Yale prof loses $625.5M appeal against Apple Inc.

A ruling in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Texas on Wednesday overturned a verdict that would have forced technology giant Apple Inc. to pay $625.5 million to Mirror Worlds LLC, a technology company co-founded by Yale computer science professor David Gelernter.

Mirror Worlds won a suit against Apple in October for patent violations in front of a Tyler, Texas federal jury. The original suit, filed in 2008, claimed that Apple violated patents held by Mirror Worlds and used its technologies in three popular applications: Cover Flow, Time Machine, and Spotlight. But when Apple appealed the case, Judge Leonard Davis overturned this verdict citing that Mirror Worlds did not have an appropriate legal foundation for their argument.

“Of course we’re disappointed at the judge’s ruling, given the verdict of the jury finding not only infringement but deliberate infringement,” Gelernter said in an email to the News on Thursday afternoon, adding that the company intends to dispute the ruling.

Cover Flow allows users to flip through three-dimensional visual displays of files on computers, iPods, iPads and iPhones, while Time Machine lets users retrieve past versions of documents edited on their computers. Spotlight is a desktop search feature that makes it easy to locate any file or application on a computer.

The Texas jury awarded Mirror Worlds $208.5 million in October for each patent violation, amounting to one of the largest sums ever charged in patent violation history. At the time of the decision, Apple’s representatives said Mirror Worlds was “triple-dipping” by filing separate claims for each case.

While Mirror Worlds claimed that Apple not only violated its patents, but did so knowingly, Apple attorney Jeffrey Randall said in court that there was not even enough evidence to show that Apple indirectly violated the patents.

A representative from Apple could not be reached for comment.

The appeals court did, however, maintain the validity of Mirror World’s patents, Gelernter said. Invalidating these patents was a cornerstone of Apple’s original case, he added.

“Mirror Worlds may have painted an appealing picture for the jury, but it failed to lay a solid foundation sufficient to support important elements it was required to establish under the law,” Davis wrote in the case’s decision.

But Gelernter said this ruling does not mean the end of his company’s case against Apple.

“We’ve just begun to fight,” he said. “We will be vindicated.”

Despite the fact that Mirror World’s technologies were patented by Yale researchers, the University itself does not stand to profit from the outcome of the dispute, Diane Harmon, intellectual property administration director at Yale’s Office of Cooperative Research, said. Harmon, whose office licenses technology created by University researchers, said in September that the outcome of the case did not have any financial bearing on the University.

Gelernter co-founded Mirror Worlds with then-doctoral student Eric Freeman in 1999.

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