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For all of the hype these days over enormous jury verdicts — including the record $1.5 billion judgement against Microsoft Corp. in March — few juries ever decide a patent dispute. The huge stakes and the unpredictability of juries ensure that “most companies choke down some kind of a settlement or licensing deal,” says veteran patent litigator Woody Jameson, a partner at Duane Morris in Atlanta. And, of course, the cost of just getting in front of a jury is staggering: a big patent trial now costs each side more than $4 million to try.

These factors explain why there were only 102 jury trials about patent disputes in 2006, out of 2,830 such cases filed, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Jameson, for instance, has won nearly 20 cases on summary judgment in his 19 years as a patent litigator, but he has tried only four cases in front of a jury, including a February defense win for client EarthLink Inc. in federal district court in Wilmington. “In some respects it is mind-boggling” how infrequently jury trials occur, Jameson says.

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