Judge tosses $625.5M patent judgment against Apple

Vacates 2010 jury verdict, says Mirror Worlds failed to prove patent violation

A federal judge yesterday tossed a $625.5 million patent infringement judgment against Apple, discarding a 2010 jury verdict that said the company violated patents in its iPhone, iPod, iPad and Mac OS X.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Davis ruled that Apple did not violate the three patents claimed by Mirror Worlds LLC, a company founded by David Gelernter, a Yale University computer science professor.

Mirror Worlds sued Apple in March 2008, when it claimed that Apple's Time Machine data backup and restore software, the Spotlight search tool, and "CoverFlow," a 3-D graphical interface featured in iTunes and it mobile devices, illegally used patented technologies and programming techniques.

In his ruling Monday, Davis vacated the jury's verdict and the damages it awarded, saying that while Mirror Worlds' lawyers convinced the jury, they had failed to prove Apple violated the applicable patents.

"The jury often relies on the representations of parties, who bear the burden of being accurate and complete and living up to the representations they make to the jury," said Davis in the 44-page decision. "No matter how attractive a party paints the facade of its case, it is worthless without the requisite foundational support.

"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," Davis concluded.

Last September, a Texas jury awarded Mirror Worlds $625.5 million , $208.5 million for each of the three alleged patent violations. A week later, Apple asked Davis to delay his final ruling, claiming that the award amounted to "triple dipping."

"Separate and apart from the sufficiency of evidence regarding infringement, there is insufficient evidence to support the jury's $208.5 million damages award," Davis said in his ruling Monday.

The award was among the largest ever in a patent infringement case, and more than double the one Microsoft has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gelernter, who founded Mirror Worlds, is also the author of the 1992 book Mirror Worlds: or the Day Software Puts the Universe in a Shoebox and the 1997 book Drawing Life .

The latter is Gelernter's account of surviving the explosion of a mail bomb sent by the Unabomber, who killed three and injured 23 others over a two-decade campaign of bombings. In 1998, Theodore "Ted" Kaczynski pleaded guilty to government charges stemming from the crimes, and is currently servicing a life sentence in a Colorado federal prison.

Neither Gelernter or Apple responded to requests for comment on Davis' ruling.

Tags DRM and Legal IssuesAppleapplicationsMac OSsoftwareoperating systems

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)

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