September 11, 2009
In the salad days of personal computing, Ben Day came up with a "touch screen form entry system" while working at AT&T. 4,763,356 resulted. Current owner Lucent disingenuously sued Dell and Gateway over it, while Microsoft software was the real culprit. Microsoft indemnifies its big corporate customers, and so stepped in. And lost. To the tune of $358 million. Bad tune. So bad, the CAFC called it tone deaf. Herein, two teams of randomly competent lawyers dance bad ballroom.
Lucent v. Gateway and Dell and Microsoft (CAFC 2008-1485, -1487, -1495) precedential
The centerpiece of this hydra-headed ruling is damages.
Damning damages requires that the damages be damnable.
We review for an abuse of discretion a district court's decision concerning the methodology for calculating damages. Unisplay, S.A. v. Am. Elec. Sign Co., 69 F.3d 512, 517 n.8 (Fed. Cir. 1995); see also State Indus., Inc. v. Mor-Flo Indus., Inc., 883 F.2d 1573, 1576-77 (Fed. Cir. 1989) (noting that the precise methodology used in "assessing and computing damages is committed to the sound discretion of the district court"). We review the jury's determination of the amount of damages, an issue of fact, for substantial evidence. SmithKline Diagnostics, Inc. v. Helena Labs. Corp., 926 F.2d 1161, 1164 n.2 (Fed. Cir. 1991). "A jury's decision with respect to an award of damages 'must be upheld unless the amount is grossly excessive or monstrous, clearly not supported by the evidence, or based only on speculation or guesswork.'" State Contracting & Eng'g Corp. v. Condotte Am., Inc., 346 F.3d 1057, 1072 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (quoting Brooktree Corp. v. Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., 977 F.2d 1555, 1580 (Fed. Cir. 1992)).
As bean-counters to a lump sum, Lucent and Microsoft were wildly divergent.
Based on the evidence of record, Microsoft (and Dell) sold approximately 110 million units of the three software products capable of practicing the methods of the asserted claims. The total dollar value of the sales was approximately $8 billion. At trial, Lucent's theory of damages was based on 8% of sales revenue for the accused software products, and it asked the jury to award $561.9 million based on Microsoft's infringing sales. Microsoft countered that a lump-sum payment of $6.5 million would have been the correct amount for licensing the protected technology.
A. Reasonable Royalty
"Upon finding for the claimant the court shall award the claimant damages adequate to compensate for the infringement, but in no event less than a reasonable royalty for the use made of the invention by the infringer, together with interest and costs as fixed by the court." 35 U.S.C. § 284. As the Supreme Court has framed the general issue of determining damages, at least for competitors, a court must ask, "[H]ad the Infringer not infringed, what would [the] Patent Holder have made?" Aro Mfg. Co. v. Convertible Top Replacement Co., 377 U.S. 476, 507 (1964); see also Pall Corp. v. Micron Separations, Inc., 66 F.3d 1211, 1223 (Fed. Cir. 1995) ("[T]he purpose of compensatory damages is not to punish the infringer, but to make the patentee whole."). In the Supreme Court's words, awarding damages through litigation attempts to assess "the difference between [the patentee's] pecuniary condition after the infringement, and what his condition would have been if the infringement had not occurred." Yale Lock Mfg. Co. v. Sargent, 117 U.S. 536, 552 (1886).
The burden of proving damages falls on the patentee. Dow Chem. Co. v. Mee Indus., Inc., 341 F.3d 1370, 1381 (Fed. Cir. 2003); Kearns v. Chrysler Corp., 32 F.3d 1541, 1551 (Fed. Cir 1994). Two alternative categories of infringement compensation are the patentee's lost profits and the reasonable royalty he would have received through arms-length bargaining. See Panduit Corp. v. Stahlin Bros. Fibre Works, Inc., 575 F.2d 1152, 1157 (6th Cir. 1978) (Markey, J.). Lost profits are not at issue in the present case. A reasonable royalty is, of course, "merely the floor below which damages shall not fall." Bandag, Inc. v. Gerrard Tire Co., 704 F.2d 1578, 1583 (Fed. Cir. 1983).
Two methods for figuring reasonable royalty damages: analytical, based on infringing feature value; and hypothetical negotiation, based on coulda'-woulda'-shoulda': hindsight reasoning of what an infringer would have paid.
Lucent's licensing expert, Roger Smith, argued for damages based solely on a running royalty rate. Smith emphasized his choice of a running royalty over a lump-sum payment.
