Koh does in response to the public statements and release of evidence that was deemed irrelevant.