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The Federal Circuit Helps a Patent Troll Block Public Access to Court Records

For more than three years, EFF has been fighting for public access to court records in a patent case between Uniloc, one of the world’s most prolific patent trolls, and Apple, one of the world’s biggest tech companies. The district court has ruled three different times that the public has a strong presumption of access to these records and has ordered Uniloc, the party asking for secrecy, to make them public. Last week, however, the Federal Circuit further delayed public access to the court records when it vacated the most recent ruling and sent the case back to the district court for further fact-finding regarding whether any of the materials should remain secret. EFF is disappointed in the Federal Circuit’s decision, which is both a significant setback to transparency in this case and carries troubling implications for the public’s ability to access court filings in patent litigation more broadly. The public has a constitutional right to access  court records, including records that contain information about patent licenses. But patent litigants routinely disregard that right and seal more than the law allows. District courts have discretion to apply their local rules vigorously to deter litigants from doing so. The Federal Circuit’s decision undermines both the public’s right of access and district courts’ authority to protect it. We’re also disappointed in Apple. The company had largely taken no position in the case as EFF pressed for public access. But on appeal, Apple joined Uniloc and argued that the public had no right to access these court records, leaving EFF as the only voice for the public…”

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