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Apple wins appeal reversing $625.5 million Cover Flow patent dispute

post #1 of 30
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Apple has successfully appealed a court ruling over patent infringements related to Cover Flow that would have cost the company $625.5 million.

Bloomberg reports that a federal judge ruled on Monday that Apple had not infringed on patents owned by plaintiff Mirror Worlds LLC. While the judge upheld the validity of the three patents Apple was accused of violating, he did say that the $625.5 million damage award was too high.

"Mirror Worlds may have painted an appealing picture for the jury, but it failed to lay a solid foundation sufficient to support important elements it was required to establish under the law, U.S. District Judge Leonard Davis wrote, adding that the evidentiary record is insufficient to support the jurys damage awards.

Mirror Worlds sued Apple in 2008 over several patents related to creating "streams" of documents sorted by time.

Images accompanying the patents in question bore some resemblance to Apple's Spotlight, Time Machine and Cover Flow features built into Mac OS X. As early as 1999, Yale professor David Gelernter patented the process, which he dubbed "lifestreaming," through the now-defunct Mirror Worlds Technologies Inc., though he has since sold the patents in question.



Court documents reveal that the patents had been sold first for $210,000 and then $5 million. In its appeal of the initial ruling, Apple had used those figures to assert that the $625.5 million award was exorbitant.
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Though the Cover Flow interface was developed by Steel Skies, Apple assumed legal responsibility when it purchased the technology from the software developer in 2006.

During an interview last year, Gelernter expressed frustration over the apparent similarities between Apple's work and his own.

"That makes me angry personally, not because of the money, but because of the deliberate failure to acknowledge work that we would have made freely available as academics and that companies will not acknowledge because there is so much money involved," he said.

In October of last year, a federal jury ruled in favor of Mirror Worlds, awarding $208.5 million in damages for each of three patents on which Apple had allegedly infringed. Apple quickly appealed, claiming the judgment amounted to "triple dipping" from Mirror Worlds.
post #2 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


During an interview last year, Gelernter expressed frustration over the apparent similarities between Apple's work and his own.

"That makes me angry personally, not because of the money, but because of the deliberate failure to acknowledge work that we would have made freely available as academics and that companies will not acknowledge because there is so much money involved," he said.

So he would have given it away, but instead, sold the patents. Wonder how much they were worth? Certainly not $200 million.
post #3 of 30
So now Apple 'only' has 59 billion 374.5 million in cash reserves. I hope Apple survives this financial hit.

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post #4 of 30
An East Texas jury award overturned as excessive. What a shock.
post #5 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stourque View Post

So he would have given it away, but instead, sold the patents. Wonder how much they were worth? Certainly not $200 million.

I don't understand this either. Was the inventor in question part of the company that sued Apple? Or was Mirror Worlds the company he sold it to? How was he going to make it freely available if he sold it to a company?

Ironic about the Cover Flow bit, since Apple actually did not even develop themselves, but bought it from a 3rd party developer (who had a mac app named Cover Flow).

Edit: It seems the professor owns or partially owns the company, according to the Bloomberg article.

Also, the patents do bear a striking resemblance to Time Machine, although its a pretty intuitive way to present Time Machine data. Its unlikely Apple knew of its existence, which is one of the claims, which might have hurt the case. I am surprised to see the judge did not find that at least Time Machine was infringing, especially since he did uphold the validity of the patents. Maybe the patents were worded too narrowly, something that might have gone unnoticed by a jury who would have been convinced by images, but picked up by the judge's legally sounder mind...
post #6 of 30
Morons. Willing to bet they could have settled out of court for a few million. Seriously doubt that patent cost more than a few 100k to "invent."
post #7 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by sprockkets View Post

Morons. Willing to bet they could have settled out of court for a few million. Seriously doubt that patent cost more than a few 100k to "invent."

The most disingenuous part by the Professor is his name on this research when anyone who has ever dealt with academia knows the bulk of all such Research is overseen by the Professor but designed and developed by their TAs and Undergrad Classes, all of whom, with rare exception never get their names on squat. Or at worst, the Grad Students get their names in smaller print and their advisor gets all the glory in larger print without doing a damn thing.

I noted, rare exception, because I've been fortunate to know such professors who don't take credit where credit is due, but they are indeed rare.

However, to be completely fair, more and more universities realize this problem and have created a private/public partnership to share their IP ownership with those that created it.

Those partnerships that grow the most will be the big winners over the next 20 years. More and more startups will come right out of these "institutions" that are extensions of universities. Stanford is as big as it is due to this approach over the past 3+ decades.
post #8 of 30
How this came up in the first place? Apple bought Coverflow from a Dev years ago, oin fact you can still get the app on MacUpdate. End of case before it even reaches court. However it does look like TimeMachine, but as earlier poster said, It is intuitive way to display data like that.
post #9 of 30
I remember when I first read about the life stream concept and it resonated with the way I like to file things. I thought it was a good idea but I'm not sure how it has anything patentable in it or how it relates to any of Apple's applications which are all unique and with sufficient differentiation to be considered original in my opinion. Of course my opinion doesn't amount to a hill of beans but I still like the concept of life stream.

