The case is far from over, however. Samsung has asked the San Jose judge to grant a new trial on various grounds. It also appealed the decision to the Federal Circuit requesting that Apple's victory be thrown out. Apple, meanwhile, has asked the judge in San Jose for supplemental damages of more than $500 million. Complicating matters, two months after the nine-person jury reached its verdict, the Patent and Trademark Office tentatively invalidated one of the patents the jury said Samsung's devices infringed.
In the high-stakes smartphone wars, this case is only the beginning: In patent battles filed in other countries, Samsung and Apple have each had their share of victories and defeats. They are now embroiled in dozens of lawsuits worldwide.
Big financial wins weren't limited to smartphone wars. A federal jury in St. Louis awarded Monsanto Company $1 billion in a patent infringement trial against rival E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. The verdict, reached by an eight-person jury after a four-week trial in July, was one of the largest jury awards in a patent trial in U.S. history. (The verdict in Apple v. Samsung , reached about a month later, was larger.)
The jury found that DuPont willfully infringed Monsanto's patent for herbicide-resistant seeds. The seeds, called "Roundup Ready," grow into plants that can withstand exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's popular Roundup weed killera major plus for farmers who need to kill weeds but do not want to damage their crops.
In the lawsuit, Monsanto Co. v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. , Monsanto alleged that DuPont infringed when it made its own glyphosate-tolerant soybean seeds by combining the Roundup Ready trait with a similar DuPont technology known as GAT. Wilmington-based DuPont had considered developing an alternative seed using the GAT technology but decided to combine that gene with the Roundup Ready gene, saying the combination, which it called the Optimum GAT seed, worked better. Eventually, the company abandoned plans for the Optimum GAT seed and never sold it.
While many seed companies, including DuPont, license Monsanto's technology, Monsanto said DuPont's license did not allow DuPont to combine the Roundup Ready trait with another trait for glyphosate tolerance. In a pretrial ruling, E. Richard Webber, the judge presiding over the case, ruled that DuPont could not combine the two. At trial, therefore, DuPont was left to argue that the Roundup Ready patent was invalid and unenforceable. It alleged that Monsanto had withheld information from the PTO that might have prevented issuance of the patent.
DuPont is appealing the decision and the size of the damages award, which it says is unjustified, given that it never sold the seeds. It also has filed a countersuit, in which it alleges that Monsanto wielded its patents in a way that violates antitrust laws. That case is scheduled to go to trial in 2013.
Talk to the Face
Apple Inc. may have prevailed in the California Samsung case, but it doesn't always win. In November a company called VirnetX Inc. won a $368.2 million judgment against Apple after a federal jury in Tyler, Texas, found that Apple's FaceTime function infringed four VirnetX patents.
The VirnetX patents in question in this case, VirnetX Inc. v. Apple Inc. , cover a domain-name service used to set up virtual private networks. This VPN connectivity is used in Apple's FaceTime video-calling feature, the company alleged. Apple claimed it used a different technology than that covered by the VirnetX patents.
VirnetX, which is based in Zephyr Cove, Nevada, won a $200 million settlement from Microsoft Corp. in 2010 over the same technology and has claims pending against Cisco Systems Inc., Avaya Inc., and Siemens Enterprise Communications GmbH. It also has a separate patent case pending against Apple at the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington.
Although VirnetX had sought $708 million in damages in this case, the $368 million award was enough to embolden the company. A few days after the verdict, VirnetX filed another lawsuit against Apple using the same patentsthis time claiming the iPhone 5, iPad 3, iPad mini, and all Apple computers running Mountain Lion, are violating the four patents. These latest IOS devices were not included in the previous lawsuit.
Trolls Do Win . . .
The little guy prevailed in another highly publicized case, too.
In this lawsuit, a federal jury in Norfolk, Virginia, awarded Vringo Inc., a small mobile technology company that owns a few patents, about $30 million in damages, plus future royalties, after hearing a patent suit the company brought against Google Inc., AOL Inc., and a handful of other technology companies. Vringo alleged the companies were infringing two of its patents that are used to select and position advertising on Internet-search results.