Sprint Communications Co. and Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner have turned away a robust appellate challenge to the company’s $140 million patent infringement verdict against Time Warner Cable.
With amicus backing from Intel Corp. and Dell Inc., Time Warner complained that its 2017 trial had been prejudiced by the admission of Sprint’s 2007 verdict against Vonage over the same VoIP technology patents.
Kirkland & Ellis partner John O’Quinn argued for Time Warner before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in October that jurors blindly followed the previous jury’s lead and awarded the same $1.37 per subscriber royalty.
Federal Circuit Judge William Bryson said at oral argument that he found “the idea of relatively free use of prior verdicts troubling,” and Judge Raymond Chen said courts shouldn’t “admit jury verdicts left and right.”
But on Friday, Bryson wrote for a 2-1 Federal Circuit majority that there’s no blanket rule against admitting prior verdicts, as long as “it is relevant for some legitimate purpose.” In this case, the court found that U.S. District Judge John Lungstrom of Kansas City properly instructed the jury that it could use the verdict as one data point that Sprint and Time Warner executives would have considered in a hypothetical negotiation.
Plus, Sprint had gotten two other comparable licenses that had roughly the same value admitted into evidence at trial. Those licenses provide “strong support for Sprint’s argument that the damages award in this case reflected the incremental value of the inventions and thus satisfied the requirement of apportionment,” Bryson wrote in Sprint Communications v. Time Warner Cable.
Finnegan Henderson partner J. Michael Jakes had the winning argument for Sprint.
The only disagreement between the judges Friday was whether Sprint had adequately described the technology in its patents, which involves methods for linking circuit-switched and packet-switched networks within a telecommunications system.
Dissenting Judge Haldane Mayer wrote that Sprint’s patents were written for older fixed-route styles of data-transmission, not the more modern Internet Protocol system.
“This case involves a remarkable mismatch between the narrow patent disclosures and the exceedingly broad claims,” he wrote. The result, he found, is an unfair award of “broad monopoly rights over interconnections between narrowband and broadband networks.”
Bryson and Chen concluded that between the flexible language of the patents and supporting testimony from Sprint’s expert, there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict on written description.