All but one barrister unavailable.
Apple faces the prospect of replacing three of its four lawyers ahead of an expedited final hearing of its patent dispute with Samsung.
Earlier this week, Samsung convinced Federal Court Justice Annabelle Bennett to conduct the final hearings in March for the parties’ respective claims over the iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet.
According to Apple’s senior counsel Sue Gilchrist, all but one of its barristers would be unavailable during that time.
In an affidavit filed in the Federal Court this morning, Gilchrist revealed that two of Apple’s senior lawyers and one of two junior lawyers would not be available throughout March and April.
Highlighting the spread of issues that the parties have brought before overseas courts, Apple’s lead counsel Stephen Burley sought more time to clarify them ahead of a final hearing.
The parties were unable to agree on facts and issues of patent infringement, competition law and FRAND licensing in court today.
Further, Samsung sought access to Apple’s iPhone 4 and iPad source code to find out if they used any Samsung technology, although its claim pertained only to the iPhone 4S.
Should Apple be found guilty of infringing on Samsung’s wireless patents in the iPhone 4S, Burley warned that there could be ramifications for all manufacturers of 3G phones.
Justice Bennett planned to conduct the final hearings over three weeks but Apple’s patent and competition law experts said the court would need six weeks to hear the iPhone 4S case alone.
Burley sought to have final hearings commence on April 2, instead of March, to give its new senior counsel enough time to get acquainted with the case.
“In order for this to be dealt with in a measured way, there ought to be an exchange of pleadings and the matter to be brought back before [the court], for consideration as to how and what issues can be determined when,” he said.
“Ultimately, the interests of justice aren’t served by there being a scramble which doesn’t lead in a clear elucidation of the issues which ultimately need to be directed towards the court having to make a decision.”
Samsung’s lead counsel Neil Young told the court today that it, too, faced scheduling difficulties, with Young himself and two junior lawyers unavailable in March.
The Korean manufacturer has engaged intellectual property lawyer Katrina Howard to replace Young during that time.
However, Young stood firm in demanding that the final hearing commence in early March, arguing that Samsung had postponed its bid to have the iPhone 4S pulled from Australian shelves for that reason.
Justice Bennett acknowledged that it would be the “worst thing in the world” if the case did not conclude within the agreed timeframe.
She ordered both parties to exchange final documents and responses to their claims, statements of facts and contentions.
“It’s in both parties’ interest to make this case run as efficiently to the agreed pace as possible,” she said.
“I want to make sure that all issues are able to be heard and dealt with by April 29.”
Unless the parties agree this week to conclude the final hearing in April, Samsung will apply to renew its iPhone 4S ban application on Monday, Young told the court today.
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