Judge throws out patent verdict against Microsoft

by Walter Olson on October 6, 2009

U.S. District Judge William Smith in Providence vacated a $388 million award to Uniloc, a Singapore-based company, ruling that the jury “lacked a grasp of the issues before it and reached a finding without a legally sufficient basis.” [Bloomberg]

{ 2 comments }

1 Patrick 10.06.09 at 9:07 am

Of course if the Judge had directed a verdict before allowing the jury to reach a verdict without legal basis, on issues it couldn’t grasp, this wouldn’t have been necessary.

Profiles in cowardice.

2 Phaedrus 10.06.09 at 10:47 am

Patrick, that might seem like the sensible way to do it, but it actually works out much better when it’s handled the way the judge handled it in this case (though the judge could have certainly acted sooner after the verdict). Think about it this way:

* Option 1: The sides present their evidence and close the case. The judge says “There is no way that the jury could reasonably rule for the plaintiff. Defendant wins. Case closed.” The plaintiff appeals. Now what if the appellate court decides that the trial court was wrong — that the jury could have reasonably found for the plaintiff? By this point, months will have passed; there’s no way that the jury can simply be told “go ahead and deliberate and reach a verdict.” So the parties have to start over with a new trial before a new jury, which is very wasteful.

* Option 2: The sides present their evidence and close the case. The judge lets the jury deliberate. The jury awards $X to the plaintiff. The judge says “Sorry, but that’s not a reasonable verdict — the defendant wins instead.” The plaintiff appeals. If the appellate court decides that the trial judge was right, then true, the time spent in jury deliberation was wasted, but that’s pretty small. And if the appellate court decides that the trial judge was wrong, then the appellate court can simply reinstate the jury’s verdict — there’s no need for a wasteful second trial.

Comments on this entry are closed.