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Court Reverses $625.5 Million Ruling Against Apple
[April 07, 2011]

Court Reverses $625.5 Million Ruling Against Apple

Apr 06, 2011 (Tyler Morning Telegraph - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- U.S. Judge Leonard Davis on Monday reversed a $625.5 million award that a jury in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas, had ordered Apple Inc. to pay in a patent infringement lawsuit in October -- something that a Southern Methodist University law professor said is unusual.

"It's relatively unusual to set aside a verdict to zero," Bill Dorsaneo, a professor at the university's Dedman School of Law said on Tuesday. He added that judges have little interest in trying cases a second time. Dorsaneo noted he is not a patent attorney and is not associated with the Apple case.

Patent cases, he said, are much more technical and have more legal issues than other kinds of commercial cases.

The federal jury made the award to Mirror Worlds, a Connecticut-based technology company, which is incorporated in Tyler, based on three patent infringements for $208.5 million each.

The patents cover characteristic Mac features such as Cover Flow, which lets the users skim through album covers or other content as if they were pages in a book. Another is Time Machine, which performs automatic backups, and Spotlight, a type of software for searching computer hard drives.

Two phone calls to Patrick Kelley, a Tyler attorney who represents Mirror Worlds, were not returned on Tuesday. Kristin Huguet, of Apple Inc., declined comment.

Davis wrote in his opinion "while a jury's collective wisdom should always be honored as to disputed factual issues, it is equally true that the party with the burden of proof must present sufficient as to each and every element required in its cause of action." The judge continued to state that although "this is often a painstaking task, especially in a complex patent case, it is important." According to court documents, Mirror Worlds relied on video clips of Apple's co-founder, Steve Jobs, referring to integrating computer files into Spotlight Store, one of the types of software in question, as evidence of the patent infringement.

In addition, Mirror Worlds asserted that Apple "automatically infringes because the accused Spotlight feature is built into the core of Apple's operating systems that are always on and necessarily practiced by Apple's computers." Mirror Worlds also said that Apple's computer sales containing the accused software support the jury's finding of patent infringement, according to the court documents. "Mirror Worlds concludes that Apple's advertisements, highlighting the accused features, is also legally sufficient evidence for the jury to have found direct infringement of the method claims," court documents stated.

And finally, Mirror Worlds argued that Apple developed and sold the accused products. "Therefore, it was reasonable for the jury to infer that Apple necessarily tested the accused products and performed the patented steps," the documents stated.

But in the end, Davis decided it was necessary to set aside the jury verdict, according to court documents.

"No matter how attractive a party paints the facade of its case, it is worthless without the requisite foundational support. It is the court's job to inspect that foundation, and where it has not been properly laid under the law, to set aside the verdict to protect the reliability of our jury system. In this case, Mirror Worlds may have painted an appealing picture for the jury, but it failed to lay a solid foundation sufficient to support important elements it was required to establish under the law," Judge Davis' opinion read.

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