Apple Inc. hasn’t exactly been hurting for good news on the patent litigation front these days. But William Lee of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr delivered another dollop on Sept. 4, less than three weeks after he helped produce the company’s $1.05 billion California trial win against Samsung Electronics Co.
The latest win for Lee and Apple came courtesy of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which affirmed a lower court’s decision to toss a $208.5 million infringement verdict for Mirror Worlds LLC. The ruling is the latest, and likely final, blow for Mirror Worlds in its long-running case against Apple for allegedly copying a Yale University professor’s patented method of displaying documents on a computer screen.
Yale professor David Gelernter, who is known for his writings on computer science and for surviving a car bomb left by Theodore Kaczynski, founded Mirror Worlds in the late 1990s. The company sold software called Scopeware that attempted to organize a user’s files into time-based “streams” rather than relying on desktop folders. After reading about the software, Apple’s then-CEO Steve Jobs told a lieutenant to “check out this software ASAP” in advance of potentially seeking a license.
Apple never secured that license, and in 2004 Mirror Worlds went out of business. A year later, Apple began rolling out its own file streaming programs: Cover Flow, Time Machine and Spotlight. The Apple programs caught Gelernter’s attention, and Mirror Worlds — by then with a new hedge fund owner — sued for alleged patent infringement in 2008.
A federal jury in Tyler returned a verdict in 2010 that Apple infringed three Mirror Worlds patents and awarded the company $208.5 million in damages (or $625 million, depending on who was interpreting the verdict slip). Mirror Worlds’ trial counsel at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan asked U.S. District Judge Leonard Davis, now chief judge of the Eastern District of Texas, to treble damages and tack on attorneys fees, but instead he tossed the entire verdict in April 2011, ruling that Mirror Worlds’ patents are valid but not infringed by Apple.
Mirror Worlds brought on David Boies of Boies Schiller & Flexner to argue the appeal, with Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner and Stroock on the briefs. Even with the famed advocate on its side, the patent licensing company couldn’t revive the verdict. Siding with Lee and his co-counsel from O’Melveny & Myers and Paul Hastings, the Federal Circuit ruled 2-1 that Davis was right to enter a judgment of non-infringement. “The evidence was insufficient to support the jury’s finding of infringement for all of the asserted claims,” Circuit Judge Alan Lourie wrote on behalf of the majority.
Barring further appeals, Lee and Boies can now focus their attention on pending litigation over some other giant jury awards. Samsung has promised to do its best to undo the billion-dollar verdict for Apple that Lee won last month along with his co-counsel at Morrison & Foerster. Boies, meanwhile, joined co-counsel at Bingham McCutchen in filing a notice of appeal to revive Oracle’s $1.3 billion trial victory against SAP from November 2010, which a judge threw out last September.