Apple fights multi-million dollar patent infringement verdict

Total damages could reach $US625.5M

Apple has asked a federal judge to postpone applying a multi-million dollar patent infringement verdict, citing a dispute over "triple dipping" made by an opposing attorney during closing arguments to the jury.

Last week, Apple was ordered by a federal jury to pay hundreds of millions in damages to Mirror Worlds for infringing multiple patents that apply to displaying information on mobile device and computer screens.

The patents apply to Apple's iPhone, iPod, iPad and Mac OS X, according to court documents, and include such well-known interface designs as Apple's "CoverFlow" -- a 3D graphical interface used in iTunes and the iPhone -- and its Time Machine data backup and restore software.

The Tyler, Texas jury ruled in the two-year-old lawsuit that Apple must pay $208.5 million for each of three patents it infringed. The jury's verdict form, however, was unclear as to whether the amount applied to the patents as a whole, or to each one individually.

If the latter, Apple would owe Mirror Worlds up to $625.5 million.

That verdict form is the bone of contention: On Sunday, Apple submitted an emergency motion to stay both the verdict and judgment, noting "pending disputes surrounding the jury's verdict form."

"During closing, Mirror Worlds' counsel showed the jury a 'sample' verdict form with damages amounts on a per patent basis of $322 [million], $336 [million], and $320 million -- a sum of nearly $1 billion," Apple's motion stated. Apple's objection to what it called "opposing counsel's erroneous suggestion" during the trial was overruled by Davis.

In the emergency motion, Apple accused Mirror Worlds' attorney of pushing "triple dipping" on the jury. "This ... gave the jury the impression that those amounts would be cumulative," Apple asserted.

Apple asked for a one-day trial to decide the issue, or failing that, the right to submit additional briefs to U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Davis.

Privately-held Mirror Worlds was founded by David Gelernter, a Yale University computer science professor who was awarded the patents in dispute. He 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.

After the jury rendered its verdict, Judge Davis tossed out some of the claims in one of the three patent infringement charges. According to Davis, Mirror Worlds had not presented sufficient evidence to support those claims, which applied to Apple 's CoverFlow interface.

Gelernter declined to comment Monday, citing unresolved issues in the case.

Apple did not reply to a request for comment.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
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