Litigants routinely adopt several approaches for calculating a reasonable royalty. The first, the analytical method, focuses on the infringer's projections of profit for the infringing product. See TWM Mfg. Co. v. Dura Corp., 789 F.2d 895, 899 (Fed. Cir. 1986) (describing the analytical method as "subtract[ing] the infringer's usual or acceptable net profit from its anticipated net profit realized from sales of infringing devices"); see also John Skenyon et al., Patent Damages Law & Practice § 3:4, at 3-9 to 3-10 (2008) (describing the analytical method as "calculating damages based on the infringer's own internal profit projections for the infringing item at the time the infringement began, and then apportioning the projected profits between the patent owner and the infringer"). The second, more common approach, called the hypothetical negotiation or the "willing licensor-willing licensee" approach, attempts to ascertain the royalty upon which the parties would have agreed had they successfully negotiated an agreement just before infringement began. See Georgia-Pacific Corp. v. U.S. Plywood Corp., 318 F. Supp. 1116, 1120 (S.D.N.Y. 1970); see also Rite-Hite Corp. v. Kelley Co., 56 F.3d 1538, 1554 n.13 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (en banc); Radio Steel & Mfg. Co. v. MTD Prods., Inc., 788 F.2d 1554, 1557 (Fed. Cir. 1986) ("The determination of a reasonable royalty, however, is based not on the infringer's profit, but on the royalty to which a willing licensor and a willing licensee would have agreed at the time the infringement began."); Panduit, 575 F.2d at 1159 ("Among the relevant facts are: what plaintiff's property was, to what extent defendant has taken it, its usefulness and commercial value as shown by its advantages over other things and by the extent of its use, and the commercial situation." (citations and quotation marks omitted)). The hypothetical negotiation tries, as best as possible, to recreate the ex ante licensing negotiation scenario and to describe the resulting agreement. In other words, if infringement had not occurred, willing parties would have executed a license agreement specifying a certain royalty payment scheme. The hypothetical negotiation also assumes that the asserted patent claims are valid and infringed.
In this case, both parties appealed lumpy coulda'-woulda'-shoulda': a lump sum payment as an outcome of hypothetical negotiation.
In the present appeal, the parties, in offering the damages evidence, each adopted the hypothetical negotiation approach, without objection. Both Microsoft and Lucent must therefore accept that any reasonable royalty analysis "necessarily involves an element of approximation and uncertainty." Unisplay, 69 F.3d at 517. We review the damages award within the Georgia-Pacific framework.
Before the district court, Lucent asked for a damages award based only on a running royalty. Microsoft, on the other hand, told the jury that the damages should be a lump-sum royalty payment of $6.5 million. Based on the verdict form, the jury decided on a lump-sum award, not a running royalty. The verdict form notes a lump-sum damages amount and no amount (i.e., zero or "N/A") on the lines for a running royalty. Faced with the jury's selection, our task is to determine whether substantial evidence supports a lump-sum, paid-in-full royalty of approximately $358 million for Microsoft's indirect infringement of the Day patent. To do this, we must decide whether substantial evidence supports the jury's implicit finding that Microsoft would have agreed to, at the time of the hypothetical negotiation, a lump-sum, paid-in-full royalty of about $358 million. In performing this analysis, we focus mainly on the damages case as it applies to Microsoft Outlook, as infringement by the use of Outlook apparently constituted the vast majority of the award. We focus also on the relevant Georgia-Pacific factors, as presented to the jury through all the evidence and particularly the experts' testimony.
1. Factor 2
The second Georgia-Pacific factor is "[t]he rates paid by the licensee for the use of other patents comparable to the patent in suit." 318 F. Supp. at 1120. This factor examines whether the licenses relied on by the patentee in proving damages are sufficiently comparable to the hypothetical license at issue in suit. See Russell L. Parr, Royalty Rates for Licensing Intellectual Property 64 (2007) ("For similar license agreements to be used as a proxy for derivation of a fair market royalty, the form of license compensation should be on a like-kind basis."). Subsumed within this factor is the question of whether the licensor and licensee would have agreed to a lump-sum payment or instead to a running royalty based on ongoing sales or usage.
Significant differences exist between a running royalty license and a lump-sum license. In a standard running royalty license, the amount of money payable by the licensee to the patentee is tied directly to how often the licensed invention is later used or incorporated into products by the licensee. A running royalty structure shifts many licensing risks to the licensor because he does not receive a guaranteed payment. Royalties are dependent on the level of sales or usage by the licensee, which the licensee can often control.
Compared to a running royalty analysis, a lump-sum analysis involves different considerations. A lump-sum license "benefits the patentholder in that it enables the company to raise a substantial amount of cash quickly and benefits the target [i.e., the licensee] by capping its liability and giving it the ability, usually for the remainder of the patent term, to actually use the patented technology in its own products without any further expenditure." Richard F. Cauley, Winning the Patent Damages Case 47 (2009). The lump-sum license removes or shifts certain risks inherent in most arms-length agreements. A lump-sum license removes any risk that the licensee using the patented invention will underreport, e.g., engage in false reporting, and therefore underpay, as can occur with a running royalty agreement. Additionally, for both contracting parties, the lump-sum license generally avoids ongoing administrative burdens of monitoring usage of the invention.
