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Apple Wins $625.5 Million Ruling Over Cover Flow 113

Posted by Soulskill
from the simple-twist-of-fate dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A federal judge has reversed a $625.5 million judgement against Apple in a patent infringement lawsuit pertaining to Apple's Cover Flow feature. The lawsuit was filed by Mirror Worlds, a company founded by Yale professor Dave Gelertner. '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,' US District Judge Leonard Davis explained in his decision."
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Apple Wins $625.5 Million Ruling Over Cover Flow

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  • Pretty thin article.

    So what does "failing to lay a solid foundation" mean for overall patent suits in Texas?

    • by Seumas (6865) on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @08:30AM (#35718958)

      . . . Of money. A solid foundation of money.

    • by ari_j (90255) on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @10:56AM (#35720674)
      Nothing. I haven't read the decision, but it sounds like Mirror Worlds obtained a jury verdict against Apple for $625.5 million. A jury verdict is worth nothing until the judge orders that the clerk enter judgment according to it. In the American legal system, a jury can decide facts but the judge rules on the law. A jury's finding of fact is generally unassailable unless there was basically no evidence in support of that fact. It sometimes happens that a jury will reach a verdict and then the lawyers will argue whether the verdict was supported by competent evidence. If it was not, then the verdict will not stand. It does not take much evidence to allow a jury verdict to stand - even circumstantial evidence standing alone can be enough - but it takes some.

      In other words, what happened here was that Mirror Worlds had lazy or stupid lawyers who failed to present evidence on all of the facts they had to prove to the jury, so even though the jury came back with a verdict in their favor the verdict is of no value. They can appeal the judge's ruling and ask the appellate court to reverse his decision and order judgment on the jury verdict, but they will have to point the appellate court to specific evidence in the trial transcript and exhibits that supports each and every element of their claims. If they couldn't point the trial judge to that evidence after he had sat through the whole trial, it is unlikely they will be able to show it to the appellate court - if they are even allowed to, since you generally cannot raise an issue on appeal that you never raised in the court you are appealing from.

      There is likely no precedential value of this judge's decision beyond this one case, except that Mirror Worlds' lawyers will work harder in the future at their new jobs.
      • by wynler (678277)
        Actually in Georgia, the Jury determines the facts and the law.  But only for criminal cases.

        Article 1 Section 1 Paragraph XI A
        http://www.sos.ga.gov/elections/GAConstitution.pdf
        • by mattack2 (1165421)

          In other words, that's completely irrelevant to the issue at hand.

        • by ari_j (90255)
          The wording there is that the jury are the "judges of the law and the facts." That doesn't necessarily mean that they determine the law, but possibly only that they apply the law to the facts. That is the normal way of doing it, although I do not know whether Georgia has addressed which of these (normal or abnormal) the state constitution actually means.
  • Is this a step in the right direction or will this (and others) keep aiming for the SCOTUS?
    • by lorenlal (164133)

      I wouldn't call it a step in the right direction necessarily. It's nice to see a troll get what it deserves (i.e. nothing), but this does point out that to overturn a patent, you have to have resources to do so. Which means the big players are going to have to lead the charge.

      Plus, those same leaders have to be willing to not enforce the patents that they have with the same tactics. Last I checked, Apple seems pretty willing to defend its patents.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)

      No, it's a step in the wrong direction. The precedent[1] set by this is that companies with a lot of lawyers are probably safe from patent trolls. Apple gets to keep being a cheerleader for software patents and to keep enforcing their software patents against other companies.

      The best outcome would have been for this to have stood up. $625.5m is not a small amount of money, even to a company like Apple. A few more of these, and the patent system starts to be seen as a liability for big companies, rather

      • $625.5m is not a small amount of money, even to a company like Apple

        It's a rounding error in their cash pile of ~$60B.
        It's ~2.5 days of revenue. ($25B/90 days)
        It's about 1 hour of trading in AAPL shares.

        It's a small amount of money to Apple.

        • 2.5 days of revenue for Apple is about two weeks worth of profit, with their posted margins. That's a nontrivial amount. It doesn't take many of those in a year for patent lawsuits to become their biggest expense.
        • It's a small amount of money to Apple.

          So: because it is a small amount of money (according to your calculation) you would have preferred an unjust ruling over a just one?
          Sorry, I don't really get why Apple should suffer from a patent troll, just because Apple is successful at the market.

          Best Regards

          angel'o'sphere

          • I never said, intimated or hinted that I wanted the ruling going the other way.

            Merely pointed out that $625M was not a lot to Apple. And perhaps intimated that only the big boys can play this game.

  • by chemicaldave (1776600) on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @08:37AM (#35719020)
    Apple doesn't have to pay punitive damages, but the court still upheld the patents.

    Though Gelertner’s patents were upheld by the court, Judge Davis threw out the $625.5 million damage award and closed the case in Apple’s favor.

