Why The Apple Vs Samsung Jury Verdict May Not Hold Up

We sort of assumed that Friday’s decision in the Apple vs Samsung trial wouldn’t be the last we heard of the case. But Groklaw has gone through various quotes from the jurors and legal experts, and it looks like Samsung is going to have very strong grounds for appeal thanks to one wildly inconsistent jury.

Late in the process yesterday at the Apple vs Samsung trial, when the parties and the judge were reviewing the jury verdict form, Samsung noticed that there were indeed inconsistencies in the jury’s verdict form, a possibility Samsung anticipated. Here’s the jury’s Amended Verdict Form [PDF], amended to fix the mistakes. Here’s the original [PDF]. Here’s the note [PDF] the jury sent to the judge when told to fix the inconsistencies. What are they, they asked? “Please let the jury know,” they wrote in the only note ever sent in their deliberations, “of the inconsistencies we are supposed to deliberate on.”

In two instances, results were crazily contradictory, and the judge had to have the jury go back and fix the goofs. As a result the damages award was reduced to $US1,049,343,540, one down from $US1,051,855,000. For just one example, the jury had said one device didn’t infringe, but then they awarded Apple $US2 million for inducement. In another they awarded a couple of hundred thousand for a device they had ruled didn’t infringe at all. This was revealed by The Verge in its live blog coverage:

The jury appears to have awarded damages for the Galaxy Tab 10.1 LTE infringing — $219,694 worth — but didn’t find that it had actually infringed anything….A similar inconsistency exists for the Intercept, for which they’d awarded Apple over $US2 million

Intercept: “The jury found no direct infringement but did find inducement” for the ’915 and ’163 utility patents. If a device didn’t infringe, it would be rather hard for a company to induce said non-existant infringement.

Obviously, something is very wrong with this picture. The Verge also reported that the jury foreman, who is a patent holder himself [this appears to be his patent, "Method and apparatus for recording and storing video information"], told court officials that the jury didn’t need the answer to its question to reach a verdict:

The foreman told a court representative that the jurors had reached a decision without needing the instructions.

That’s why I don’t think this jury’s ruling will stand, among other reasons.

I thought it wise to highlight this, because I saw this morning that some missed seeing it. For example, James Niccolai at PCWorld quotes a “legal expert” who clearly didn’t:

“It’s surprising they came back so quickly, given that it was a complicated case and very complicated verdict form, but that said, it looks like they were thoughtful about it and they did their job,” said Roy Futterman, director at DOAR Litigation Consulting and a clinical psychologist who works on trial strategies and the mindset of jurors.

“One sign of that is that the verdicts were consistent, they held together — they voted one way on infringement and another way on invalidity; it all tells the same big story,” he said.

That’s in an article titled “Quick Verdict in Apple Trial Doesn’t Mean Jury Shirked Its Duty, Expert Says”. If the jury instructions [PDF] are as long and complex as they were in this case, a quick verdict can indeed mean it shirked its duty. For example, if the jury rushed so much it assigned $US2 million dollars to Apple, and then had to subtract it because there was no infringement, it raises a valid question: what was the basis for any of the damages figures the jury came up with? If they had any actual basis, how could they goof like this? Was there a factual basis for any of the damages figures?

Time will tell, but keep in mind that one of the plays you’ll see next will likely be a Rule 50(b) motion by Samsung, and that’s the one where you ask the judge for various relief on the basis that no reasonable jury could find what it did find on the evidence presented. Here’s Google’s still pending Rule 50(b) motion for judgment as a matter of law in the Oracle vs Google case, to give you an idea of what they look like. As you can see, you can ask for victory across the board or just on one part of what the jury decided.

This story is far from over, in other words, and while Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, waxed philosophical about the trial, and saying that it was about values, not money, one important US value is that the jury fulfil its responsibilities, one of which is to read and make sure they understand and follow the jury instructions they are given. I believe Cook would agree that trials are supposed to be fair, with everyone doing their part. If this jury thought they knew the right result without instructions, and if they hurried so much they made glaring mistakes, and they did, and all in Apple’s favour, something isn’t right in this picture. As the legal blog, Above the Law expressed it:

Here’s the thing, ladies and gentlemen of the Apple v. Samsung jury: It would take me more than three days to understand all the terms in the verdict! Much less come to a legally binding decision on all of these separate issues. Did you guys just flip a coin?

