updated 10:00 pm EDT, Mon April 4, 2011
Cover Flow, Time Machine featured in case
Apple turned a rare court loss into a victory today with news that a federal judge in the Eastern District of Texas has thrown out a $625.5 million patent-infringement judgement against Apple won by Mirror Worlds LLC and closed the case. The judge ruled that Mirror Worlds' three patents were valid, but that Apple did not infringe them -- and that even if they had, the damage originally awarded by a jury was too high.
The Mirror Worlds case began in 2008 when Yale scientist and professor David Gelernter -- best known before that for predicting the modern World Wide Web in the early 90s and introducing concepts that would lead to Java and Jini -- sued Apple, claiming they knew about and subsequently infringed on four of his privately-held patents. The three that survived the initial challenge to trial dealt with the ways documents are displayed on-screen, and described a "document stream operating system" and methods very similar to the way Cover Flow and Time Machine display their findings.
While finding the three Mirror Worlds patents valid, US District Judge Leonard Davis said that Gelernter and his lawyers "failed to lay a solid foundation sufficient to support important elements it was required to establish under the law," failing to prove that Apple had been aware of the patents and infringed them deliberately rather than simply developing the same concepts separately. Although Cover Flow was originally developed outside Apple, the company assumed legal responsibility for its invention when Apple bought Steel Skies in 2007.
In the original trial, a jury found Apple guilty of infringing the three patents and awarded damages of $208.5 million for each patent. Apple argued that the amount was too high, pointing out that one of the patents had changed hands within Mirror Worlds for $5 million, and also that damages should not have been added together. David found that the evidence Mirror Worlds submitted was insufficient to support the awards, even if Apple had been guilty of infringing. [via Bloomberg]