Friday, March 15, 2019

San Diego jury decides Qualcomm v. Apple patent case in Qualcomm's favor: verdict is grossly inconsistent with outcome in the ITC

"You win some, you lose some." The same week that Apple won a multi-billion-dollar decision against Qualcomm (incorrectly portrayed by various media as a $1 billion matter), Qualcomm won a $31 million consolation prize (so we're talking about roughly 1% of what was at stake in the other context), with a San Diego jury having deemed Apple to infringe all three Qualcomm patents still in play (one had been thrown out by the court and two had been withdrawn by Qualcomm) and agreeing 100% with Qualcomm's damages claim.

This means it worked out for Qualcomm to make its case to a jury of laypersons--a case that had underwhelmed a professional judge (in fact, one of the most experienced patent judges in America, Administrative Law Judge Thomas Be. Pender). The discrepancies between the ITC's findings (which are final except for only one patent that Apple has already worked around anyway) and the verdict rendered by Qualcomm's hometown jury without a great deal of deliberation time could hardly be more extreme. The ITC case went nowhere, while the San Diego verdict sides with Qualcomm all the way, even with respect to the question of whether Qualcomm filed a patent application on an invention actually made by a then-Apple employee.

Jury verdicts enjoy a fair amount of deference, but as some other smartphone-related patent infringement cases have shown, there often are major differences between a verdict and the final result (after all appeals have been exhausted). Without a doubt, Apple, like any other party in the same situation, is now going to try to convince Judge Dana M. Sabraw that the verdict should be overturned or at least vacated. Some adjustments to the verdict may still happen in the Southern District of California, and then it's on to the Federal Circuit, which will also hear any appeal from the ITC case.

For the Quinn Emanuel lawyers representing Qualcomm in this case (led by David Nelson and Sean Pak) as well as some related cases, it's a really nice win and great for their track record. But for the wider dispute between Apple and Qualcomm, it's a sideshow in economic terms and far from a final outcome. The perspective of a judge, or a panel of appellate judges, on the evidence presented and whether a reasonable jury could possibly reach this result is often very different from what laypeople serving on a jury think.

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