On Oct. 1, the Tyler (Texas) District Court jury found Apple guilty of infringing upon three patents. The court has ordered Apple to pay $625 million to patent holder Mirror Worlds, citing that the breaches are punishable by more than $208 million per patent. The award is the second-biggest jury verdict in 2010, and the fourth-biggest patent verdict in U.S. history.
The patents were based on research by David Gelernter, a Yale computer science professor, as well as doctoral student-at-the-time, Eric Freeman. The patents protect the way data is saved and managed, and Gelernter claimed Apple’s PCs, iPads and iPhones were utilizing his technology with their Cover Flow, Time Machine and Spotlight features. Cover Flow lets users scroll through album cover art when browsing music in their iTunes library. The feature also works for documents, pictures and other material stored in a computer. Spotlight searches the computer’s hard drive, while Time Machine automatically saves copies of files.
As to be expected, Apple is appealing the decision and claiming that Mirror Worlds would be “triple dipping” by collecting on each patent. Apple is also arguing that two of the three claims have outstanding issues that make them inapplicable in the first place and have requested an emergency stay.
On an interesting side note, Gelernter was one of the victims of the Unibomber, Theodore Kaczynski, in 1993. The bomb damaged his right hand and eye and he wrote about his recovery in the book “Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber.”
So, should Apple just pay up and move on? Or this an instance where Apple could have independently developed the same technology at the same time, and they’re just a victim of patent trolling?