Jury finds in favor of cable company defendant in Marshall patent trial

Marilyn Tennissen Jul. 26, 2007, 4:53am

Defense attorney John Desmarais

A Marshall jury found a cable company did not infringe on patents it used to provide high-speed data service.

The patent-infringement trial of Hybrid Patents Inc. against Charter Communications began July 16 in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division. U.S. District Judge T. John Ward presided on the trial that concluded July 23.

Hybrid, a Fort-Worth based patent –licensing company, took cable TV company Charter to court alleging it owned patents on the industry standard developed in the 1990s for high-speed transmissions over cable modems.

According to a Bloomberg article, Hybrid was seeking as much as $176 million in damages.

"They had a damage model that, every time someone surfed the Internet, they wanted a royalty," said Charter's lawyer John Desmarais to Bloomberg. "They were trying to get a piece of the monthly fee for high-speed data subscriptions even though the patents were on the equipment. It didn't come to that because the jury found there was no infringement."

Desmarais is a member of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, a firm with offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Hong Kong , London and Munich. The firm's Web site lists patent litigation as one of its practice areas.

Desmarais is a former federal prosecutor who was lead attorney for Alcatel-Lucent in its $1.53 billion jury verdict against Microsoft. The jury found the software giant infringed on patents relating to MP3 technology.

Hybrid was represented by William Slusser. Slusser is a partner at Slusser, Wilson & Partridge LLP in Houston.

The original complaint by Hybrid, obtained by The Record through the federal clerk's office in Beaumont, alleged that Charter infringed on three patents issued to Hybrid from 1996 to 2000.

"Charter has for a number of years performed a wide array of activities relating to data transmission, such as … providing 'high-speed data services' to subscribers, using cable television systems and providing devices capable of receiving and processing data transmissions through cable systems," the original complaint states.

Hybrid asked the court to enjoin Charter from providing high-speed data transmission services to subscribers and award Hybrid a reasonable royalty, treble damages, court costs, interest and attorney's fees.

On July 23, jurors responded that they did not find by a preponderance of evidence that the defendant infringed any of the claims of the patents with respect to the sales of high-speed Internet cable services.

Peter Lattman of the Wall Street Journal Law Blog wrote that the jury finding in favor of a corporate defendant was something of a surprise in plaintiff-friendly Marshall.

"With quick trials and plaintiff-friendly juries, corporate defendants are loath to litigate here (Marshall) and often settle rather than taking a case to trial and risk being on the losing end of a big jury verdict," Lattman wrote on July 24. "But we raised our eyebrows yesterday after reading about a corporate defendant that won a jury trial in the so-called rocket docket."

Lattman said the win could help a number of other major cable companies that have been sued by Hybrid.

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