    Isn't this like saying "Apple infringed on your patents, but they won't have to pay anything. Have a nice day."

    • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @08:42AM (#35719060)

      Though Gelertner’s patents were upheld by the court, Judge Davis threw out the $625.5 million damage award and closed the case in Apple’s favor.

      Isn't this like saying "Apple infringed on your patents, but they won't have to pay anything. Have a nice day."

      "You have successfully convinced me you have a nice patent. You have not convinced me it has anything whatsoever to do with Apple, or VLM at /., or chemicaldave at /. or pretty much anything else"

      • That's logical. Glad to see a judge with some sense.
      • From the article:

        The jury on Oct. 1 said Apple was infringing three patents and awarded damages of $208.5 million for each patent. Apple had argued in court papers that the amount was too high and that it was improper to add the damages. Davis agreed, saying “the evidentiary record is insufficient to support the jury’s damage awards” even if the infringement finding had been upheld.

        So, basically, the Judge felt that the fine was too high and threw the fine out. Apple was found guilty of in

        • by chaboud (231590)

          That's the bit that makes this a load of crap (even though I hate patent trolls). They were found to be infringing but the fine was too large. Basically, they won too much. They should have convinced the jury to keep it under $80 mil.

    • by varmittang (849469) on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @08:43AM (#35719076)
      No.

      Apple didn't infringe the patents, so the patents are fine and not invalidated, and continue to sue others. But, the patents just don't apply to what Apple has done, so Apple doesn't need to pay a fine for not infringing on the patents.
      • by mrxak (727974)

        It's going to be hard to sue others after this though. Certainly for anything like Cover Flow.

    • by anegg (1390659)

      Although I haven't seen the details of this particular case, I don't think your conclusion is the only possible one.

      My conclusion was that Judge Davis thought "You have valid patents, but you have not shown that the technology that Apple is using infringes on those patents. Have a nice day."

      • Well he thought so the second time he had to think about it any way, he denied a judgement as matter of law just before the verdict, wonder what changed in the mean time.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      What happened here is a Judgment Notwithstanding Verdict[tm], aka JNOV. It's not an appeal and it's not often used. Its reasoning is as follows (no, I'm not putting a cynical bent on it): no reasonable jury could have made that verdict, therefore the jury is unreasonable, therefore its finding is invalid, therefore I shall override its verdict.

      Put another way, the judge probably has a stack of Mac Pros sitting outside his office right now.

      • right, so even though the jury is supposed to call guilty/not guilty, here the judge basically did a "LALALALALALALALALAA cant hear you!!" and got an invite to the black turtleneck club?

        Man, i should have studied law instead of engineering

      • by TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @02:24PM (#35723024) Journal

        No uncorrupt judge could have made that verdict, therefore the judge is corrupt, therefore his findings are invalid.

        FTFY. Why should we give any more credence to you, than you gave to the judge for using the same line of argument?

        If the lawyer failed to make a solid case, but the jury were impressed, then the judge should step in as a course of duty. Sometimes proof differs from conviction, and arguments that impress a jury may be, in fact, riddled with holes. Say, for example, you were accused of paedophellia, and the prosecutor simply screemed at the jury rhetorical questions like, "Do you want a man like this near your kids?", or "How can we be sure he isn't going to rape your daughter?", and the jury convicted you on these grounds alone, would you not prefer that the judge point out that no case has been established?

        As a final point (although at this point it's probably useless given the apparent void of any critical thought here on /. regarding accusations of corruption of people in positions of perceived power), why would a judge risk a stable, well-paying job, his freedom, and his legacy, for a few mac pros? I mean, his decision will be published, and it is witnessed by several parties in the court at the time. If there was no substantiating evidence for the validity of his opinion, such a void of evidence would be apparent to anyone (with sufficient knowledge) who reads the decision. It seems, therefore, unlikely that the judge would do anything so overt as to throw the decision to apple for anything less than extremely substantial material gain (more than a few mac pros, or a few hundred thousand dollars), and it seems unlikely for apple to attempt such a bribery at such a steep going rate.

        • If the lawyer failed to make a solid case, but the jury were impressed, then the judge should step in as a course of duty.

          The judge is welcome to direct the jury during the case, yes. Anyone found guilty or losing a civil case is also welcome to appeal. A JNOV is neither. A JNOV is a judge being persuaded to change his mind, deciding after the finding that the jury should have been directed, but without the requirement for the party previously judged against to present a proper appeal to a better authority. It's essentially a way of fudging the system by making a ruling at a particular level non-binding.

          Sometimes proof differs from conviction, and arguments that impress a jury may be, in fact, riddled with holes.

          This is the purpose of

          • It is unlikely that he would. Any reward would have to be far greater, and you're being deliberately obtuse. Of course, no organisation has ever managed to bribe a judge with the prospect of current or future reward, so I guess I should apologise for making such an insane implication.