A further, important consideration is that an upfront, paid-in-full royalty removes, as an option for the licensee, the ability to reevaluate the usefulness, and thus the value, of the patented technology as it is used and/or sold by the licensee. As generally employed, once a lump-sum license is duly executed, the licensee is obligated to pay the entire, agreed-upon amount for the licensed technology, regardless of whether the technology is commercially successful or even used. A licensee to a lump-sum agreement, under usual licensing terms, cannot later ask for a refund from the licensor based on a subsequent decision not to use the patented technology. There is no provision for buyer's remorse.
The lump-sum structure also creates risks for both parties. The licensed technology may be wildly successful, and the licensee may have acquired the technology for far less than what later proved to be its economic value. The alternative risk, of course, is the licensee may have paid a lump-sum far in excess of what the patented invention is later shown to be worth in the marketplace.
The heart of the problem for Lucent was that the infringing feature had only occasional use. Lucent also did not do a good job covering the bases.
Lucent defends the damages award, contending that substantial evidence supports the lump-sum award of about $358 million. This is problematic for several reasons. First, no evidence of record establishes the parties' expectations about how often the patented method would be used by consumers. Second, the jury heard little factual testimony explaining how a license agreement structured as a running royalty agreement is probative of a lump-sum payment to which the parties would have agreed. Third, the license agreements for other groups of patents, invoked by Lucent, were created from events far different from a license negotiation to avoid infringement of the one patent here, the Day patent.
Parties agreeing to a lump-sum royalty agreement may, during the license negotiation, consider the expected or estimated usage (or, for devices, production) of a given invention, assuming proof is presented to support the expectation, because the more frequently most inventions are used, the more valuable they generally are and therefore the larger the lump-sum payment. Conversely, a minimally used feature, with all else being equal, will usually command a lower lump-sum payment. In this case, Lucent identifies no documentary evidence or testimony showing the parties' expectations as to usage of the claimed method. Lucent submitted no evidence upon which a jury could reasonably conclude that Microsoft and Lucent would have estimated, at the time of the negotiation, that the patented date-picker feature would have been so frequently used or valued as to command a lump-sum payment that amounts to approximately 8% of the sale price of Outlook. Cf. Interactive Pictures Corp. v. Infinite Pictures, Inc., 274 F.3d 1371, 1384-85 (Fed. Cir. 2001) (accepting as suitable factual evidence the patentee's "business plan and its projections for future sales" prepared "two months before infringement began").
The license agreements Lucent proffered were far from a clear guide.
First, some of the license agreements are radically different from the hypothetical agreement under consideration for the Day patent. Second, with the other agreements, we are simply unable to ascertain from the evidence presented the subject matter of the agreements, and we therefore cannot understand how the jury could have adequately evaluated the probative value of those agreements.
Lucent had the burden to prove that the licenses were sufficiently comparable to support the lump-sum damages award... Lucent candidly admits in its brief that "none of the real world licenses introduced at trial arose from circumstances identical to those presumed to prevail in the hypothetical royalty negotiation." Appellee's Br. 50.
The law does not require an expert to convey all his knowledge to the jury about each license agreement in evidence, but a lump-sum damages award cannot stand solely on evidence which amounts to little more than a recitation of royalty numbers, one of which is arguably in the ballpark of the jury's award, particularly when it is doubtful that the technology of those license agreements is in any way similar to the technology being litigated here.
Lucent also cites four running-royalty license agreements which purportedly provide substantial evidence supporting a lump-sum damages award of approximately $358 million. A significant shortcoming of these agreements is their "running-royalty" nature, however. As we noted above, certain fundamental differences exist between lump-sum agreements and running-royalty agreements. This is not to say that a running-royalty license agreement cannot be relevant to a lump-sum damages award, and vice versa. For a jury to use a running-royalty agreement as a basis to award lump-sum damages, however, some basis for comparison must exist in the evidence presented to the jury. In the present case, the jury had almost no testimony with which to recalculate in a meaningful way the value of any of the running royalty agreements to arrive at the lump-sum damages award.
Lucent's lawyers lacked basic economic sense.
Additionally, in its brief before us, Lucent appears to misunderstand the nature of a per-unit royalty. Lucent appears to consider a per-unit royalty as being equivalent to a lump-sum royalty.
Microsoft's argument rang hollow.
We now consider what Microsoft advocated, namely that the hypothetical negotiation would have yielded a lump-sum licensing agreement for $6.5 million. For whatever reason, Microsoft urged the jury to accept its theory based on a proffer of a single license Microsoft had executed for a graphical user interface technology. Thus, at a minimum, a reasonable jury could have awarded $6.5 million, or some larger amount as permitted by the evidence. See Rite-Hite, 56 F.3d at 1555 ("[W]hat an infringer would prefer to pay is not the test for damages.").
