Judge Overturns $147.2 Million Jury Award Against RIM

from the there-it-goes dept

Just a few weeks ago, we wrote about RIM getting hit with yet another crazy patent infringement award, after a jury sided with Mformation and told RIM to pay $147.2 million. However, as often happens in these kinds of cases, RIM then sought a judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) — effectively a finding from the judge that, even though a jury ruled one way, it did not have enough evidence to do so. Those aren’t often granted, but in this case… the judge dumped the jury verdict.

After considering motions presented by both parties, as well as the jury verdict (which was announced by RIM on July 14, 2012), the Judge determined that RIM had not infringed on Mformation’s patent. In granting RIM’s motion, the Judge also vacated the $147.2 million jury award, which means that RIM is not required to make any payment to Mformation.

Mformation can (and almost certainly will) appeal, though a successful appeal would just take things back to square one, meaning a new district court trial.

Stories like this are why there have been some efforts made to get juries out of patent trials…

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Companies: mformation, rim

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Comments on “Judge Overturns $147.2 Million Jury Award Against RIM”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Cruel Juries

How would you feel if someone used your idea to make millions and millions of dollars? Not good, you’d want to get paid. That’s how the juries see it.

They aren’t in a position to make an educated decision so they end up going by how they would feel if they were in that situation.

It’s almost as stupid as some of the patents themselves.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Cruel Juries

> How would you feel if someone used your idea
> to make millions and millions of dollars?

If you don’t want someone using your idea, then keep it a secret, like the Coke formula. But secrecy doesn’t protect you from independent discovery or independent invention.

Hey, I have an idea! Computerized tablets should be, rectangular, with rounded corners, thin, attractive, easy to handle, and easy to use.

Quick! Sue someone who used my idea to make millions (er, billions) of dollars! After all, Samsung could have (as Apple argues with a straight face) made their tablets, thick, cluttered, and heavy.

Hey, I have an idea! Sports cars should look sexy and go really fast!

Quick! Sue someone who used my idea to make millions of dollars! After all, Brand X could have made their sports cars to be ugly and go slow.

The problem is that you appear to think the idea is where the value is. The value is in the work to develop a product and bring it to market. Someone else doing the same thing, put their own hard work into bringing their product to market.

Patents should just go away. Period. They are not protecting anything that should be protected. They do not promote the useful arts and science; they hinder it.

The patent system is broken. Even if it were to be fixed (even if it cound be fixed!) it would just get broken again, because there is too much money to be made in making it broken and keeping it broken.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Cruel Juries

The problem isn’t the patent system, it’s that it’s lost its purpose. They aren’t “protecting anything that should be protected” because patents were never about protecting ideas in the first place. That’s the tail wagging the dog.

The original purpose of patents was to bribe inventors into publishing the details of their inventions for all to see, so that useful knowledge could not be lost with the death of the inventor, a tragedy that has literally set human progress back by thousands of years. (Don’t believe me? The earliest known samples of steel date to the 14th century BC. But steelmaking techniques did not become well-known until the 18th century, and then only because Huntsman, and later Bessmer (building on Huntsman’s work which was in the public domain by then), patented their techniques.)

The system works as designed; we’re just not using it as designed. Getting rid of it would be a disaster; without the incentive to publish your knowledge and feed the public domain, we’d be back to the bad old days of keeping everything a closely-guarded secret. What we need is patent reform, not patent repeal.

FuzzyDuck says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Cruel Juries

While I can see the theoretical usefulness of patents, it seems to turn out quite differently in reality, where it does look like 90% or more of patents just exist to hinder competition.

But hey, please give a few examples of recent patents (from the last 30 years say) that contribute to the public domain and that wouldn’t have been discovered independently.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Cruel Juries

I’d argue that the majority of patents today are completely unusable for learning anything.

They’re so insanely vague and written in legalese to such an extent that they say nothing.

I’ve seen claims within patents that say basically we use any material to make our invention that has a stiffness basically from jello to near diamond for our structural component (that’s specific and helpful and information I can use!!). We make carbon from a carbon containing feedstock (no specificity at all)…you’d know that’s how it has to work from basic chemistry. A claim that says we “apply energy” to the system to cause a change (is it light, heat, RF radiation, electricity, who knows…who cares..it was accepted as valid).

It’s all garbage.

That doesn’t even get to software patents…which are almost all garbage and say nothing.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Cruel Juries

> The problem isn’t the patent system,
> it’s that it’s lost its purpose.

The problem *IS* the patent system.

As I pointed out, even if you (could!) fix it, it would get broken again. Too many people are interested in keeping it broken, including the USPTO itself.