            I assure you that I'm not being deliberately obtuse; I was taking the mac pros to be a metaphor for any type of bribery. But yes, I'm glad you realise that the implication was insane. I've seen many such implications made here

    • Maybe that means the patents are valid but Apple isn't infringing on them.
    • by sincewhen (640526)

      I haven't RTFA but I would guess that the judge was ruling that the patents are valid and still stand, but that Apple didn't infringe upon them.

    • thanx for says
    • by Dhalka226 (559740)
      From TFA: "A federal judge in Tyler, Texas, today said Apple didn't infringe a patent owned by Mirror Worlds LLC and closed the case in Apple's favor."
  • Dave Gelertner is also famous as one of the UNABOM victims who survived. He originally wrote a book called "Mirror Worlds" that offered a theoretical means to digitally replicate the natural world in a way that would be indistinguishable from the original. After publishing this book he received a mail bomb from the UNABOM (purported to be FBI detainee Ted Kaczynski) which prompted him to stop publishing, remove the book from distribution, and re-write another book under the same title that some consider a c

  • The (thin) articles say that Gelertner's patent was for arranging documents in a time flow. Why wouldn't Eadweard Muybridge's work be prior art? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muybridge)

    This sure seems to me to be Yet Another Duh! patent.

    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

      The (thin) articles say that Gelertner's patent was for arranging documents in a time flow. Why wouldn't Eadweard Muybridge's work be prior art? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muybridge)

      This sure seems to me to be Yet Another Duh! patent.

      Muybridge died in 1904, long before documents were stored and retrieved electronically. As for it seeming common sense, you have to remember that it was filed in 1999, long before what we accept as normal ways to do things, today, just 12 years later.

      Besides, the overturning judge ruled the patent valid, somehow, he just wrote off the damages from the infringement.

      • by t2t10 (1909766)

        Muybridge died in 1904, long before documents were stored and retrieved electronically.

        That's irrelevant; merely replicating a manual process on the computer is not patentable.

        As for it seeming common sense, you have to remember that it was filed in 1999, long before what we accept as normal ways to do things, today, just 12 years later.

        The patent was ridiculous even when Gelernter got it 12 years ago; people back then already had many ways of arranging and browsing documents and other content graphically v

        • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

          That's irrelevant; merely replicating a manual process on the computer is not patentable.

          The courts have ruled differently. Patents are about processes. Arranging documents chronologically on a computer takes a different process than arranging them manually.

          he patent was ridiculous even when Gelernter got it 12 years ago; people back then already had many ways of arranging and browsing documents and other content graphically very similar to the way Gelernter attempted to patent.

          That is probably true, but none of the other people patented the idea. I guess if they had published how they were doing it, then prior art might be applicable, but just because they were doing it does not, in and of itself, make it prior art. People were killing mice long before the first mouse trap was patented.

          He ruled that Apple didn't infringe the patent. In effect, he said that the only way the patent is valid is that it is so narrow that Apple didn't infringe. There are lots of narrow patents like that (exact shape of print cartridges, exact shape of connectors, etc.). They can be valuable, but in this case, they probably aren't.

          Actually, he ruled the p

      • by tepples (727027)

        As for it seeming common sense, you have to remember that it was filed in 1999, long before what we accept as normal ways to do things, today, just 12 years later.

        On PCs with a real-time clock, MS-DOS and Windows 3.1 could sort documents by modification date. So "arranging documents in a time flow" has to be specific enough not to cover that.

        • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

          As for it seeming common sense, you have to remember that it was filed in 1999, long before what we accept as normal ways to do things, today, just 12 years later.

          On PCs with a real-time clock, MS-DOS and Windows 3.1 could sort documents by modification date. So "arranging documents in a time flow" has to be specific enough not to cover that.

          Unfortunately that is not what the actual patent is about. If it was don't you think Microsoft would be suing Apple.

      • by s73v3r (963317)

        Besides, the overturning judge ruled the patent valid, somehow, he just wrote off the damages from the infringement.

        He ruled the patent valid, but he also ruled that Apple did not infringe.

    • I don't understand this "time flow" thing, it seems very buzzy and meaningless.
  • This is bad news for small developers. According to the article, the original patent in question was filed in 1999 and a jury determined that Apple infringed upon it. Then when it was appealed, the judge determined that even though the jury ruled one way, they were wrong. Then he goes on to eliminate the awarded damages, while at the same time stating that original patent was valid.

    So, if the judge agrees with the jury that the original patent was valid and then Apple uses the technology without paying r

    • by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus,slashdot&gmail,com> on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @09:10AM (#35719372) Homepage Journal

      This is bad news for small developers. According to the article, the original patent in question was filed in 1999 and a jury determined that Apple infringed upon it. Then when it was appealed, the judge determined that even though the jury ruled one way, they were wrong. Then he goes on to eliminate the awarded damages, while at the same time stating that original patent was valid.

