Yet Another Ridiculous Jury Patent Award Tossed Out

from the stop-letting-juries-do-this dept

Just weeks after we questioned why juries got to set patent awards, since those awards are often ridiculously high and are increasingly being tossed out by higher courts, it's happened again. A jury ruling from earlier this year that would have had Microsoft paying $388 million for patent infringement has been tossed out on appeal. It's become quite clear that juries don't understand most of the actual issues on patent law. At a conference on patent law last week hosted by the Santa Clara University law school, it was pointed out how little information is given to the jury on patent information. For example, professor John Duffy pointed out that jurors were only given 12 pages of information on how patent "obviousness" is determined, which he says is significantly less than any textbook he's ever used -- and yet, they're supposed to make a legal determination on it. So, once again, why does it make sense to let juries make these kinds of decisions?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    LoL, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 2:45am

    Juries don't need to understand the law.

    From what I understand, juries are a safeguard for society against arbitrary laws and they were not meant to understand the law just grasp it on the assumption that any person given the facts could make a rational, fair and just decision based on those facts.

    People are suppose to be dumb about laws. Like people are suppose to be dumb about medicine when they are not doctors it is natural to not be informed about the inner workings of other disciplines in society.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Jason Still (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 5:12am

      Re: Juries don't need to understand the law.

      People are suppose to be dumb about laws.
      Ignorance of the law is not a valid defense in court, therefore people are NOT supposed to be ignorant of the law. Another benefit (depending on your point of view) of having a decent understanding of the law is that it will often keep you from getting selected for a jury. Generally one of the two sides in any case will benefit from having less well informed jurors.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Idiot Basher, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 5:38am

        Re: Re: Juries don't need to understand the law.

        The "Ignorance of the Law is No Defense" is a load of BS! Tell me any non-lawyer who is familiar with every law, every statue, ordinance, etc of every federal, state, county and local law...

        There are way, way, way too many laws for any sane person to keep track up, let alone the Average Joe.

        And to expect juries to understand complex and convulted issues like patents and worse...copyright... when even judges and lawyers don't understand them fully is not only wrong... it is idiotic.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 6:29am

          Re: Re: Re: Juries don't need to understand the law.

          Dude, find me a lawyer, judge, or cop who is familiar with every law, statue, ordinance, ext of every federal, state, county, and local law and I'll give you $10.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          Sean T Henry (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 6:39am

          Re: Re: Re: Juries don't need to understand the law.

          "Tell me any non-lawyer who is familiar with every law, every statue, ordinance, etc of every federal, state, county and local law..."

          Chrono covered some of what I was going to say but go into any introduction to law class on the first day and tell me what you are told. What you should hear is "It is your responsibility as a citizen to know every law."

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Chuck, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 6:48pm

      Re: Juries don't need to understand the law.

      Well...as a certified paralegal I am supposed to defend the Jury system, but I'm also a geek, so while I do agree that juries should not be allowed to do certain things, I have to draw a big distinction here.

      Criminal law is not complicated and the vast majority of the time a jury does a great hob with criminal cases. Civil law however, deals with very very intricate things, and to put anyone who is not a legal scholar (a judge) in the position of making a decision in a Civil case is a bad idea.

      To put this in perspective, there are very few elements in a Murder trial: Motive, Means, Oppritunity, & Intent. In Manslaughter case there is even one fewer. Often times, proving these requires use of complicated science like DNA that the average person will not understand, but unless both your county and the defendant have millions of dollars to throw at the case (i.e. anywhere except LA) this will not be present in the majority of trials except "DNA says you did it." and that's all.

      In contrast, our firm is representing a guy who was being sued by another guy for buying a piece of land on which the other guy had a right of first refusal. Except he never recorded that right of first refusal at the courthouse until after he sued us. Then, to make matters worse, the other guy sued the real estate guy claiming that it was his job to record it - only the real estate guy knew nothing about this either. The best part of this whole case is that now, 4 years later, all the claims of the other guy have been dismissed, and now we're still listed as the defendant but we've counter-sued them in order to recover the amount our guy could've made on the land if it hadn't been tied up in this case for 4 years. He sued us for $1.8mil and we may now make upwards of $3mil on the case.

      If that doesn't make sense to you, I totally understand. It took me a year just to learn this all myself, and even I forget all the specifics and have to re-read the case file - now 7 file boxes of paper - every few months. That said this is exactly why Civil cases should not go in front of a jury, at least some times. Nobody except our guy, the guy who sued him, and the real estate agent have anything at stake here, yet 14 people (12 jurors and 2 alternates) will have to sink a week of their lives into trying to decipher and understand that with nothing for them or anyone they know to gain from it.

      Anyhow...criminal cases should be decided by a jury because the stakes are too high and the verdicts effect everyone. Civil cases where the only ones effected are the two parties in the case should be ruled on by a judge who is paid by the taxpayers to make this type of decision anyway.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Michael, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 1:29am

        Re: Re: Juries don't need to understand the law.

        Your case revolves entirely around facts.

        If the authority in this matter had an effective central information repository there would be exceedingly little gray area. It was readily producible even with mid 90s technologies but is so much easier and less costly to do today. It would only cost a fraction of a system-engineer's yearly wage once to write the configuration and data-structure for various open source elements, a database, a web-interface, some basic network service daemons if for some insane reason a network didn't yet exist there; plus the actual system hardware / Internet connection (for even a county or possibly a state commercially available off the shelf hardware and even outsource-able computing solutions exist).

        A small one time cost and smaller utility cost could have saved so many work-hours, confusion, and court time.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    LoL, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 2:50am

    But there are failings...

    ...many times juries are instructed improperly by judges about how to do their jobs.

    So if I was to guess, the problem may not be the jury but the courts protocol. But this is just a guess.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Misanthropist (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 3:18am

    This is a problem

    This is a problem... not with the jurors... but with the law.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 3:31am

    What is a patent?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Ady, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 4:33am

      Re:

      10 minutes on this website and you'll pretyt much be the authority on them.

      Speaking of which, where is that funny businessman like patent troll? I do enjoy his rants.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    LoL, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 5:48am

    @Jason Still

    Would you consider yourself capable of dealing with any expertise in any walk of life?

    Can you cite by heart all the laws of your state right now?

    Care to explain how people should know the law without formal education and not be ignorant about it when even judges struggle with it and disagree in many points?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    drewmerc (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 6:33am

    laws are supposed to be based on common sense
    like the 10 commandments, i'm an atheist but still they are understandable
    patent, copyright problems put them on 4chan and let the strongest troll win

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    PRMan, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 8:51am

    Judges too

    Heck, why do you think we have lawyers argue their side. Often, it is the lawyers who bring up the case law because the JUDGE is ignorant of it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    staff1, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 8:04am

    stop the shilling!!!

    "For example, professor John Duffy pointed out that jurors were only given 12 pages of information on how patent "obviousness" is determined..."

    If you cant explain it in 12 pages, then you don't understand it. You have "obviously" never taught. Mr. Duffy needs to understand this is not a law school course and does not require that level of detail.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This