Judge voices concern over settlement in Apple anti-poaching suit, may not approve agreement

Posted:
in General Discussion edited July 2014
During a court hearing on Thursday, a federal judge voiced concern over a proposed settlement reached in a class action lawsuit over alleged anti-poaching agreements involving Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe.

Anti-poaching suit's Class Representative Michael Devine. | Source: The New York Times


U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Judge Lucy Koh was in court today to hear arguments surrounding a $324.5 million settlement the tech giants agreed to pay a class of employees that claim supposed anti-poaching measures resulted in lost wages, reports Reuters.

"I just have concerns about whether this is really fair to the class," Koh said. She added that plaintiffs had leverage going into the trial phase of the suit, citing email evidence from company CEOs that appeared to suggest the institution of unwritten no-poaching arrangements.

One particular exchange between late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs and former Google chief Eric Schmidt reportedly led to a stoppage of inter-company recruiting and the ultimate termination of a Google staffing director.

Additional correspondence between Jobs and other high-ranking executives pulled back the curtain on Silicon Valley's inner workings. Further evidence, including more emails, were expected to be disclosed during the trial.

Some have speculated that Apple pushed for a settlement in a bid to keep these potentially damning documents, which may tarnish the company's image and that of Jobs, out of the public arena.

Plaintiffs in the case originally sought $3 billion in damages from the tech giants, a figure that could have been trebled to $9 billion under federal law. Judge Koh previously approved related settlements reached by Lucasfilm, Pixar, and Intuit, the total of which came out to around $20 million.

In May, named plaintiff and class representative Michael Devine filed an objection to the settlement, saying defendants were getting off easy considering their considerable cash reserves.

A lawyer representing Google said in court today that the $324.5 million figure Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe agreed to pay is at a higher premium per employee compared to the already settled cases.

Despite her concerns, Koh also said she views the settlement as a positive for plaintiffs as the agreement would allow everyone to recover at least some money. With a class of around 74,000, however, the per-person payout would be on the order of only a few thousand dollars.

Judge Koh has yet to render a decision on the proposed settlement, meaning the companies may have renegotiate with plaintiffs' attorneys or face going to trial.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 50
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

    "I just have concerns about whether this is really fair to the class," Koh said.

     

    I get it. She thinks she’s a schoolteacher. Now it all makes sense. ;) 

     

    Look, we need a new district court.

  • Reply 2 of 50

    She has concerns whether this is fair to class. I don't get her at all.

     

    Hey Koh how about letting Apple get some fairness in the suit with Samsung? 

     

    The court / justice system is totally screwed.

  • Reply 3 of 50
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,198member
    Some judges need to be shown the door.
  • Reply 4 of 50
    john.bjohn.b Posts: 2,720member
    Typical legal shenanigans. Michael Devine filed a lawsuit, the lawyers co-opted it into a class action and effectively took all the proceeds for themselves, leaving the actual plaintiffs with empty pockets (or useless "vouchers").

    I wish more class actions were subject to a smell test vs. simply being rubberstamped.
  • Reply 5 of 50
    hill60hill60 Posts: 6,992member
    Here's an idea, why don't the courts make US companies even less competitive in the global marketplace.

    There are plenty of highly trained people in India and China who would be glad for the work.
  • Reply 6 of 50
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    Originally Posted by hill60 View Post

    Here’s an idea, why don't the courts make US companies even less competitive in the global marketplace.

     

    Okay. The SCOTUS apparently just threw out the concept of software patents. That good enough?

  • Reply 7 of 50
    mikhailtmikhailt Posts: 37member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

     

     

    Okay. The SCOTUS apparently just threw out the concept of software patents. That good enough?


    SCOTUS didn't throw out software patents, just a very tiny class of it, which is good news. They ruled that applying technical generic terms to abstract ideas is not enough to get patents. In other words, just putting a computer in the middle of an idea doesn't make it any less of an abstract idea.  

     

    Better source that's less emotional than the source you linked to. http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/06/supreme-court-smashes-do-it-on-a-computer-patents-in-9-0-opinion/

     

    Actual quotes from the SCOTUS:

     




    Quote:


    (2) Turning to the second step of Mayo’s framework: The method claims, which merely require generic computer implementation, fail to transform that abstract idea into a patent-eligible invention. Pp. 10–16.