      So, if the judge agrees with the jury that the original patent was valid and then Apple uses the technology without paying royalties, So, how can a judge find that the original patent is valid (which is also what the jury determined), recognize that Apple used the patented technology (which is also what the jury determined) and then through out the award and close the the case? At a minimum, should it not have been sent back to the lower court to be re-tried?

      As you note, the judge determined the jury was wrong.

      The jury found (i) the patent was valid; (ii) Apple infringed; and (iii) the damages were $625.5M for infringement of the three patents.
      The judge said that (i) was correct, but that (ii) and (iii) were wrong as a matter of law.

      So, the judge and jury agree that the patent is valid, but the judge disagrees that Apple used the patented technology. Finally, as a matter of law, the damages award should have been $208M at most - you don't get to triple your damages by asserting infringement of three patents in a single suit.

      As for sending it back to the lower court, this was the lower court. It can (and since there's at least $208M on the line) and will go to appeal from here.

    • by guruevi (827432)

      The jury found that the patent was valid and awarded the case to the patent troll based on the validity of patents. The troll said you're infringing, the defense said it's an invalid patent, the jury didn't see it as an invalid patent and Apple didn't make it's case that they weren't infringing and thus the jury of your retarded peers awarded damages. The judge didn't say the patent wasn't valid he just said it didn't apply to what Apple was doing. There's a lot of patents and a lot of them are invalid but

      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        Why do you call this guy a patent troll? From what I read, it was a legitimately filed patent back in 1999. Aren't most patent trolls the ones who purchase portfolios of patents and then use them against other companies?

    • by gnasher719 (869701) on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @09:20AM (#35719470)

      So, how can a judge find that the original patent is valid (which is also what the jury determined), recognize that Apple used the patented technology (which is also what the jury determined) and then through out the award and close the the case? At a minimum, should it not have been sent back to the lower court to be re-tried?

      This all happened in the same court. This isn't an appeal, it is still the same court case.

      Apple claimed that the jury was wrong when it said the patents were valid; the judge looked at it and said that Apple didn't give convincing evidence that the patents were invalid. They came up with 100s of pages of supposed prior art, but they should have explained _why_ the that was actual prior art. So that part of the jury decision stands.

      Apple also claimed that the jury was wrong when it found that Apple was infringing on those patents. So the judge looked at all the evidence, and he found that the evidence, even if all the evidence against Apple was true and all the evidence for Apple was false, didn't show that Apple was actually infringing. Since it didn't show that Apple was infringing, a reasonable jury could never have made the decision that they made. The judge is not supposed to accept such unreasonable jury decisions, so he decided that Apple did not infringe.

      Lastly, not mentioned here, Apple also complained that the damage calculation was wrong, and the judge agreed with that as well. It doesn't matter anymore because Apple doesn't have to pay any damages.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "A federal judge in Tyler, Texas, today said Apple *didn’t* infringe a patent owned by Mirror Worlds LLC"

    • by Apotsy (84148) on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @04:54PM (#35724524)
      Considering Apple initially licensed CoverFlow from a "small guy [blogspot.com]" (and presumably paid them well for it), you could spin this as good news for the small guy. Just sayin'
    • by s73v3r (963317)

      You must be blinded by anti-Apple hatred.

      So, if the judge agrees with the jury that the original patent was valid and then Apple uses the technology without paying royalties,
      So, how can a judge find that the original patent is valid (which is also what the jury determined), recognize that Apple used the patented technology (which is also what the jury determined) and then through out the award and close the the case? At a minimum, should it not have been sent back to the lower court to be re-tried?

      You don't suppose there couldn't be another option? One in which the judge thinks the patent is valid, yet at the same time, doesn't believe that Apple infringed on it?

  • Oh so many permutations!

    software patents suck v. big corporations suck

    apple sucks because they have too much power v. software patent squatters suck because they live to get huge awards for doing nothing

    judges suck v. juries are stupid

    ...

  • They've successfully appealed a 625.5M$ judgment against them.

  • Doesn't Project Looking Glass [wikipedia.org] use a lot of similar techniques? This in particular [sun.com] looks pretty much just like Cover Flow to me. Here's someone else [blogspot.com] who seems to think the same.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The first linked article isn't clear.

    The judge ruled that Apple did not infringe the patent at issue, and the judge also set aside the jury's damages award. The judge upheld the validity of the patent, which likely means that the judge agreed with the jury on invalidity.

    It's somewhat rare for a judge to completely disregard the jury's verdict, especially on a fact-intensive inquiry such as noninfringement. After the jury verdict, Apple most likely filed a judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) of noninfringem

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