Judge Reverses Ridiculous $625 Million Patent Award Against Apple Over Cover Flow, Spotlight & Time Machine

from the smart-judge dept

Last fall, we wrote about yet another in a long line of ridiculous patent lawsuits. This one, filed against Apple, got some extra attention, because the lawsuit was filed by Mirror Worlds, a spinoff from Yale University, founded by Prof. David Gelertner, who was complaining in the press that he wasn’t getting “credit” for these inventions which Apple was accused of infringing on. Of course, the patents seemed pretty general:

  • 6,006,227: Document stream operating system
  • 6,638,313: Document stream operating system
  • 6,725,427: Document stream operating system with document organizing and display facilities
  • 6,768,999: Enterprise, stream-based, information management system

Still, as happens all too often in patent jury trials, the jury becomes enamored with the myth of the “American inventor” as a patent holder, and sided with Mirror Worlds in a massive way, claiming that Apple’s features of Spotlight, Cover Flow and Time Machine didn’t just infringe on these patents, but that the company owed over $200 million on each technology.

Apple responded, by pointing out that this ruling was plainly ridiculous, and thankfully, the judge in the case has agreed, pretty much tossing out the whole thing, noting that while the patents may still be valid, Apple did not infringe, and even if it did infringe, the damages awards were ridiculous.

It seems likely that Mirror Worlds will appeal, so this case probably isn’t over yet, but it’s nice to see a judge (in East Texas, too!) actually point out that the jury got this one totally and completely wrong.

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Companies: apple, mirror worlds

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Comments on “Judge Reverses Ridiculous $625 Million Patent Award Against Apple Over Cover Flow, Spotlight & Time Machine”

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Malodorous Intent (profile) says:

A missed opportunity

From the Apple Insider post on the story, Gelernter says the following:

“That makes me angry personally, not because of the money, but because of the deliberate failure to acknowledge work that we would have made freely available as academics and that companies will not acknowledge because there is so much money involved,” he said.

Would have made freely available” but didn’t.

Dan (profile) says:

This werdict perpetuates a bad system

If you look at this from the other direction, scaling back this verdict is incentive to not fix what’s broken. Consider this:

If the verdict and the amount were allowed to stand, companies would eventually get the clue that patient laws that allow such big awards, are as much of a liability as an asset.

As soon as the percentage of payouts vs. total revenue gets large enough for large companies, they will lobby for lower awards which in turn will make filing the lawsuits less lucrative in the first place, turning the focus to innovation.

If you truly wish reform of a broken system, the best thing to do is to allow it to perform broken. The influential players will eventually get fed up and reform it.

staff says:

stop the shilling

“the damages awards were ridiculous”

The only sensible way to determine damages is to let the market set them. Restore injunctions for all patentees large and small, then we will truly know what an invention is worth. Anything short of an injunction once infringement is found is theft by government on top of theft by the infringer and a denial of a Constitutionally mandated right.

Herb Cohen says:

Re: stop the shilling

” Anything short of an injunction once infringement is found is theft by government on top of theft by the infringer and a denial of a Constitutionally mandated right.”

Wait you’re suggesting that Patents are Constitutional right? Are you high? The only reference to IP in the constitution is clearly there to mitigate it’s impact and limit the availability of such monopolies. Remember at that time, and in fact up until 1831 (Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, 30 U.S. 1) the government didn’t assume the power over states to enforce commerce. The clause you’re referring to has been creatively re-interpreted to mean the exact opposite of what it’s intent was to prevent: dubious monopolies that overshadow governmental powers.

patent litigation (user link) says:

court or market?

Even so, the outcome of the patent litigation between Apple and Nokia is far from certain. As noted by Alexander Poltorak at GPC: “One cannot help wondering if the latest round [of suits between Apple and Nokia] is not a proxy for a fight between Microsoft and Apple, which are rivals as well.” It’s questionable whether these mobile wars should take place in the courts, in the form of patent litigation, or should be properly restricted to the marketplace, where they rightfully belong. Whatever one’s position on the issue, however, it’s true that as long as IP rights exist, then patentees have every legal right to enforce them.

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