Yale spinoff wins suit against Apple

After just a week of court deliberations, Yale-spinoff Mirror Worlds LLC has been awarded more than $600 million from Apple Inc. in compensation for patent violations.

In response to the jury’s decision, Apple has submitted court documents in rapid response claiming that the amount requested in grievances is unfairly inflated by a strategic three-pronged claim.

Apple filed an emergency motion in court on Sunday, preventing the verdict from being enacted.

A federal jury in the Easter District of Texas decided last Friday that Apple should pay $208.5 million in damages for each of the patent violations — one of the largest sums ever awarded in a patent violation case. Apple is now claiming that Mirror Worlds is “triple dipping,” a phrase used to describe filing three separate claims for the same case, by receiving the damage fee total of $625.5 million.

“I’m afraid I can’t comment on this thing yet,” computer science professor and Mirror Worlds co-founder David Gelernter said in an e-mail. “Lots of issues need to be resolved first.”

Court documents show that Palo Alto, Calif.,-based attorney Jeffrey Randall, representing Apple Inc., told the court on Oct. 1 that Mirror Worlds did not have sufficient evidence to claim that Apple had committed indirect patent infringement, according to the transcript of the trial.

Apple and Randall could not be reached for comment.

The case was able to proceed quickly because the Eastern District of Texas, where the trial took place, has a favorable body of laws for intellectual property rights, Delphine James, a Houston-based intellectual property rights lawyer told the News in September.

Mirror Worlds originally sued Apple because the computer giant allegedly infringed on its patents relating to how files are displayed and stored.

One of the three patents deals with the technology of Cover Flow, the Apple display feature that allows users to scroll through files on computers, iPods and iPhones. Mirror Worlds also stated that Apple violated its patents with Time Machine, an application that allows users to go back in time to locate their files, and Spotlight, a desktop search feature.

The emergency motion to delay the judge’s allowance for a verdict to be made claimed that the counsel representing Mirror Worlds incorrectly requested cumulative damages in the case, according to the official order granting the motion. Apple has requested that a one-day trial be conducted to evaluate these issues of equity in the damages.

Gelernter and then-doctoral student Eric Freeman founded Mirror Worlds in 1999, as a spin-off from Yale’s Department of Computer Science. They worked on ways to display files on computers and patented their technology in 1999. But the rights to the patents have changed hands at least 10 times during the past decade.

“[It’s] not because of the money, but because of the deliberate failure to acknowledge work that we would have made freely available as academics,” Gelernter told the technology blog BigThink before the jury verdict was announced. “We’d like to see credit where credit is due.”

Yale has nothing to gain from this lawsuit if Mirror Works is granted the damage fees from Apple, said Diane Harmon, the intellectual property administration director at Yale’s Office of Cooperative Research, which licenses technology created by University researchers in September.

Apple shares fell 1.4 percent to $278.64 on Monday.

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