Apple Wins $625.5m Cover Flow Patent Appeal

A $625.5 million judgment leveled against Apple for patent infringement has been overturned by a Texas court

Apple can breathe a sigh of relief, now that a federal judge has overturned a $625.5 million judgment leveled against it in a Texas court for violating patents held by Mirror Worlds LLC.

The original lawsuit accused Apple’s Mac OS X, mobile devices and personal computers of violating Mirror Worlds’ technology for organising data, such as documents, into a “stream.” The patents themselves were first filed in 1999 by a Yale computer science professor, David Gelernter, who founded Mirror Worlds. Apple’s Spotlight, Time Machine and Cover Flow applications encompass the products at issue.

Triple dipping

In October 2010, Mirror Worlds won a verdict against Apple to the tune of $625.5 million (383m). Apple promptly filed an emergency motion accusing its accuser of “triple dipping” if it won $205.8 million (£126m) for each of the three patents allegedly in dispute. Attorneys for Apple also argued that two of the patents had outstanding issues that made them inapplicable.

In the end, though, the reversal came down to the judge countering the jury’s judgment.

“Mirror Worlds may have painted an appealing picture for the jury, but it failed to lay a solid foundation to support important elements it was required to establish under the law,” US district judge Leonard Davis, who also heard the companies’ original arguments, wrote in the ruling. The case is Mirror Worlds LLC v. Apple, Inc., 08cv88, US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Tyler Division.

Davis is also the judge who presided over i4i’s patent-infringement case against Microsoft, which has reached the US Supreme Court.

Battle of the titans

While patent-infringement cases between large and small companies frequently make news — if only because the media always loves an ostensible David-vs.-Goliath narrative — much of the tech industry’s attention lately has focused on battles between the titans. In March, Nokia filed another legal complaint against Apple with the US International Trade Commission, accusing its rival of infringing on mobile patents.

Nokia’s previous complaints to the ITC argued that Apple was in violation of Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, which prohibits the importation of products that infringe on others’ technology. In addition to the ITC action, Apple and Nokia have sued and counter-sued over their respective patent portfolios. Nokia claims its purpose is to protect its $60 billion (£37bn) in wireless research and development investments.

In October 2010, Motorola also filed a complaint against Apple with the ITC, arguing that the iPhone maker violated Motorola patents in its mobile technology. That followed on the heels of HTC suing Apple for patent infringement, which in turn invited a counter-suit from Apple.

Somewhere out there, an attorney specialising in tech patents is already pricing out yachts.