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Patents The Courts Apple

Misunderstanding of Prior Art May Have Led to Apple-Samsung Verdict 503

Posted by Soulskill
from the surprise-surprise dept.
One of the interesting tidbits that came out of last week's billion-dollar verdict in Apple v. Samsung was that the jury's foreman, a patent holder himself, was instrumental in leading the other members through the various complicated infringement claims. Now, Groklaw analyzes an interview the man gave with Bloomberg News (video), in which his statements reveal a basic misunderstanding of what qualifies as prior art. Quoting Groklaw: "In discussing the first patent on the list, he says they got into a discussion about the prior art that was presented at trial. Here's why they discounted it: 'The software on the Apple side could not be placed into the processor on the prior art and vice versa. That means they are not interchangeable. That changed everything right there.' That isn't disqualifying for prior art. It doesn't have to run on the same processor. It doesn't have to run at all. It can be words on a piece of paper. (If you don't believe little old me, here's a lawyer noticing the video too now.) ... The foreman, in answering criticisms, says that the jury paid close attention to the jury instructions. But looking at this one, did they? I'm sure they meant to, and I'm also sure they did their best according to what they understood. But this was an error, and it's one I don't think the judge can ignore, if anyone brings it to her attention."
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Misunderstanding of Prior Art May Have Led to Apple-Samsung Verdict

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  • split. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jythie (914043) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @01:47PM (#41170183)
    I am kinda caught between 'shouldn't being a patent holder be considered a conflict of interests and caused the defense to disqualify the person?' and 'wait, a jury member with actual knowledge of a field? that is almost like a peer!'.

    Meh, at this point I try not to follow these case too closely... while I hate software patents and think they need to be abolished, I find the reporting and oversimplification almost as bad...
  • This Works Both Ways (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @01:55PM (#41170321)

    Doesn't this prior art argument apply to Samsung's device as well? If the iPhone processor isn't the same as Samsung uses, then Apple's software doesn't run that processor and no patent was violated.

  • by Scragglykat (1185337) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @02:04PM (#41170451)
    I had jury duty this year, and I can say from that one experience, that jury's definitely want to do what is right... but they will often fail miserably, and will almost always follow those they feel have more knowledge on the subject at hand. What I saw was a couple very angry people who let their anger cloud their judgement and made them very stubborn and hard to deal with. One seemingly intelligent person who did a lot of steering when it came to the majority of the group, because they saw him as their leader and what he said, no matter what it was, was good enough for them. A couple undecided people who were actually open to listening to both sides, and myself, who had to argue my points again and again to get people to come to their senses. It was a nightmare... and that was a much more simple case than this one. We deliberated for six hours on six points, three of which were clear cut. I can't imagine sitting on a jury for a case of this magnitude and coming to a decision in less than a work week.
  • by ThatsMyNick (2004126) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @02:13PM (#41170577)

    The problem is having one so-called expert, and 11 laymen in the room. It should either be all experts or all laymen.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @02:16PM (#41170643)

    One of Apple's biggest assets is their design, look, feel, etc (Trade dress). Did you expect apple to take it laying down?

    Eh, Apple is getting screwed either way. Even if they win, they lose. Before this trial, consumers in the US mentally lumped Samsung in with Motorola, Sony, and a half-dozen other also-rans. Now Apple is claiming "Samsung copies our products!", "Consumers can't tell the difference!". The longer this case drags out, the more coverage it gets, and the more consumers are going to believe those claims through repetition.

    Apple has rebranded Samsung to be in their league. Normally, you can't buy that kind of advertising at any price. Samsung got a bargain at $1B

  • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @02:18PM (#41170677) Homepage

    Of course prior art was misunderstood. It usually is, including the misunderstanding that Groklaw is propagating. For the purposes of dismissing a patent, prior art does not just have to be something similar, but must be something that is, in whole or in part, exactly the same as what's claimed in the patent. If the patent claims a specific processor function that the prior art didn't have, it's not prior art!

    Software is algorithms, and algorithms are mathematics. That's why they should never be allowed to be patented in the first place, which would have avoided all this Apple v. Samsung trial about bounceback anyway.

    The algorithms are not patentable, but their assembly into a system is, just like a screw conveyor is not patentable, but its use in a new material feeder is.