I also remember when you could only have eight characters to name your file. With Mac OS you had I think 24 or so. That is what I really liked about UNIX when I first got involved with Sun OS 4. You could name your files really long. So I started naming everything with really descriptive file names, even today. That way I can search on something with only the vaguest memory of what I might have called it years ago. Once I find a piece or part of the project I can then search for dates very close to the file I found and usually located the other things related to it. I think that is the essence of the life stream concept.

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post #10 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post

I noted, rare exception, because I've been fortunate to know such professors who don't take credit where credit is due, but they are indeed rare.

How right!

From another angle, this is another major patent suit decision reversed. It's not funny how many court case verdicts get overturned on appeal. Can't they get it right the first time? Why not allow another round of appeal and the first appeal verdict may get overturned again? Such waste of money and resources. The legal system sucks, except for the money earning lawyers!
post #11 of 30
Why was this even patentable in the first place? That diagram shows a virtual version of file folders on a desk in chronological order arranged as overlapping tiles. Isn't this all obvious?

If they're patenting a unique technological method of animating the icons or conserving memory while doing so or integrating updates, then fine, but i don't see that.
post #12 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post

The most disingenuous part by the Professor is his name on this research when anyone who has ever dealt with academia knows the bulk of all such Research is overseen by the Professor but designed and developed by their TAs and Undergrad Classes, all of whom, with rare exception never get their names on squat. Or at worst, the Grad Students get their names in smaller print and their advisor gets all the glory in larger print without doing a damn thing.

I pity your experience with academia. In most of the fields I work with, it is very clear that the student (grad or undergrad) that did the work gets first author and the professor that oversees the work is last author. The order varies a little from field to field, but my experience is the exact opposite of what you have seen and a professor that publishes a paper individually when a grad student did the work would not be well respected in his University or the field at large for long.

If the professor in this story really just wanted credit for it, he should have published a paper on it and not patented it. This way, under the current patent system, there is clearly prior art (the published paper) and no one would be able to patent it, so it would truly be free for anyone to use. However, the patent system is about to go to a first to file as opposed to first to invent, which is going to change this substantially.
post #13 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Realistic View Post

So now Apple 'only' has 59 billion 374.5 million in cash reserves. I hope Apple survives this financial hit.

I think you missed the word "reversed"

That being said, yes I agree. Thank god Apple has $60 billion in the bank, because with any less, this kind of thing would be really dangerous for them as a going concern.
post #14 of 30
And where is the death penalty for the troll lawyer.

Troll lawyers should be given the death penalty when they lose a case.

The fewer the lawyers, the better.
post #15 of 30
Ummm...not to make fun of Apple either, but didn't Gene Rodenberry do this first? There was a 3D virtual interface in Earth: Final Conflict as far back as 1997.

One of the reasons I like Apple, more than ever lately, is that they're giving us the computers that Science Fiction promised us 30 years ago.
post #16 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by NotRichard View Post

Ummm...not to make fun of Apple either, but didn't Gene Rodenberry do this first? There was a 3D virtual interface in Earth: Final Conflict as far back as 1997.

One of the reasons I like Apple, more than ever lately, is that they're giving us the computers that Science Fiction promised us 30 years ago.

Maybe the next OSX update will be introduced by the new Star Trek cast... that would be pretty cool.

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post #17 of 30
Aren't patents supposed to protect the inventor? How is it that they can be sold? Doesn't that go a little bit beyond the notion?
post #18 of 30
It will be settled. The losing side can now appeal it to the appellate court. There was a jury trial in District Court. The jury found Apple violated the patents and awarded the huge fine. The judge in that case, responding to Apple's Motion to Have the Judgement thrown out, over turned the jury decision. It is silly to have a jury decide complex patent issues anyway. Apparently, Texas Courts don't always rule in favor of the Plaintiff.

This victory by Apple just puts pressure on the other side to settle for far less. If the other side loses on Appeal, the Supreme Court will be the only other option. The Supreme Court will not take the case.

The same thing will happen here as when Apple was victorious against the latest Beatle suit at the trial court level. Apple will pay the other side some undisclosed sum, and the other side will take far less.

The other side paid five million for the patents. I see Apple paying twenty five million. That more then doubles the other side's investment and pays the attorneys.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sprockkets View Post

Morons. Willing to bet they could have settled out of court for a few million. Seriously doubt that patent cost more than a few 100k to "invent."
post #19 of 30
I remember this story well, and it was a parody to begin with...
post #20 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

Maybe the next OSX update will be introduced by the new Star Trek cast... that would be pretty cool.

Sure, if we're all going to get our own Holodecks I want Deanna, 7of9 and all the other form fitting lieutenant babes to come with it and we can call it, ``Bundled Software.''
post #21 of 30
Congratulations Apple.
post #22 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by alienzed View Post

Aren't patents supposed to protect the inventor? How is it that they can be sold? Doesn't that go a little bit beyond the notion?