If it would take a lawyer three days to make sure he understood the terms in the form, how did the jury not need the time to do the same? There were 700 questions, remember, and one thing is plain, that the jury didn’t take the time to avoid inconsistencies, one of which resulted in the jury casually throwing numbers around, like $US2 million dollars for a nonfringement.

Come on. This is farce.

Professor Michael Risch points out an even worse inconsistency:

How did the Galaxy Tab escape design patent infringement? This was the only device to be preliminarily enjoined (on appeal no less), and yet it was the one of the few devices to be spared the sledgehammer. And, by the way, it looks an awful lot like an iPad. Yet the Epic 4G, a phone I own (uh oh, Apple’s coming after me) — which has a slide out keyboard, a curved top and bottom, 4 buttons on the bottom, the word Samsung printed across the top, buttons in different places (and I know this because I look in all the wrong places on my wife’s iTouch), a differently shaped speaker, a differently placed camera, etc. — that device infringes the iPhone design patents….

Relatedly, the ability to get a design patent on a user interface implies that design patent law is broken. This, to me, is the Supreme Court issue in this case. We can dicker about the facts of point 2, but whether you can stop all people from having square icons in rows of 4 with a dock is something that I thought we settled in Lotus v. Borland 15 years ago. I commend Apple for finding a way around basic UI law, but this type of ruling cannot stand.

This is the second lawyer I’ve seen predicting this case will go all the way to the US Supreme Court. He also compliments Groklaw for having “not only really detailed information, but really accurate information, and actual source documents. That combination is hard to find.” Thank you.

One of the jurors has now spoken, and CNET’s Greg Sandoval has it, in his article:

Apple v. Samsung juror Manuel Ilagan said the nine-person jury that heard the patent infringement case between the companies knew after the first day that it believed Samsung had wronged Apple….

The decision was very one-sided, but Ilagan said it wasn’t clear the jurors were largely in agreement until after the first day of deliberations.

“It didn’t dawn on us [that we agreed that Samsung had infringed] on the first day,” Ilagan said. “We were debating heavily, especially about the patents on bounce back and pinch-to-zoom. Apple said they owned patents, but we were debating about the prior art [about the same technology that Samsung said existed before the iPhone debuted]. [Velvin Hogan] was jury foreman. He had experience. He owned patents himself. In the beginning the debate was heated, but it was still civil. Hogan holds patents, so he took us through his experience. After that it was easier. After we debated that first patent — what was prior art — because we had a hard time believing there was no prior art, that there wasn’t something out there before Apple.

“In fact we skipped that one,” Ilagan continued, “so we could go on faster. It was bogging us down.” …

“Once you determine that Samsung violated the patents,” Ilagan said, “it’s easy to just go down those different [Samsung] products because it was all the same. Like the trade dress, once you determine Samsung violated the trade dress, the flatscreen with the Bezel…then you go down the products to see if it had a bezel. But we took our time. We didn’t rush. We had a debate before we made a decision. Sometimes it was getting heated.”

This gets worse and worse.

Dan Levine of Reuters has some words from the foreman:

“We wanted to make sure the message we sent was not just a slap on the wrist,” Hogan said. “We wanted to make sure it was sufficiently high to be painful, but not unreasonable.”

Hogan said jurors were able to complete their deliberations in less than three days — much faster than legal experts had predicted — because a few had engineering and legal experience, which helped with the complex issues in play. Once they determined Apple’s patents were valid, jurors evaluated every single device separately, he said.

Now the jurors are contradicting each other. Lordy, the more they talk, the worse it gets. I’m sure Samsung is glad they are talking, though. Had they read the full jury instructions, all 109 pages [PDF version], they would have read that damages are not supposed to punish, merely to compensate for losses. Here’s what they would have found in Final Jury Instruction No. 35, in part:

The amount of those damages must be adequate to compensate the patent holder for the infringement. A damages award should put the patent holder in approximately the financial position it would have been in had the infringement not occurred, but in no event may the damages award be less than a reasonable royalty. You should keep in mind that the damages you award are meant to compensate the patent holder and not to punish an infringer.

The same instruction is repeated in Final Jury Instruction No. 53, in case they missed it the first time. Did they obey those instructions? Nay, did they even read them? The evidence, judging by the foreman’s reported words, point the wrong way.