  • Rule 50 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by reimero (194707) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @02:21PM (#41170713)

    This case is a prime candidate for a successful Rule 50 motion, which states essentially that in a jury trial, if a court finds that a jury would not have sufficient evidentiary basis to rule as it did, the judge may overrule the jury's decision or, alternately, vacate the jury's verdict and order a new trial. The judge can't use it to impose his or her own opinion; it has to be a fairly clear-cut case in which the jury acted unreasonably or contrary to law. So, for instance, if a jury finds a criminal defendant not guilty and the judge thinks there was enough evidence to convict, that's too bad. In the Apple-Samsung case, though, there was a clear and articulated misapplication of the prior art standard, which causes the verdict to fail as a matter of law.

  • by aepervius (535155) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @02:35PM (#41170893)
    If the fact that finding out that a jury royally fucked up, does not lead to a judgement to be overturned, then I would rather never be judged by my "peer" like in the US system. Imagine that the judgement is not about patent law but a death penalty case. You would be on death row because of a fucktard in the jury decide you are guilty no matter the evidence.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @02:43PM (#41171005)

    If you're throwing out actual evidence that will ensure the jury reaches a flawed verdict, then you've completely fucked up your trial.

    The purpose of a trial is not to see who can win a game of "Best lawyer", but to establish the truth. The further you get from establishing the truth in your courtroom because of the decisions you have made, the worse judge you objectively are.

    This is a terrible, terrible, Judge.

  • Jury selection FAIL (Score:4, Interesting)

    by McSnickered (67307) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @03:10PM (#41171379)

    I was recently called to report for jury duty on a patent litigation trial at a US District Court. The patent involved "computer code" as the judge put it. Weeks before arriving, I filled out a questionnaire which included questions about my occupation, which I stated as Software Engineer.

    As we went through jury selection, it quickly became clear that the attorneys wanted to state their case in their own way without anyone on the jury attempting to re-explain or translate for the others. Out of the first 14 jurors interviewed, only 1 person had had ANY experience with "computer code" (30 years ago in the Navy, and he mentioned COBOL). One side or the other threw that guy off the jury. We didn't get past Juror #15 before they had agreed on the jury pool. I was juror #28!

    I can't believe that Samsung allowed this guy anywhere near the final jury. Well, unless there were 10 other patent trolls in the pool that they needed to get rid of before him.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @03:17PM (#41171465) Homepage

    > What was the jury supposed to do other than to return to consider the item later? They had no choice, they HAD to consider it to arrive at a verdict.

    They could have done the obvious thing: NOT SKIP IT.

    As it stands, it sounds like they glossed over something because it seemed difficult. There is no taking that back. They refused to tackle the task with which they were entrusted head on. That casts doubt on the whole thing.

  • by jmerlin (1010641) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @04:10PM (#41172063)
    However, he owns a patent. This is an obvious conflict of interest. This would be something like a person who owns and profits from copyright sitting on the jury in a case where someone was being sued for copyright infringement.

    If you watch his interview, it's apparent he's factually mistaken horribly in regards to most things patent related. He's also under this Apple-fanboi-esque assumption that a patent must be an identical match in every minute detail to an existing thing for that thing to be considered "prior art." So he's completely ignoring obviousness and likeness, which are key in prior art claims. Making this observation failure is key to the validity of many Apple patents. If something is original and unique just because it has rounded corners, something's really broken. Worse, probably, is that he uses likeness and obviousness to determine the infringement of another thing. So you have a guy who's perfectly willing to take a patent and make a deduction which I can only expect is similar to: "look, these icons are spaced/oriented in this manner, and that's similar to what the Samsung device here has, and there's a button here which is really obvious by the design, even though it's not identical to the Apple patent, so obviously this is infringing." While at the same time making the deduction when presented with evidence of prior art: "well... it wouldn't run on an Apple processor, so it can't be prior art, even if the software is functionally identical and looks identical." Complete absurdity.

    Also, he clearly states he was trying to expedite the whole process to avoid being hung up on actually looking at evidence. Sounds like solid grounds for an appeal to me. It appears very clear he had his decision made on day 1 and was influencing the other jurors to ignore evidence and vote the same as him. This makes me curious if being a negligent juror is actually a federal crime. If it's not, it should be.
  • by Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @04:54PM (#41172551)

    No, I'm just no so egotistical that I think I'm superior to a jury when I've only seen a tiny fraction of the evidence as presented on opinion sites.

    Well lets see, I've been in the industry for three decades and have read absolutely anything and everything about the case, and I hold or was responsible for guiding the process for hundreds of patents. I think the verdict is ridiculous. In fact, I think we wasted an awful lot of judicial time even hearing it. Then get back to actually inventing things that are clearly patented. Gestures and finger flicks aren't inventions.

    While I might be egotistical, I'm also far better qualified than the bunch of neophytes that were packed into the jury box. I'm also able to form a pretty full opinion without sitting in the courtroom for three weeks. Shoot me.

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