This afternoon the RAND breach of contract case between Microsoft and Motorola went to the jury, and this evening — after just a few short hours of deliberation — the jury came back with its verdict. According to Curtis Cartier (@curtis_cartier on Twitter), a freelance journalist who attended the trial, the jury found for Microsoft “on every question asked of them” and awarded $14.5M in damages to Microsoft. (Note that this is approximately half of the total damages that Microsoft was seeking as compensation for Motorola’s alleged RAND breach of contract).
We can expect Motorola to try to get Judge Robart to set aside all or part of the verdict on post-trial motions, and probably appeal if that does not work (but to which court?). In the meantime, we now have seen what appears to be the first jury verdict finding a breach of contractual RAND obligations…
Microsoft: “This is a landmark win for all who want products that are affordable and work well together. The jury’s verdict is the latest in a growing list of decisions by regulators and courts telling Google to stop abusing patents.”
Motorola: “We’re disappointed in this outcome, but look forward to an appeal of the new legal issues raised in this case.”
Also yesterday, both Microsoft and Motorola each filed motions for judgment as a matter of law (commonly known as JMOL motions), asserting that because no reasonable jury could find otherwise, Judge Robart should find in their (respective) favor on various issues. The court has taken these motions under advisement — if you’d like to check out the motions, we’ve linked to them below.
A month ago, we discussed how Microsoft and Motorola filed dueling summary judgment motions in an attempt to eliminate some of the issues from the upcoming RAND breach of contract jury trial in Seattle (currently set to begin August 26). Judge James L. Robart held an oral argument on July 31, and this morning, his order hit the docket (the order is actually dated yesterday — Judge Robart is apparently not taking Sundays off).
As you can tell from the title of this post, Judge Robart granted summary judgment on some — but not nearly all — of the issues briefed by the parties. Both Microsoft and Motorola prevailed on some issues and lost on others. The bottom line is that the jury will still have a lot to decide in this case. After the jump, we’ll take a look at how Judge Robart ruled — starting with the motions that he denied.
A couple months ago, Microsoft asked Judge James L. Robart to confirm that the second phase of the Microsoft-Motorola RAND breach of contract trial — in which the actual breach and damages issues will be addressed — would be tried to Judge Robart himself, and not a jury (a motion that Motorola opposed). Microsoft claimed that Motorola had waived its right to a jury trial. But yesterday, Judge Robart issued an order denying Microsoft’s motion, setting a jury trial to begin on August 26, 2013 on the breach of contract issues.
As support for the ruling, the court explained that Microsoft itself demanded a jury trial on the very same causes of action (breach of contract/promissory estoppel) that were asserted as counterclaims in a Motorola patent infringement action that was later consolidated with the RAND breach of contract case. The court noted that since the actions were consolidated, “Motorola may reasonably rely on Microsoft’s demand for a jury trial on all issues, including the breach of contract issues.” (As we have previously discussed, consolidation of the cases may also ultimately affect appellate jurisdiction in the case, too). While Judge Robart acknowledged that “Motorola could have been more clear in its jury demand,” he explained that given the complicated mix of issues in the case, he came to the conclusion that he must give Motorola all reasonable presumptions against waiver.
So it’s up to several good citizens of the Seattle, WA area to decide whether Motorola breached its RAND obligations — this ought to be interesting. Mark down August 26, 2013 in your calendars, folks.
The district court in the Microsoft-Motorola RAND breach of contract case has already decided some unique issues of first impression, and will take on some more in the next phase of the case. And if the parties don’t settle, an appeal is likely to follow. This raises an interesting question, one that doesn’t necessarily have a clear answer — which appellate court would have jurisdiction over an appeal of Judge Robart’s RAND-related rulings?
The Western District of Washington sits within the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (which, as noted below, has already heard an interlocutory appeal in this case). But as you may know, in order to preserve uniformity in patent law, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Federal Circuit in Washington, DC is the court designated by Congress as the appeals court with exclusive jurisdiction for nearly all patent cases. The Microsoft-Motorola case (at least the part which has garnered the most attention) involves a breach of contract issue relating to patents, standard-setting, and patent licensing issues. So, which is it — the 9th Circuit or the Fed Circuit?
Brace yourselves – this will take a couple thousand words.
In the aftermath of last week’s Microsoft-MotorolaRAND-setting opinion, the case will now to proceed toward an August trial date. At this trial — if it gets that far — either Judge Robart or a jury (this issue is still up in the air) will determine (1) whether Motorola breach its RAND obligations to the IEEE and ITU; (2) if a breach has occurred, whether Microsoft is entitled to damages as a result; and (3) the amount of any damages owed. As we’ve noted before, Microsoft will likely seek summary judgment prior to trial, given the difference between Motorola’s opening 2.25% offer and the final RAND royalty rate set by Judge Robart. But either way, the issues of breach of contract and potential damages remain in the case, and the parties are currently taking some limited discovery on these issues.
Yesterday, Motorola filed a letter motion with the court [LINK], asking it to limit the theories on which Microsoft may base its damages claims. Motorola asserts that in recent weeks, Microsoft has significantly (and improperly) expanded its damages contentions in violation of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, prejudicing Motorola’s ability to prepare its own case.
The standard-essential patent battle between InterDigital and Chinese handset makers Huawei and ZTE rages on in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. Recall that the parties are awaiting an Initial Determination in ITC Inv. No. 337-TA-800, and are also involved in Inv. No. 337-TA-868. In the companion district court cases to the -868 investigation, Huawei and ZTE attempted to have the Delaware court expedite a determination of FRAND terms for InterDigital’s portfolio, an attempt that was rebuffed by the court. But now, in motion filed yesterday, InterDigital seeks to have Huawei and ZTE’s FRAND-related claims dismissed altogether. InterDigital argues that the FRAND counterclaims should have been asserted in an earlier litigation, are not ripe, and merely seek an advisory opinion. InterDigital also claims that Huawei and ZTE have failed to allege the existence of an enforceable contractual commitment under the applicable law. Continue reading →
It’s no surprise that most of the attention being paid to standard-essential patent issues is focused on the companies involved in the “smartphone wars” — Motorola, Microsoft, Apple. Samsung, etc. But while these consumer product companies are of course affected by issues involving standard-essential patents, so too are their component suppliers. A lawsuit filed this past fall in the Southern District of New York by Lotes Co. against Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. and Foxconn over SEP issues relating to the Universal Serial Bus (USB) 3.0 standard is a great example of this. Here, we attempt to provide a brief overview of the issues in the Lotes-Hon Hai case.
Late last week, Apple Inc. filed a notice of appeal with the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, announcing its intent to appeal to the Federal Circuit Judge Barbara B. Crabb’s dismissal of Apple’s SEP-related contract and antitrust claims against Motorola Mobility (case No. 3:11-cv-00178-bbc). This presents us with an opportunity to do a brief “catching up on” post on this particular portion of the larger Apple-Motorola dispute.