Considering comparable licenses, $358 million was sky high.
But we see little evidentiary basis under Georgia-Pacific Factor 2 for awarding roughly three to four times the average amount in the lump-sum agreements in evidence. Here the award was $358 million; there, the amounts were $80, 93, 100, and 290 million. That some licenses were cross-licenses or commuted-rate licenses--which may warrant a higher damages award--does not fill the evidentiary lacunae. Again, it was Lucent's burden to prove that the licenses relied on were sufficiently comparable to sustain a lump-sum damages award of $358 million. This is not an instance in which the jury chose a damages award somewhere between maximum and minimum lump-sum amounts advocated by the opposing parties. Cf. Fuji Photo, 394 F.3d at 1378 ("[T]he jury is not bound to accept a rate proffered by one party's expert but rather may choose an intermediate royalty rate."). For the reasons stated, Factor 2 weighs strongly against the jury's award.
2. Factors 10 and 13
Factor 10 is "[t]he nature of the patented invention; the character of the commercial embodiment of it as owned and produced by the licensor; and the benefits to those who have used the invention." Georgia-Pacific, 318 F. Supp. at 1120. Factor 13 is "[t]he portion of the realizable profit that should be credited to the invention as distinguished from non-patented elements, the manufacturing process, business risks, or significant features or improvements added by the infringer." Id. These two factors, at least as applied to the facts of this case, both aim to elucidate how the parties would have valued the patented feature during the hypothetical negotiation.
The evidence can support only a finding that the infringing feature contained in Microsoft Outlook is but a tiny feature of one part of a much larger software program.
Factors 10 and 13 of Georgia-Pacific provide little support for the jury's lump-sum damages award of $357,693,056.18.
3. Factor 11
Factor 11 is "[t]he extent to which the infringer has made use of the invention; and any evidence probative of the value of that use." Georgia-Pacific, 318 F. Supp. at 1120. As with Factors 10 and 13, the eleventh factor informs the court and jury about how the parties would have valued the patented feature during the hypothetical negotiation. In doing so, Factor 11 relies on evidence about how much the patented invention has been used. Implicit in this factor is the premise that an invention used frequently is generally more valuable than a comparable invention used infrequently.
During oral argument, Microsoft characterized as irrelevant information about how often the date-picker tool has in fact been used by consumers of Microsoft products. That is so, according to Microsoft, because such facts postdate the time of the hypothetical negotiation. See Hanson v. Alpine Valley Ski Area, Inc., 718 F.2d 1075, 1081 (Fed. Cir. 1983) ("The issue of the infringer's profit is to be determined not on the basis of a hindsight evaluation of what actually happened, but on the basis of what the parties to the hypothetical license negotiations would have considered at the time of the negotiations."). But neither precedent nor economic logic requires us to ignore information about how often a patented invention has been used by infringers. Nor could they since frequency of expected use and predicted value are related.
In Sinclair Refining Co. v. Jenkins Petroleum Process Co., 289 U.S. 689, 698 (1933), the Supreme Court recognized that factual developments occurring after the date of the hypothetical negotiation can inform the damages calculation:
[A] different situation is presented if years have gone by before the evidence is offered. Experience is then available to correct uncertain prophecy. Here is a book of wisdom that courts may not neglect. We find no rule of law that sets a clasp upon its pages, and forbids us to look within.
Similarly, our case law affirms the availability of post-infringement evidence as probative in certain circumstances. In Fromson v. Western Litho Plate & Supply Co., 853 F.2d 1568, 1575 (Fed. Cir. 1988), overruled on other grounds by Knorr-Bremse Systeme Fuer Nutzfahrzeuge GmbH v. Dana Corp., 383 F.3d 1337 (Fed. Cir. 2004) (en banc), we observed that the hypothetical negotiation analysis "permits and often requires a court to look to events and facts that occurred thereafter and that could not have been known to or predicted by the hypothesized negotiators."
Consideration of evidence of usage after infringement started can, under appropriate circumstances, be helpful to the jury and the court in assessing whether a royalty is reasonable. Usage (or similar) data may provide information that the parties would frequently have estimated during the negotiation. See Sinclair Ref., 289 U.S. at 697 ("The use that has been made of the patented device is a legitimate aid to the appraisal of the value of the patent at the time of the breach."). Such data might, depending on the case, come from sales projections based on past sales, consumer surveys, focus group testing, and other sources. Even though parties to a license negotiation will usually not have precise data about future usage, they often have rough estimates as to the expected frequency of use. This quantitative information, assuming it meets admissibility requirements, ought to be given its proper weight, as determined by the circumstances of each case.