    (i) “Simply appending conventional steps, specified at a high level of generality,” to a method already “well known in the art” is not “enough” to supply the “ ‘inventive concept’ ” needed to make this transformation. Mayo, supra, at ___, ___. The introduction of a com- puter into the claims does not alter the analysis. Neither stating an abstract idea “while adding the words ‘apply it,’ ” Mayo, supra, at ___, nor limiting the use of an abstract idea “ ‘to a particular technological environment,’ ” Bilski, supra, at 610–611, is enough for patent eligi- bility. 

     



     

    Pretty sure software patents is still good to go as long as it doesn't turn an abstract idea into something else with simple generic stuff. 



  • Reply 8 of 50
    freediverxfreediverx Posts: 1,407member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

     

     

    Okay. The SCOTUS apparently just threw out the concept of software patents. That good enough?


     

    No, the ruling only referenced software patents that cover 'abstract ideas'.

  • Reply 9 of 50
    "...defendants were getting off easy considering their considerable cash reserves."

    Everyone thinks they are entitled to those cash reserves.
  • Reply 10 of 50
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,198member
    "...defendants were getting off easy considering their considerable cash reserves."

    Everyone thinks they are entitled to those cash reserves.

    In the past there was the Age of Enlightenment. We're living in the Age of Entitlement.
  • Reply 11 of 50
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,755member
    mikhailt wrote: »
    SCOTUS didn't throw out software patents, just a very tiny class of it, which is good news. They ruled that applying technical generic terms to abstract ideas is not enough to get patents. In other words, just putting a computer in the middle of an idea doesn't make it any less of an abstract idea.

    I think the actual end result will be somewhere between Ars expectations (were any patent professionals involved in writing their article?) and what experienced patent attorney and pro-IP blogger Gene Quinn had to say at IPWatchdog. Reading both articles (see TS link) is probably worth a few minutes time.

    The real-world impact will be revealed in some upcoming Federal cases involving software patents and how the judges in those cases translate SCOTUS' ruling. This will all take some time to play out.
  • Reply 12 of 50
    boredumbboredumb Posts: 1,415member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by John.B View Post



    Typical legal shenanigans. Michael Devine filed a lawsuit, the lawyers co-opted it into a class action and effectively took all the proceeds for themselves, leaving the actual plaintiffs with empty pockets (or useless "vouchers").



    I wish more class actions were subject to a smell test vs. simply being rubberstamped.

    I was wondering if you could back up that dismissive statement with specific fact, rather than the typical lawyer slur.

    I'm not saying it isn't so, but I think your comment should be subjected to that 'smell test' as well.

  • Reply 13 of 50
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,755member
    mikhailt wrote: »
    Pretty sure software patents is still good to go as long as it doesn't turn an abstract idea into something else with simple generic stuff. 

    Amazon's 1-Click? 5,960,411

    Apple's slide-to-unlock? 8,046,721

    Microsoft's patent on a method to jump ahead a page at a time on your computer display? 7,415,666

    Apple patent on displaying a list? 8,223,134

    IMO these are all fairly high-profile examples of software patents that would not be valid under the Supreme Court's most recent ruling.
  • Reply 14 of 50
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,599member

    I still stand on the fact of those 74K individual how many really think they had rats chance in hell to get a job at any one of those companies... I bet if we all saw the list of names there would be a common thread in the list. There are a group of people who are job jumpers all they do is jump from one job to another in hopes to pump up their title and pay, these people think they are worth more than than they really are. They will immediate jump from one company to another for a title change or a little bit more money.

  • Reply 15 of 50
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,198member
    gatorguy wrote: »
    Amazon's 1-Click? 5,960,411

    Apple's slide-to-unlock? 8,046,721

    Microsoft's patent on a method to jump ahead a page at a time on your computer display? 7,415,666

    Apple patent on displaying a list? 8,223,134

    IMO these are all fairly high-profile examples of software patents that would not be valid under the Supreme Court's most recent ruling.

