East Texas judge tosses $625M patent verdict against Apple

Marilyn Tennissen Apr. 5, 2011, 8:59am

Apple's Cover Flow

TYLER - A federal judge in East Texas has thrown out a $625.5 million patent-infringement verdict against Apple.

On Monday, April 4, U.S. District Judge Leonard E. Davis of Tyler ruled that Apple did not infringe on a patent owned by Mirror Worlds LLC dealing with the way documents are displayed on a computer screen.

Mirror Worlds, founded by Yale University computer-science Professor David Gelernter, sued in 2008, claiming Apple's Mac computers infringed its patents through the Spotlight, Time Machine and Cover Flow features in Apple's Mac operating systems.

On Oct. 1, a federal jury said Apple was infringing three patents and awarded damages of $208.5 million for each patent.

Apple challenged the validity of the patents and whether they were infringed.

"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 wrote.

Davis also said the damage award was too high.

He did, however, uphold the validity of the three Mirror Worlds patents.

The patents-in-suit -- U.S. Patent Nos. 6,006,227; 6,638,313 and 6,725,427 -- disclose a document stream operating system and method where the documents are stored in or more chronologically ordered streams, the location and nature of file storage is transparent to the user, the information is organized as needed instead of at the time the document is created, sophisticated logic is provided for summarizing a large group of related documents for a concise overview and archiving is automatic.

Mirror Worlds alleged Apple both directly and indirectly infringed its patents and that the infringement was willful.

The plaintiff also contented it was entitled to damages not less than a reasonably royalty, interest, costs, enhanced damages, attorneys' fees and injunctive relief.

Throughout the trial, Mirror Worlds continually referenced and played a video showing Apple co-founder Steve Jobs demonstrating the Spotlight and Cover Flow features.

"Both during and after trial, Mirror Worlds asserted the video was evidence of infringement; however this assertion is unsupported by the record," Davis wrote.

Davis cited previous cases that determined that in order to infringe a method claim, a person must have practiced all steps of the claimed method, a method claim is not directly infringed by the sale of an apparatus even though it is capable of performing only the patented method.

"Mirror Worlds simply failed to present sufficient evidence from which a reasonably safe jury could find that Apple, or anyone else, practiced each and every step of the claimed methods by using the Spotlight, Cover Flow and Time Machine features in the accused Mac OS X 10.4-6.," Davis wrote. "While it is important to persuade a jury, it is imperative to present a 'legally sufficient evidentiary bases' to support that persuasion."

During the closing arguments of the trial, Mirror Worlds argued that if the jury found any one of the patents infringed, Mirror Worlds was entitled to $300 million in damages.

"Despite Mirror Worlds' representation to the jury that it was only entitled to approximately $300 million, Mirror Worlds now asserts it is entitled to aggregate the $208.5 million answer for each patent, totaling $625.5 million," David wrote.

"The record lacks substantial evidence to support the jury's award of damages. The Court grants Apple's request for Judgment as a Matter of Law to vacate the jury's damages award. Based on the finding of non-infringement set forth above, the Court denies as moot Apple's motion the alternative for a new trial or remittitur."

Mirror Worlds is represented in part by Otis W. Carroll of Ireland, Carroll & Kelley in Tyler.

Apple is represented in part by Eric Albritton of The Albritton Law Firm in Longview.

The case is Mirror Worlds LLC v. Apple Inc., 08cv88, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (Tyler).

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