It will always creep towards broken. “Hey, if this is patentable, then why not that?” Eventually you get to, “if I can patent swipe to unlock, then why can’t a patent a button press to unlock, which is a zero-length swipe?” But why stop there? “If I can patent pressing a button to unlock, why not patent pressing a button to do anything?”

Then we come to another phenomena. Anything that is already patented by someone else can be re-patented by you by simply suffixing it with “. . . on an iPhone”. (Or replace “iPhone” with something else.)

When I see a patent on putting up a spinning hourglass as a placeholder for a graphic being downloaded in the background, I have to conclude that you are WRONG and it IS the patent system that is to blame.

It is broken beyond repair. It needs to go.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Cruel Juries

“The original purpose of patents was to bribe inventors into publishing the details of their inventions for all to see”

No, the purpose was good old mercantilism, companies going to the government and getting a government-granted monopoly on what they were doing. That was to defend them from commercial competition, thereby enriching them and their corrupt friends in government. Do not forget, the government is by far the safest source of violence so as to stop somebody else from doing something.

Your history of steelmaking is incorrect. No techniques were lost by the death of inventors. Steelmaking techniques were widely distributed. The problem with steelmaking was caused by lack of knowledge of chemistry. Once correct chemical understanding existed, then the invention of more efficient steelmaking techniques was inevitable. The patent system did not help.

“The system works as designed; we’re just not using it as designed.”

It is designed to hand out anti-competitive government-granted monopolies to skilled lawyers who did not actually invent anything. That is exactly what it is doing. However, that is not a socially useful function, hence the patent system should be abolished.

“without the incentive to publish your knowledge and feed the public domain, we’d be back to the bad old days of keeping everything a closely-guarded secret.”

Trade secrets are alive and well in the world of production engineering. However, even the best-kept secrets can be worked around. For example, the formula of Coca-cola is secret, but Pepsi competes successfully. Chemistry is a very powerful tool for understanding how things are made, so keeping secrets has become harder and harder.

There are few to no patents which divulge secrets which could be successfully kept. Therefore, the alleged benefit of disclosure is illusory. Therefore the patent system is left with enormous costs and negligible benefit. Therefore it should be abolished.

ld says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The Old Days

We are already going back to the old days. If you patent something now, you not only have to have millions for legal fees to back up your patent, you also have to worry about someone taking your patent information and, using dedicated software and computer networks, simply engineering a solution that meets all of your patent’s goals without infringing on it. More and more companies are simply keeping things in house if possible and individuals are inventing things by the ton and simply using them for themselves. Garbage patents, like Apple’s patent for an obvious idea that is far from new, a rectangular screen that replaces a pad of paper, and patent trolls who invent nothing but how to write a check for defunct companies or lame patents that are far to broad or shouldn’t have been granted in the first place,have made patents a joke for the most part.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Cruel Juries

I think you’re right. A jury made up of average people are not well suited to judge the obviousness or meaning of a patent. They have little knowledge or experience in developing products or even knowing what would be a logical next step.

By not knowing these things, they cannot make their own (informed) judgements on whether infringement occurred or how “willful” it was. Because of this, they’re relatively easily swayed by emotional pleas and just overall good lawyering.

They’re also horrendously equiped to determine equitable awards. Even in the story a few articles ago relating to GM crops, the jury award is MASSIVE for no actual financial harm…only the possible harm maybe one day. It’s even something that people do all the time. As an engineer, it’s not uncommon to basically duplicate a patented invention to see how it works and how to improve it or get around the claims. I don’t know how many patents I’ve innocently duplicated then gone looking and said “damn…already done.”

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Cruel Juries

It’s not that there aren’t people who can think for themselves, even in a group.

It’s that THOSE people who can think never make it into the jury. The jury selection process is designed to exclude thinking people who cannot be swayed by emotion.

At least one side deliberately wants to exclude the people who can think. As long as enough of them can be excluded, that side might be able to win its case. Even if a few thinking people make it through jury selection, they end up in a small minority — or just one. They can sometimes then be pressured, after lengthy argument, into just voting with the majority.

Yakko Warner (profile) says:

Re: Cruel Juries

Where do they find these incredibly cruel juries?

They pick them at random out of the pool of taxpayers and compel them under penalty of law to leave their jobs and/or families, pay them less than minimum wage, and make judgments about a complex area of law in which they have no experience or expertise.

What could go wrong?

Thomas (profile) says:


Mformation forgot to offer the judge a cut, so the judge vacated the whole shebang. In these cases, it’s important to make sure you’ve paid off both the jury AND the judge if you want make sure things go your way.

This would never have happened in East Texas – the judges and juries have the mechanisms in place to make sure they get “benefits” and the plaintiffs know where to slip the envelopes.

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