On the other hand, we have never laid down any rigid requirement that damages in all circumstances be limited to specific instances of infringement proven with direct evidence. Such a strict requirement could create a hypothetical negotiation far-removed from what parties regularly do during real-world licensing negotiations. As shown by the evidence in this case, companies in the high-tech computer industry often strike licensing deals in which the amount paid for a particular technology is not necessarily limited to the number of times a patented feature is used by a consumer. A company licensing a patented method often has strong reasons not to tie the royalty amount strictly to usage. The administrative cost of monitoring usage can be prohibitively expensive. Furthermore, with some inventions, say for example a method of detecting fires, value is added simply by having the patented invention available for use. Cf. Hanson, 718 F.2d at 1080-81 (approving a reasonable royalty not based on "actual use of the snowmaking machinery" but on what a party would have paid to have the machine available to use). Thus, potential licensors and licensees routinely agree to royalty payments regardless of whether the invention is used frequently or infrequently by the consumer.
Lucent failed to tie damages to the frequency, and value, of infringement.
With the foregoing in mind, we observe that the evidence of record is conspicuously devoid of any data about how often consumers use the patented date-picker invention. In one respect, Lucent believes the damages award is supported by the pervasive use of forms throughout the three software programs. What this position lacks is the requisite focus on the infringed claim. The damages award can't be supported by evidence that the infringers also used additional, non-infringing features. Only when the date-picker is used to fill out a form does infringement occur. All other means of filling out a form, such as typing in the entire date, do not infringe. The damages award ought to be correlated, in some respect, to the extent the infringing method is used by consumers. This is so because this is what the parties to the hypothetical negotiation would have considered. Lucent tries to stretch the claim scope so that claim 19 covers all pop-up tools. If this were the proper claim construction, we might have to reverse the validity ruling. But the claim construction--which neither party has appealed--is not so broad.
[A]ll the circumstantial evidence supports is the jury's implicit finding that at least one person performed the patented method one time in the United States sometime during the relevant period. Beyond that finding, all the jury had was speculation. No evidence describes how many Microsoft Outlook users had ever performed the patented method or how many times. Lucent had the burden to prove that the extent to which the infringing method has been used supports the lump-sum damages award.
4. Other Factors
The other factors wash out.
Other Georgia-Pacific factors applicable here include "[t]he nature and scope of the license, as exclusive or nonexclusive" (Factor 3); "[t]he licensor's established policy and marketing program to maintain his patent monopoly" (Factor 4); "[t]he commercial relationship between the licensor and the licensee" (Factor 5); "[t]he established profitability of the product made under the patent" (Factor 8); "[t]he utility and advantages of the patent property over the old modes or devices" (Factor 9); and "[t]he portion of the profit or of the selling price that may be customary . . . to allow for the use of the invention" (Factor 12). 318 F. Supp. at 1120. To the extent these factors are relevant, they appear somewhat to offset one another.
For instance, Factor 8, the profitability of the product made, supports a higher versus a lower reasonable royalty, given the unrebutted evidence that the products at issue are sold with an approximately 70-80% profit margin. Contrasting this evidence are Factors 3 and 9. Non-exclusive licenses generally command lower royalties. See Parr, supra, at 64 ("Typically, higher royalty rates are associated with license agreements that provide the licensee with exclusive rights to use the IP."). And, from the evidence presented, the infringing use of the date-picker seems to have, at best, only a slight advantage over what is arguably the closest prior art. We are mindful, however, that a jury could have reasonably concluded otherwise with several of the factors mentioned here. Even so, such reasonable conclusions, in this case, cannot overcome the substantial infirmities in the evidence for the other factors detailed above.
5. Conclusion on Lump-Sum Reasonable Royalty
Lucent did a poor job of selling a ridiculous position.
Having examined the relevant Georgia-Pacific factors, we are left with the unmistakable conclusion that the jury's damages award is not supported by substantial evidence, but is based mainly on speculation or guesswork. When the evidence is viewed in toto, the jury's award of a lump-sum payment of about $358 million does not rest on substantial evidence and is likewise against the clear weight of the evidence. The evidence does not sustain a finding that, at the time of infringement, Microsoft and Lucent would have agreed to a lump-sum royalty payment subsequently amounting to approximately 8% of Microsoft's revenues for the sale of Outlook (and necessarily a larger percentage of Outlook's profits). We need not identify any particular Georgia-Pacific factor as being dispositive. Rather, the flexible analysis of all applicable Georgia-Pacific factors provides a useful and legally-required framework for assessing the damages award in this case. Furthermore, we do not conclude that the aforementioned license agreements (or other evidence) cannot, as a matter of law, support the damages award in this case. Instead, the evidence as presented did not reach the "substantial evidence" threshold and therefore no reasonable jury could have found that Lucent carried its burden of proving that the evidence, under the relevant Georgia-Pacific factors, supported a lump-sum damages award of $357,693,056.18.
Creating a licensing agreement for patented technology is, at best, an inexact science. In actual licensing negotiations, willing parties negotiating at arms-length do not necessarily generate and analyze precise economic data concerning the perceived value of a patented invention. A complicated case this was, and the damages evidence of record was neither very powerful, nor presented very well by either party. Most jury damages awards reviewed on appeal have been held to be supported by substantial evidence. See Skenyon et al., supra, at § 3:20 (summarizing sixty-two damages cases). Nonetheless, on post-trial JMOL motions, district court judges must scrutinize the evidence carefully to ensure that the "substantial evidence" standard is satisfied, while keeping in mind that a reasonable royalty analysis "necessarily involves an element of approximation and uncertainty." Unisplay, 69 F.3d at 517.
B. Entire Market Value Analysis
In one sense, our law on the entire market value rule is quite clear. For the entire market value rule to apply, the patentee must prove that "the patent-related feature is the 'basis for customer demand.'" Rite-Hite, 56 F.3d at 1549 (quoting State Indus., 883 F.2d at 1580); see also Bose Corp v. JBL, Inc., 274 F.3d 1354, 1361 (Fed. Cir. 2001); TWM Mfg., 789 F.2d at 901 ("The entire market value rule allows for the recovery of damages based on the value of an entire apparatus containing several features, when the feature patented constitutes the basis for customer demand.").
In the distant past, before a contemporary appreciation of the economics of infringement damages, the Supreme Court seemingly set forth rigid rules concerning the entire market value rule. Shortly before the Civil War, in Seymour v. McCormick, 57 U.S. (16 How.) 480, 491 (1853), a case involving one of Cyrus McCormick's famous reaping machine inventions, the Court warned that it would be "a very grave error to instruct a jury 'that as to the measure of damages the same rule is to govern, whether the patent covers an entire machine or an improvement on a machine.'" About a century and a quarter ago, in Garretson v. Clark, the Court expressed further concern about basing damages on the value of the entire product:
When a patent is for an improvement, and not for an entirely new machine or contrivance, the patentee must show in what particulars his improvement has added to the usefulness of the machine or contrivance. He must separate its results distinctly from those of the other parts, so that the benefits derived from it may be distinctly seen and appreciated. . . . The patentee . . . must in every case give evidence tending to separate or apportion the defendant's profits and the patentee's damages between the patented feature and the unpatented features, and such evidence must be reliable and tangible, and not conjectural or speculative; or he must show, by equally reliable and satisfactory evidence, that the profits and damages are to be calculated on the whole machine, for the reason that the entire value of the whole machine, as a marketable article, is properly and legally attributable to the patented feature.
111 U.S. 120, 121 (1884) (quotation marks omitted). And early last century, the Court elaborated on this theme:
[An] invention may have been used in combination with valuable improvements made, or other patents appropriated by the infringer, and each may have jointly, but unequally, contributed to the profits. In such case, if plaintiff's patent only created a part of the profits, he is only entitled to recover that part of the net gains.
Westinghouse Elec. & Mfg. Co. v. Wagner Elec. & Mfg. Co., 225 U.S. 604, 614-15 (1912).
Translating the Court's early stylistic description into a precise, contemporary, economic paradigm presents a challenge. Notwithstanding this obstacle, the objective of the Court's concern has been two-fold: determining the correct (or at least approximately correct) value of the patented invention, when it is but one part or feature among many, and ascertaining what the parties would have agreed to in the context of a patent license negotiation. Litigants must realize that the two objectives do not always meet at the same precise number. Furthermore, licensors of patented technology often license an invention for more or less than its true "economic value." Such is the inherent risk in licensing intangible assets that may have no established market value.
The insignificance of the Day technology renders Lucent's approach ludicrous.
The first flaw with any application of the entire market value rule in the present case is the lack of evidence demonstrating the patented method of the Day patent as the basis--or even a substantial basis--of the consumer demand for Outlook.
The second flaw with any application of the entire market value rule in this case lies in the approach adopted by Lucent's licensing expert... Lucent's expert admitted that there was no evidence that Microsoft had ever agreed to pay an 8% royalty on an analogous patent... What Lucent's licensing expert proposed here does not comport with the purpose of damages law or the entire market value rule.
The operative qualifier of "reasonable royalty" is 'reasonable.'
Although our law states certain mandatory conditions for applying the entire market value rule, courts must nevertheless be cognizant of a fundamental relationship between the entire market value rule and the calculation of a running royalty damages award. Simply put, the base used in a running royalty calculation can always be the value of the entire commercial embodiment, as long as the magnitude of the rate is within an acceptable range (as determined by the evidence). Indeed, "[a]ll running royalties have at least two variables: the royalty base and the royalty rate." Nimmer & Dodd, supra, at § 7:5.
[E]ven when the patented invention is a small component of a much larger commercial product, awarding a reasonable royalty based on either sale price or number of units sold can be economically justified.
The CAFC went out of its way to swat at the academic Mark Lemley, whose tripe has infected the patent scene for years, along with sycophant Amy Landers.
Some commentators suggest that the entire market value rule should have little role in reasonable royalty law. See, e.g., Mark A. Lemley, Distinguishing Lost Profits From Reasonable Royalties, 51 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. (forthcoming 2009) (manuscript at 2), available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1133173 (suggesting that "courts have distorted the reasonable royalty measure" by "importing inapposite concepts like the 'entire market value rule' in an effort to compensate patent owners whose real remedy probably should have been in the lost profits category"); Amy Landers, Let the Games Begin: Incentives to Innovation in the New Economy of Intellectual Property Law, 46 Santa Clara L. Rev. 307, 362 (2006) ("The current iterations of the entire market value rule are inconsistent with the Patent Act's statutory language."). But such general propositions ignore the realities of patent licensing and the flexibility needed in transferring intellectual property rights. The evidence of record in the present dispute illustrates the importance the entire market value may have in reasonable royalty cases. The license agreements admitted into evidence (without objection from Microsoft, we note) highlight how sophisticated parties routinely enter into license agreements that base the value of the patented inventions as a percentage of the commercial products' sales price. There is nothing inherently wrong with using the market value of the entire product, especially when there is no established market value for the infringing component or feature, so long as the multiplier accounts for the proportion of the base represented by the infringing component or feature.
Microsoft couldn't kill the patent, nor, apparently, even figure out the legal maneuvers necessary to do so.
Microsoft argues to us that the jury applied the wrong claim construction... [Yet] Microsoft does not challenge the claim construction. If Microsoft believed that the proper claim construction does not require the tool to overlay the form, Microsoft should have argued for such a claim construction instead of disputing the jury's reasonable application of the claim construction as given to the jury.
The jury found indirect infringement by Microsoft. Claims 19 and 21 are method claims; thus, Microsoft's sales of its software alone cannot infringe the patent. Infringement occurs only when someone performs the method using a computer running the necessary software. Thus, Microsoft can only be liable for infringement of claims 19 and 21 as a contributor and/or an inducer.
Microsoft makes the following arguments concerning indirect infringement. First, Lucent didn't prove direct infringement, a necessary predicate for proving indirect infringement. Second, Lucent didn't prove contributory infringement because the products have substantial noninfringing uses. Third, Lucent can't prove inducement because the products are merely capable of inducing and Microsoft wasn't shown to have the requisite intent to induce.
A. Direct Infringement
To infringe a method claim, a person must have practiced all steps of the claimed method. See Joy Techs., Inc. v. Flakt, Inc., 6 F.3d 770, 775 (Fed. Cir. 1993) ("A method claim is directly infringed only by one practicing the patented method."); see also 35 U.S.C. § 271 (2006). Just as anticipation can be found by a single prior art use, a finding of infringement can rest on as little as one instance of the claimed method being performed during the pertinent time period.
We agree with Microsoft that there was little, if any, direct evidence of infringement.
If that were the only evidence of performing the claimed method, we would likely have to reverse. Nevertheless, circumstantial evidence was just adequate to permit a jury to find that at least one other person within the United States during the relevant time period, other than the expert, had performed the claimed method. Lucent's expert testified that "[i]t's hard to imagine that we're the only two people in the world that ever used it." J.A. 07517. As Lucent notes "Microsoft not only designed the accused products to practice the claimed invention, but also instructed its customers to use the accused products in an infringing way."
Circumstantial evidence suffices to find infringement. The standard is low.
An informative case is Moleculon Research Corp. v. CBS, Inc., 793 F.2d 1261 (Fed. Cir. 1986), in which we affirmed a district court's finding of direct infringement based on circumstantial evidence... See Moleculon, 793 F.2d at 1272 ("It is hornbook law that direct evidence of a fact is not necessary. 'Circumstantial evidence is not only sufficient, but may also be more certain, satisfying and persuasive than direct evidence.'" (quoting Michalic v. Cleveland Tankers, Inc., 364 U.S. 325, 330 (1960))); see also Alco Standard Corp v. Tenn. Valley Auth., 808 F.2d 1490, 1503 (Fed. Cir. 1986) ("Although the evidence of infringement is circumstantial, that does not make it any less credible or persuasive.").
Without doubt, Lucent would have been on much firmer ground had it introduced some direct evidence of using the claimed method. Nevertheless, Lucent's circumstantial evidence of infringement was "something less than the weight of the evidence," Consolo v. Fed. Maritime Comm'n, 383 U.S. 607, 620 (1966), yet it was just "more than a mere scintilla," Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938). Accordingly and for these reasons, we are not convinced that the district court erred in denying Microsoft's JMOL motion with respect to infringement.
Microsoft did its usual legal disservice of misinterpreting case law to the court. As in "Microsoft also misreads...."