Samsung lawyer John Quinn is quoted by USA Today saying they will be asking the judge to toss this out and then appeal, if she does not:

Samsung, the global leader among smartphone makers, vowed to fight. Its lawyers told the judge it intended to ask her to toss out the verdict.

“This decision should not be allowed to stand because it would discourage innovation and limit the rights of consumers to make choices for themselves,” Samsung lead lawyer John Quinn said. He argued that the judge or an appeals court should overturn the verdict.

Apple lawyers plan to formally demand Samsung pull its most popular mobile phones and computer tablets from the U.S. market. They also can ask the judge to triple the damages from $US1.05 billion to $US3 billion.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh will decide those issues, along with Samsung’s demand she overturn the jury’s verdict, in several weeks. Quinn said Samsung would appeal if the judge refuses to toss out the decision….

Samsung said after the verdict that it was “unfortunate that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners.”

“This is by no means the final word in this case,” Quinn said in a statement. “Patent law should not be twisted so as to give one company a monopoly over the shape of smartphones.”

One more quote from the foreman, thanks to Bloomberg News:

When I got in this case and I started looking at these patents I considered: “If this was my patent and I was accused, could I defend it?” Hogan explained. On the night of Aug. 22, after closing arguments, “a light bulb went on in my head,” he said. “I thought, I need to do this for all of them.

And in case you think Groklaw is the only one to notice, it’s actually a known problem that juries tend to over compensate plaintiffs, as brought out in this AP article by Paul Elias:

Increasingly these highly complex disputes are being decided by juries, rather than judges, and the juries tend to issue more generous awards for patent violations.

That has companies on the receiving end of successful patent infringement lawsuits crying foul and calling for reform in the patent system, but it also has some legal experts questioning whether ordinary citizens should be rendering verdicts and fixing damages in such high stakes, highly technical cases.

“That’s a great question … and it’s the subject of a fair amount of current debate,” said Notre Dame University law professor Mark McKenna….

“This case is unmanageable for a jury,” Robin Feldman, an intellectual property professor at the University of California Hastings Law School, said before the verdict. “There are more than 100 pages of jury instructions. I don’t give that much reading to my law students. They can’t possible digest it.”

“The trial is evidence of a patent system that is out of control,” Feldman said. “No matter what happens in this trial, I think people will need to step back and ask whether we’ve gone too far in the intellectual property system.”


1 Is that maths even correct, even after the fix? One reader did the maths, and he or she thinks the maths is off and the right total, even if all else is accurate, should be $US1,049,423,540. Here’s the calculation, taken from the Amended Verdict Form [PDF], so you can do your own checking:

My maths gives a different total

… in favour of Apple by a few 10,000′s

Captivate . . . . . . . . . .80,840,162

Continuum . . . . . . . . . .16,399,117

Droid Charge. . . . . . . . .50,672,869

Epic 4G. . . . . . . . . . .130,180,894

Exhibit 4G . . . . . . . . . .1,081,820

Fascinate. . . . . . . . . .143,539,179

Galaxy Ace . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Galaxy Prevail. . . . . . . .57,867,383

Galaxy S . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Galaxy S 4G . . . . . . . . .73,344,668

Galaxy S II (AT&T). . . . . .40,494,356

Galaxy S II (i9000). . . . . . . . . .0

Galaxy S II (T-Mobile). . . .83,791,708

Galaxy S II (Epic 4G Touch).100,326,988

Galaxy S II (Skyrocket) . . .32,273,558

Galaxy S (Showcase) . . . . .22,002,146

Galaxy Tab . . . . . . . . . .1,966,691

Galaxy Tab 10.1 WiFi . . . . . .833,076

Galaxy Tab 10.1 4G LTE . . . . . . . .0

Gem. . . . . . . . . . . . . .4,075,585

Indulge . . . . . . . . . . .16,011,184

Infuse 4G . . . . . . . . . .44,792,974

Intercept. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Mesmerize . . . . . . . . . .53,123,612

Nexus S 4G . . . . . . . . . .1,828,297

Replenish. . . . . . . . . . .3,350,256

Transform. . . . . . . . . . . .953,060

Vibrant . . . . . . . . . . .89,673,957

TOTAL. . . . . . . . . . .1,049,423,540

Editor’s note: Some portions of this post were originally published as updates, but rather than confuse matters, we have presented them inline.

Groklaw is an experiment in journalistic expertise and open-source principles. Pamela Jones is its former editor.