Apple Wins another Patent Trial


Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

A Giant Crushing the Little Guy or a Case of a Patent Troll against a Tech Giant?

This time, the iPhone maker officially defeats a patent claim over the smartphone invention. In the case of NetAirus Technologies LLC versus Apple Inc, a 70-year old electrical engineer Richard L.Ditzik lost his claim over Apple infringing his patent for a handheld device. Mr.Ditzik holds a patent for a handheld computer that combines wireless communication features and supports cellular networks and a Wi-Fi technology. The inventor claims that smartphone invention is his idea and Apple infringes his patent.

However, the federal jury in Los Angeles found the tech giant not guilty in infringing the above-mentioned patent. Apple has been keeping the L.A. grand jury and the judge Lucy L.Koh quite busy lately. Last month, Apple won the trial against Wi-Lan Inc. (WIN) and waived a demand for royalty of over $248 million for using wireless technology in mobile devices. Last week, Apple won $290 million from Samsung Electronics in patent infringing trial.

During the trial, Cupertino-based company argued that Mr.Ditzik’s initial patent application included a laptop, portable computer that would allow users to make phone calls. The inventor then added several features to the device after allegedly he had read about them in the magazines. The features Ditzik added to the patent include sending e-mails and acting as a personal digital assistant. NetAirus also filed another lawsuit for patent infringement by Apple products on sale since 2010.

No Unanimity on the Verdict

One of the jurors, a 50-year-old salesman George Escarrega said there “was an aspect to the case that Apple was this giant crushing the little guy.” Escarrega voted in favor of the inventor on two questions, and in favor of Apple on another two questions. He said he “almost felt like we were failing in doing everything we could for the system and the inventor.”

The grand jury of 8 people, 6 women and 2 men, were arguing for three days failing to reach a unanimous verdict on the case. The case included five main issues regarding the patent infringement and the estimated damages. The jurors remained deadlocked after the judge had sent them to continue deliberations, so the attorneys agreed to accept the majority vote which resulted in Apple’s favor.

Comments on the Verdict

Obviously, Mr.Ditzik was disappointed with the verdict, and his lawyer, Ray Niro of Niro Haller & Niro said they were considering an appeal. Apple’s attorney did not comment on the case.

Patent Trolls

The Boston University School of Law has published a study of patent litigation that has been caused by ‘non-practicing entities,’ or ‘patent trolls.’ According to the study, in 2011 patent infringement claims from these non-practicing entities have cost U.S tech companies $29 billion in damage claims. Patent trolls are individuals and companies that hold patents, but do not use the patented technology. These entities do not produce any goods or services based on the patented technology. Instead, they use their patents to file lawsuits against companies like Apple. The study says, “The rapid growth and high cost of NPE litigation documented here should set off an alarm warning to policy makers.”

The Truth Is Probably Somewhere In the Middle

Alas, the little companies and individuals have insufficient funds to develop the technology and launch the goods. Tech giants, on the other hand, have the resources and the urge to go beyond their present reach. Where lies the truth in Mr.Ditzik’s claim remains unclear, but Apple obviously closed the chapter.