B. Contributory Infringement
Under 35 U.S.C. § 271(c), a party is liable for infringement if he "offers to sell or sells within the United States or imports into the United States . . . a material or apparatus for use in practicing a patented process, constituting a material part of the invention, knowing the same to be especially made or especially adapted for use in an infringement of such patent, and not a staple article or commodity of commerce suitable for substantial noninfringing use." "In order to succeed on a claim of contributory infringement, in addition to proving an act of direct infringement, plaintiff must show that defendant 'knew that the combination for which its components were especially made was both patented and infringing' and that defendant's components have 'no substantial non-infringing uses.'" Cross Med. Prods., Inc. v. Medtronic Sofamor Danek, Inc., 424 F.3d 1293, 1312 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (quoting Golden Blount, Inc. v. Robert H. Peterson Co., 365 F.3d 1054, 1061 (Fed. Cir. 2004)).
Microsoft also did its usual disservice of fallacious argument.
[U]nder Microsoft's position, the software seller can never be liable for contributory infringement of any one of the method patents because the entire software program is capable of substantial noninfringing use. This seems both untenable as a practical outcome and inconsistent with both the statute and governing precedent.
As we explained in Ricoh Co. v. Quanta Computer Inc., 550 F.3d 1325, 1337 (Fed. Cir. 2008), cert. denied, 129 S. Ct. 2864 (2009), an infringer "should not be permitted to escape liability as a contributory infringer merely by embedding [the infringing apparatus] in a larger product with some additional, separable feature before importing and selling it."
Here, the infringing feature for completing the forms, i.e., the date-picker tool, is suitable only for an infringing use. Inclusion of the date-picker feature within a larger program does not change the date-picker's ability to infringe. Because Microsoft included the date-picker tool in Outlook, the jury could reasonably conclude, based on the evidence presented, that Microsoft intended computer users to use the tool--perhaps not frequently--and the only intended use of the tool infringed the Day patent. See Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., 545 U.S. 913, 932 (2005) (explaining that the contributory infringement doctrine "was devised to identify instances in which it may be presumed from distribution of an article in commerce that the distributor intended the article to be used to infringe another's patent, and so may justly be held liable for that infringement").
C. Inducing Infringement
A party who "actively induces infringement of a patent shall be liable as an infringer." 35 U.S.C. § 271(b). Under this provision, "[t]he plaintiff has the burden of showing that the alleged infringer's actions induced infringing acts and that he knew or should have known his actions would induce actual infringements." Manville Sales Corp. v. Paramount Sys., Inc., 917 F.2d 544, 553 (Fed. Cir. 1990), quoted in DSU Med. Corp v. JMS Co., 471 F.3d 1293, 1306 (Fed. Cir. 2006) (en banc in relevant part). "[A] finding of inducement requires a threshold finding of direct infringement--either a finding of specific instances of direct infringement or a finding that the accused products necessarily infringe." Ricoh, 550 F.3d at 1341 (citing ACCO Brands, 501 F.3d at 1313). "[I]nducement requires evidence of culpable conduct, directed to encouraging another's infringement, not merely that the inducer had knowledge of the direct infringer's activities." DSU Med., 471 F.3d at 1306. A plaintiff may still prove the intent element through circumstantial evidence, just as with direct infringement, as discussed above. See id.; see also Fuji Photo Film Co. v. Jazz Photo Corp., 394 F.3d 1368, 1377 (Fed. Cir. 2005) ("A patentee may prove intent through circumstantial evidence."); Water Techs. Corp. v. Calco, Ltd., 850 F.2d 660, 668 (Fed. Cir. 1988) ("While proof of intent is necessary, direct evidence is not required; rather, circumstantial evidence may suffice."). Evidence of active steps taken to induce infringement, such as advertising an infringing use, can support a finding of an intention for the product to be used in an infringing manner. DSU Med., 471 F.3d at 1305 (citing Grokster, 545 U.S. at 932).
Having perused the evidence, we agree with Microsoft that the evidence is not strong, but we are not persuaded that the jury was unreasonable in finding that Microsoft possessed the requisite intent to induce at least one user of its products to infringe the claimed methods.
Infringement affirmed. Damages award vacated, and remanded "for a new trial on damages."
Posted by Patent Hawk at September 11, 2009 5:31 PM | Damages
"Lucent did a poor job of selling a ridiculous position."
The problem Lucent had was trying to justify a "mega" award that wasn't based on its primary theory for "reasonable royalty" damages. Lucent pushed for a "running royalty" theory while Microsoft pushed for a "lump-sum" theory but for only $6.5 million. The jury made this "mega" award supposedly on a "lump-sum" theory which, in terms of the damage calculation, looked more like a "running royalty" theory. Needless to say, Lucent had a much tougher time justifying this "mega" award under a damage theory that wasn't it's primary one.
Posted by: EG at September 14, 2009 5:07 AM