U.S. Supreme Court rejects Charter appeal of Sprint patent verdict

Slideshow ( 2 images )

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Charter Communications Inc unit Time Warner Cable must pay $140 million in damages for infringing five Sprint Corp telecommunications patents after the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear Time Warner’s appeal in the case.

The justices declined to review a lower court ruling that upheld a 2017 jury verdict siding with Sprint in the dispute.

Sprint’s 2011 lawsuit against Time Warner said the cable company’s Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service, which relays calls over the internet, infringed several of Sprint’s patents on connecting users of older and more modern telephone technologies.

Time Warner had argued that Sprint’s patents did not specifically cover VoIP and should be canceled, and that Sprint was wrongly awarded a cut of the entirety of its VoIP service revenues without separating out aspects of the service that did not infringe the patents.

Sprint accused Time Warner of trying to overturn a jury verdict that was supported by substantial evidence.

Sprint said Monday’s decision rejecting the case was the appropriate outcome. “We expected and are pleased by the court’s decision today,” company spokeswoman Lisa Belot said. Charter Communications declined to comment.

A federal jury in 2017 rejected Time Warner’s claim that Sprint’s patents were invalid and awarded nearly $140 million in royalties, to which a judge later added about $6 million in interest. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, a specialized patent court, upheld the verdict in 2018, prompting Time Warner’s appeal to the Supreme Court.

Time Warner was backed by Intel Corp, which urged the justices to rein in damages claims that “wildly overshoot the value of the patented inventions at issue.”

Chief Justice John Roberts did not participate in the decision to reject the case, likely because he reported having shares in Charter Communications in his last financial statement.

Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham