(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions
expressed are his own.)
By Reynolds Holding
NEW YORK, Aug 28 (Reuters Breakingviews) - The jury’s haste
takes some of the shine off Apple’s (AAPL.O) patent victory. The
seven men and two women on the California panel ignored
instructions, miscalculated damages and generally seemed more
eager to wrap up the case than get it right. That could help
Samsung (005930.KS) overturn the $1.1 billion verdict or avoid a
ban on some U.S. device sales. Even if it doesn’t, the case
reveals how legal complexity muddles the smartphone wars.
The Korean company’s lawyers caught two of the decision’s
more obvious blunders. Jurors, who returned a judgment in less
than 24 hours despite receiving over 100 pages of instructions
and 700 questions to answer, said Samsung should pay $2.2
million for certain actions despite finding no actual
The mistakes were fixed, but nevertheless raise eyebrows
about just how jurors calculated the total award covering six
patents and 28 devices. A troubling clue came when the group’s
foreman told Reuters they wanted the judgment to be “painful.”
Lawsuit awards, however, are supposed to compensate patent
holders, not punish infringers. The judge explicitly said as
much in at least two instructions to the jury.
Damages in patent cases are notoriously slippery, as Richard
Posner, a U.S. judge, stressed in another recent case involving
Apple and Motorola. Rather than allow the companies to press
multi-million-dollar infringement claims at trial, he threw out
the case, finding economic harm too speculative. Apple’s claims
against Samsung may have more substance, but the spotty
performance by jurors provides little assurance their damages
figure was accurate.
It’s unclear whether any of this ultimately helps Samsung.
To overturn the judgment, it must show that no reasonable jury
would have reached the verdict. That’s a tough standard, though
the goofs suggest others may emerge and persuade Judge Lucy Koh
to cut the award.
Alternatively, she could triple the damages. She could also
prohibit U.S. sales of certain Samsung devices, though she would
first have to conclude that payments aren’t enough to compensate
As in most smartphone cases, the issues are tricky and will
take months to resolve. Unfortunately, the jury didn’t help
matters by cutting out so quickly on Friday.
SIGN UP FOR BREAKINGVIEWS EMAIL ALERTS:
- Apple asked a federal judge on Aug. 27 to temporarily
prohibit U.S. sales of eight Samsung mobile devices pending a
decision on a permanent injunction in the patent case. The
request follows an Aug. 24 jury verdict that found the Korean
electronics giant had violated patents covering the iPhone and
iPad and awarded Apple $1.05 billion in damages.
- Reuters: Apple seeks quick bans on eight Samsung phones
Preserved Apple [ID:nL3E8JR0VE]
Poison Apple [ID:nL3E8JR1ID]
That hissing sound [ID:nL1E8HD2M7]
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(Editing by Jeffrey Goldfarb and Emily Plucinak)
Keywords: BREAKINGVIEWS APPLE/SAMSUNG
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