Wouldn't the patent be considered 'Intellectual Property' of the creator thus allowing the creator to do as they wish... Selling it or licensing it out for royalty fees. The patent gives cover to fight in court if the creator finds someone using the IP without just compensation of some sort.

In the meantime, wonder what Apple's legal team were paid? Court awards 625.5 million and the lawyers successfully have that reversed on appeal and it only cost Apple 625 million in lawyer fees...

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post #23 of 30
I don't know really which side I fall on. Apple should pay where they have clearly used other people's/organization's works. On the other hand, there's too many generic patents that are not specific and never led to an actual product. Those patents should be invalidated.
post #24 of 30
Apple's lawyers just saved the company over $600 million, say what you want about lawyers but I'd say the money Apple spends on them is money well spent.
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post #25 of 30
The whole notion of patenting the flipping of stacked documents/images seems "patently" absurd to me. This method of revealing data is as old as time. Think of the wind flipping calendars in old movies as a metaphor for the passage of time. Does MGM have prior art? Shouldn't something have to be truly new in order to be patented.
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post #26 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by TBell View Post

It will be settled. The losing side can now appeal it to the appellate court. There was a jury trial in District Court. The jury found Apple violated the patents and awarded the huge fine. The judge in that case, responding to Apple's Motion to Have the Judgement thrown out, over turned the jury decision. It is silly to have a jury decide complex patent issues anyway. Apparently, Texas Courts don't always rule in favor of the Plaintiff.

This victory by Apple just puts pressure on the other side to settle for far less. If the other side loses on Appeal, the Supreme Court will be the only other option. The Supreme Court will not take the case.

The same thing will happen here as when Apple was victorious against the latest Beatle suit at the trial court level. Apple will pay the other side some undisclosed sum, and the other side will take far less.

The other side paid five million for the patents. I see Apple paying twenty five million. That more then doubles the other side's investment and pays the attorneys.

Question: If the Judge said the patents are valid, yet, also said that Apple did NOT violate the patents, why should Apple need to settle. If they didn't violate the valid patents, I would think Apple should not have to pay them a dime. I'm not a legal guy, am I missing something? Also, can Apple sue them for attorneys' fees for wasting their time and resources?
post #27 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by zoetmb View Post

Why was this even patentable in the first place? That diagram shows a virtual version of file folders on a desk in chronological order arranged as overlapping tiles. Isn't this all obvious?

If they're patenting a unique technological method of animating the icons or conserving memory while doing so or integrating updates, then fine, but i don't see that.

Apple holds a patent (and is suing others with it) that says that ANY method of using a touch screen to unlock the device is a patent they own, no matter how the unlocking is achieved.

Software patents like this ARE Bogus and should be done away with. But if Apple is going to use their own offensively to try and attack their competitors, they can't suites brought against them written off as "excessive" and patents as "too broad."

I REALLY hope those companies defending against Apple lawsuits use this case to strengthen their own.
post #28 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Menno View Post

Apple holds a patent (and is suing others with it) that says that ANY method of using a touch screen to unlock the device is a patent they own, no matter how the unlocking is achieved.

Software patents like this ARE Bogus and should be done away with. But if Apple is going to use their own offensively to try and attack their competitors, they can't suites brought against them written off as "excessive" and patents as "too broad."

I REALLY hope those companies defending against Apple lawsuits use this case to strengthen their own.

Hey, after Apple getting sued for years for good and bad reasons, it's about time they won some.

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post #29 of 30
In federal Court there are three potential steps to achieving victory. First, you sue in District Court. District Court is a trial court. The losing side can then appeal that decision to the applicable Appeal Court. Appeal Courts don't decide facts, but determine if the facts were applied properly to the law. The losing side then can appeal to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court isn't required to look at the matter.

So, the losing side has at least one more bite at the apple (no pun intended). So, when I say the matter will probably settle, I say that because Apple probably doesn't want to keep fighting about the matter. The plaintiff, however, has nothing to lose by appealing. Both sides will be leery of what the Appeal Court says, so the matter likely will be settled. The Plaintiff wants something. Apple doesn't want to fight about it a long time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tundraBuggy View Post

Question: If the Judge said the patents are valid, yet, also said that Apple did NOT violate the patents, why should Apple need to settle. If they didn't violate the valid patents, I would think Apple should not have to pay them a dime. I'm not a legal guy, am I missing something? Also, can Apple sue them for attorneys' fees for wasting their time and resources?
post #30 of 30
How is that bogus? Name a company that did it before Apple. I think Apple's patent has more merit then many. At least Apple put the idea to use. Amazon was awarded a patent for one click purchasing. Apple licenses it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Menno View Post

Apple holds a patent (and is suing others with it) that says that ANY method of using a touch screen to unlock the device is a patent they own, no matter how the unlocking is achieved.
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