A federal appeals court on Friday threw out a $506 million damages award against computer-maker Apple Inc. that had been awarded to the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation after a jury in Madison found in 2015 that Apple had infringed on a WARF computing patent.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, based in Washington, D.C., ruled that Apple did not infringe on WARF’s patent for technology that WARF said was used in a number of Apple processors, including those that were installed in Apple’s iPhone 6, 6S and 7, among other products.
Three years ago next month, a jury awarded $234 million to WARF after concluding that Apple had infringed on a computer technology patent issued to WARF. U.S. District Judge William Conley upheld the jury’s findings after post-verdict motions in June 2017.
Then in July 2017, the damages award more than doubled to $506 million after the two sides agreed upon final damages and royalty calculations, which Conley had ordered the two sides to do. In the meantime, Apple appealed to the Federal Circuit. The final damages amount was based on sales figures that had been closely guarded during the 2015 trial.
Apple had also challenged the validity of WARF’s patent, but the appeals court ruled that the patent is valid. It said, however, that Apple did not infringe on the patent.
John Scheller, an intellectual property specialist at the Michael Best and Friedrich law firm in Madison, who was not involved in the case, said the appeals court’s ruling completely wipes out the $506 million in damages awarded to WARF.
“That’s pretty major,” Scheller said.
WARF spokeswoman Jeanan Yasiri Moe said WARF is reviewing the decision. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Scheller said that WARF could ask that the case, which was decided by a three-judge panel of the Federal Circuit, be reheard by the entire Federal Circuit. WARF could also appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
According to the highly technical 22-page ruling, written by Federal Circuit Chief Judge Sharon Prost, Apple contended that no reasonable juror could have found that Apple’s processors “literally infringe the asserted claims of (WARF’s) patent.”
Conley had denied Apple’s motion, finding that a reasonable jury could find that the patent had been infringed. The appeals court disagreed.
“Drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of WARF,” Prost wrote, “there is insufficient evidence to support the jury’s finding that Apple’s products literally satisfy the ‘particular’ limitation.”
That conclusion alone, Prost wrote, was enough to set aside the jury’s finding of infringement.
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