MobileMedia Wins $3M From Apple In IPhone Ring Patent Suit

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A federal jury in Delaware found Wednesday that some Apple Inc. iPhone models infringe a phone ring patent held by MobileMedia Ideas LLC, but awarded MobileMedia only $3 million in damages, far short of the $18 million it sought.

After deliberating for more than a day following a week-long trial, the eight-member jury found that Cupertino, California-based Apple infringed two claims of a MobileMedia patent for silencing or quieting a ring without the caller knowing, and that Apple hadn’t shown that patent was invalid for lack of a written description.

Afterward, MobileMedia attorney Steven M. Bauer, a partner with Proskauer Rose LLP and leader of the firm’s patent and intellectual property group, said the firm was pleased that MobileMedia’s patent was found both valid and infringed by the iPhone 3G, 3GS, and 4. He added: “We appreciate the hard work and diligence of the jury in reaching this result.”

Attorneys for Apple declined to comment.

MobileMedia had asked the jury to award 25 cents for each of the 71.5 million iPhones said to have incorporated infringing features, which would reach about $18 million. Instead, the jury awarded $3 million, or about 4.2 cents per phone.

The trial, which began last week, was the second in MobileMedia’s  6-½-year-old legal battle with Apple over several MobileMedia patents, including claims that the iPhone models in question are built and coded to handle ring quieting or silencing in a way that violates instant U.S. Patent No. RE 39,231.

The patent asserts configurations of an alert sound generator and associated phone circuitry that allows ring silencing without being detected by a caller or interrupting a call.

U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson previously ruled in November 2012 that Apple was not guilty of infringing the ‘231 patent, one month before the start of a two-week trial that found Apple had infringed three other patents.

The Federal Circuit, however, vacated Judge Robinson’s ruling on the ‘231 patent in March 2015, based on what the appeals court said were erroneous claims construction findings, sending it and some verdicts from the 2012 jury trial back to Delaware for further consideration and setting the stage for the another trial.

By last week, MobileMedia and Apple had trimmed all other claims in the case except those involving the ‘231 patent.

MobileMedia is a non-producing patent assertion company formed by MPEG LA, Nokia and Sony Corporation of America, the original holder of the ‘231 patent. Although Sony never used the the features covered by the patent, that didn’t matter, MobileMedia had said.

“Patents are a property right,” MobileMedia attorney Kimberly A. Mottley, a Proskauer Rose LLP partner, had told the jury during closing arguments. “You don’t have to use them immediately, or ever.”

Apple attorney Joseph J. Mueller, a WilmerHale partner, said during closing arguments that iPhone hardware and coding are “profoundly different” from the phone designs at the center of the MobileMedia patents, arguing that those claims involved earlier ideas for hard-wired and cordless telephones.

“Applying that to cell phones was not an invention,” Mueller said.

MobileMedia described Apple during the trial as a “holdout” against MobileMedia’s attempts to enforce its alleged patent rights against a long list of companies, including Blackberry-maker Research in Motion Ltd.

MobileMedia is represented by Jack B. Blumenfeld, Rodger D. Smith II and Jeremy A. Tigan ofMorris Nichols Arsht & Tunnell LLP and Steven M. Bauer, Kimberly A. Mottley, Kenneth Rubenstein,  Anthony C. Coles, Safraz W. Ishmael, Laura E. Stafford, James Anderson and William D. Dalsen of Proskauer Rose LLP.

Apple is represented by Richard K. Herrmann and Mary B. Matterer of Morris James LLP, Luann L. Simmons and Melody N. Drummond Hansen of O’Melveny & Myers LLP, and Joseph J. Mueller and Tara D. Elliott of WilmerHale.

The case is MobileMedia Ideas LLC v. Apple Inc., case number 1:10-­cv­-00258, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.

–Additional reporting by Matt Chiappardi, Dorothy Atkins and Ryan Davis. Editing by Emily Kokoll.

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