Apple wins new trial in wireless patent case after $85 mln loss

3 minute read

Logo of an Apple store is seen as Apple Inc. in Washington, U.S., January 27, 2022. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

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  • WiLAN used flawed expert testimony to argue for damages, appeals court finds
  • New trial ordered to determine Apple's damages for the second time

(Reuters) - Apple convinced a U.S. appeals court on Friday to throw out a jury's $85 million award to Canadian patent-licensing company WiLAN in a fight over wireless technology, setting the stage for another trial to determine damages in the case.

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit marks the second time in the patent dispute that a court tossed a multi-million-dollar jury verdict for WiLAN because of problems with its expert testimony.

WiLAN said in a statement that it considers the decision to be favorable, noting that the court confirmed Apple infringes and owes damages.

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Apple and its attorneys didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Apple first sued WiLAN in San Diego federal court in 2014, seeking a ruling that it did not infringe patents related to allocating bandwidth in a wireless network. WiLAN countered with claims that Apple's iPhone 5 and 6 models infringed its patents by using the LTE wireless standard.

A jury found for WiLAN and awarded it $145 million in damages in 2018. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw later upheld the jury's infringement finding but nixed the damages award, ruling it was based on flawed WiLAN expert opinions.

A new jury awardedWiLAN $85 million after a 2020 retrial. Apple asked the Federal Circuit to throw out the new award on several grounds, including that there were problems with a different WiLAN expert's testimony.

Writing for a three-judge panel, Chief Circuit Judge Kimberly Moore on Friday agreed with Apple and ordered another new trial on damages.

In arguing for damages based on a hypothetical royalty rate, WiLAN's expert testified that the patents at issue would have been key to an Apple license to its technology. But that opinion was "untethered to the facts of this case," Moore said.

The appeals court also reversed a district court ruling that Apple iPhones with Intel chips didn't infringe the patents because of a license between WiLAN and Intel. Apple could be liable for infringement for its phones with chips that Intel sold it after the license expired in 2017, Moore said.

Circuit Judges William Bryson and Sharon Prost joined the opinion.

The case is Apple Inc v. Wi-LAN Inc, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, No. 20-2011.

For Apple: Mark Davies of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, Sean Cunningham of DLA Piper

For WiLAN: Jeff Lamken of MoloLamken, Mike McKool of McKool Smith

(Correction: This story has been updated to remove an incorrect reference to Apple in the seventh paragraph.)

Read more:

IN BRIEF: Jury tells Apple to pay $85 million in WiLAN patent retrial

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Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com