    According to the Ars Technica coverage, software patents are now not in the kind of jeopardy one might think. Actually, if there are patents at risk for Amazon or Apple, all they need to do is file a continuation and provide additional detail.
  • Reply 16 of 50
    What's Koh's argument? She was always pushing Apple and Samsung to go work things out outside of the court. So here she's presented with a settlement agreed to by both sides and she says maybe the court should handle it?

    One would think her role here would be to examine the structure of the settlement to ensure that it could and would be implemented according to its terms.
  • Reply 17 of 50
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,755member
    According to the Ars Technica coverage, software patents are now not in the kind of jeopardy one might think. Actually, if there are patents at risk for Amazon or Apple, all they need to do is file a continuation and provide additional detail.

    While the Supreme Court only ruled specifically only on a somewhat narrow class of "software patents", the fact they declined to offer more explicit guidance on when software in general should be considered patentable will become problematic.

    Discretion is now put in the hands of Federal judges to interpret taking into account their understanding of this SCOTUS ruling. I'll be shocked if one or more judges over the next several months doesn't toss a plaintiffs computer method patent complaint using a fairly broad understanding of this 9-0 Supreme Court case as justification. In addition you can expect the USPTO to take notice and view methods patents with a much more critical eye. Software patents will become increasingly difficult to get and the claims much less likely to be enforceable in court IMO.
  • Reply 18 of 50
    hill60hill60 Posts: 6,992member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post



    Apple's slide-to-unlock? 8,046,721



    IMO these are all fairly high-profile examples of software patents that would not be valid under the Supreme Court's most recent ruling.

     

    So how come I use abstract idea to perform the physical action of unlocking an iPhone?

     

    i.e. it's a practical implementation, not an "abstract idea".

     

    Once again your sidetrack fails.

     

    How about Stanford's "using maths to find stuff" patent, the one that Google was the sole licensee of?

  • Reply 19 of 50
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,755member
    hill60 wrote: »
    So how come I use abstract idea to perform the physical action of unlocking an iPhone?

    i.e. it's a practical implementation, not an "abstract idea".

    Once again your sidetrack fails.

    How about Stanford's "using maths to find stuff" patent, the one that Google was the sole licensee of?

    Absolutely. Toss that one in the perhaps unenforceable bin. As for your use of a physical gesture for an abstract idea I don't know why you think that would make it less abstract. So what in Apple's slide to unlock patent makes it unworthy of patenting based on the ruling? That it specifies it reads on a simple generic "computer-readable medium", which is abstract and in the view of the Court serves to monopolize the implementation of an idea. The Court ruled that a computer system (data processing unit for instance) and computer-readable medium claims “fail for substantially the same reasons.”

    "If a patent’s recitation of a computer amounts to a mere instruction to “implemen[t]” an abstract idea “on … a computer,” that addition cannot impart patent eligibility. This conclusion accords with the pre-emption concern that undergirds our §101 jurisprudence. Given the ubiquity of computers, wholly generic computer implementation is not generally the sort of “additional featur[e]” that provides any “practical assurance that the process is more than a drafting effort designed to monopolize the [abstract idea] itself.”

    "As to its system claims, petitioner emphasizes that those claims recite “specific hardware” configured to perform “specific computerized functions.” But what petitioner characterizes as specific hardware–a “data processing system” with a “communication controller” and “data storage unit,” for example–is purely functional and generic. Nearly every computer will include a “communications controller” and “data storage unit” capable of performing the basic calculation, storage, and transmission functions required by the method claims. As a result, none of the hardware recited by the system claims “offers a meaningful limitation beyond generally linking ‘the use of the [method] to a particular technological environment,’ that is, implementation via computers.
  • Reply 20 of 50
    d4njvrzfd4njvrzf Posts: 797member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by hill60 View Post

     

     

    So how come I use abstract idea to perform the physical action of unlocking an iPhone?

     

    i.e. it's a practical implementation, not an "abstract idea".

     

    Once again your sidetrack fails.

     

    How about Stanford's "using maths to find stuff" patent, the one that Google was the sole licensee of?


    Sure, Apple's implementation in the iPhone is obviously a practical implementation of slide-to-unlock. But the real question is how specific is the patent? A patent is supposed to be precise enough so that any person with ordinary skill in the art (say, an educated programmer) can translate the claims into a working product. 

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