Apple’s Goliath is victorious over 70-year-old electrical engineer’s David

It’s almost too painful to watch these recurring battles:

In this corner, some guy claiming he created Siri or came up with the iPad’s touch-screen and Apple stole the idea from him.

In the other corner, the most valuable company on the face of the Earth, with an army of lawyers ready to crush every soul gutsy or foolish enough to challenge  the great Apple.

And we know how it usually ends: As Bloomberg reports, in the past few weeks alone Apple has “defeated patent holder Wi-Lan Inc. (WIN) at trial over a $248 million royalty demand for wireless technology used in mobile devices, and last week won $290 million in damages from Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) in a retrial over damages following a jury verdict in 2012.”

This week, it was Richard L. Ditzik’s time to be crushed.

 

The jury in Los Angeles yesterday rejected the claim by NetAirus Technologies LLC, the company owned by inventor Richard L. Ditzik, that Apple’s iPhone infringes its patent for a handheld device that combines computer and wireless-communication functions over both a Wi-Fi and cellular telephone network.

Then again, the jury’s decision was clouded if not downright cryptic, as the panel was unable to agree unanimously on how it felt about Ditzik’s claim.

Here’s the info:

The trial in Los Angeles was limited to damages NetAirus could seek for infringement by Apple’s iPhone 4 since October of last year, when the patent was recertified with changes in the language of the claims. NetAirus has filed a separate lawsuit for alleged patent infringement by the iPad and iPhone models that Apple started selling since the suit was filed in 2010.

And here’s Apple’s response:

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, argued during the trial that Ditzik initially filed a patent application for a handset that used a laptop computer to make phone calls. The inventor revised the patent to include features that he had read about in magazines, such as the handset functioning as a personal digital assistant and being able to send e-mail, Apple said.

But when it came time for the jurors to deliberate, they weren’t all on the same page at all.

Juror George Escarrega, 50, a salesman for a uniform rental company, who voted in favor of the inventor on two questions and for Apple on two others, said after the verdict he wanted “to find some way” to reward Ditzik. Escarrega said he “almost felt like we were failing in doing everything we could for the system and for the inventor,” and that there “was an aspect to the case that Apple was this giant crushing the little guy.”

And then things in the courtroom got really interesting.

The jury of six women and two men had been deadlocked, repeatedly sending notes to the judge over three days of deliberations saying they were unable to reach the unanimous verdict required on each of the five main questions on the verdict form regarding whether Apple had infringed on the patents and damages. The judge had sent them back to continue deliberations.

After jurors sent a note saying they were still deadlocked yesterday morning, attorneys agreed to accept a majority vote, and sent them back to deliberate again. A majority of the panelists voted in favor of Apple on all four questions about the patent at issue. They didn’t reach the damages question.

And that was that. Another disheartened David. Another victory – albeit a muddied one – for Apple.

Ditzik and his lawyer, Ray Niro of Chicago-based Niro Haller & Niro, said after the verdict they were disappointed with the outcome and are considering whether to appeal.

Attorneys for Apple declined to comment following the verdict.

“Obviously, the giant has more resources than the little guy and the little guy needs somebody to fight for him,” Escarrega said. “But it needs to be justified.”

The instructions given to the jury were “black and white” that the patent had to match the claims, Escarrega said. “We all looked at it and we found it just didn’t.”

Credit: Wikipedia

 
 

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  • Joe Ruth

    So… he sit there and dreams something up that doesn’t work and then decides that a device that DOES work was his property. I don’t think so. Ideas are pretty much a dime a dozen in the tech world. Making it happen? Not so much.

    • Greg

      You just took the patent troll side of things. They own patents on ideas that don’t work and then wait for soneone else to make them work and then think it’s their property.

  • BruinWriter78

    Why was this suit filed for devices made in 2010 if the iPhone was doing all of those same functions when it came out in 2007?

  • Jonathan Mackenzie

    The juxtaposition of the damages awarded against Samsung after the sentence that we know how it usually ends (where “it” is Apple’s army of lawyers crushing anyone gutsy or foolish enough to do battle with Apple) is frankly ridiculous. It makes it sound like poor Samsung never had a chance against big bad Apple. When what the courts have decided — and Samsung has officially admitted on the record — is that Samsung stole patented technology from Apple.

    You can’t cite legitimate court decisions in which the defendant (a huge multi-national corporation) has admitted guilt as somehow more evidence of how big bad Apple will always beat the little guy.

    The slant of this piece is transparent.

  • John E Strom Jr.

    By Ditzik’s own admission he got his idea from a magazine article. Ergo, why would HE be able to claim he was the inventor. Sounds to me like he’s an opportunist filing a patent on someone elses idea. And then suing to get a settlement as a nuisance suit.

  • neal157

    Sometimes Goliath is right.

  • jimstead

    Just another feeder at the Apple trough.

  • steffenjobbs

    Destroy the evil, little patent trolls. Apple definitely needs more money to reach that trillion dollar market cap every shareholder was hoping for.

  • jameskatt

    Ditzik and his lawyers should be given the death penalty by the judge. Trolls like him add to the misery in the world.

  • jbelkin

    I’m confused why you think it’s David vs. Goliath. This is more like those people who run to someone in the street and punch them in the face. This isn’t even a battle of like minded individuals or a fight on an even battlefield – that is david v Goliath. The closest battle would be Ditzik is some crazed anarchist who believes that it’s better to destroy something if it’s not his – Patrick May, you really need to expand your education horizon by a lot. Not everything in the world fits in 5 boxes just because one guy might appear to be a small guy versus a corporation because in America, everyone gets an EQUAL fight in the courtroom as evidence by the week long deliberation – so how exactly was this fight so one-sided?. So, only a 5-year old might think this a David-Goliath battle or you presume we’re all 5-year IQ’s so you have to simplify things? Maybe you need to smarten up.

  • Pablo Saez

    Patrick,

    The instructions given to the jury were “black and white” that the patent had to match the claims, Escarrega said. “We all looked at it and we found it just didn’t.”
    Why did you portrait Apple as if it was to blame? Explain?

  • Billy Bob

    SOMETIMES the patent troll is right, other times they are not.

  • Greg

    One of the biggest problems with the process is that most patents are granted on one or two primary claims and jurors aren’t educated on how to comprehend the legalese in which they are written not to mention how to evaluate the claims. And if we subscribe to the logic of most of these comments then the likes of Jules Verne and other futurist should get credit for most of the technology being developed (electronic, energy, transportation, medical, etc) because there are virtually no new ideas (including Apple’s – it appeared in print right?) and almost every new technology created today is based on something that has already appeared in print and by now is in the public domain. Hell, there are hieroglyphics that illustrate the use of most of the energy, medical and aero/space travel ideas in use today.

    Let’s finally change the patent laws to require the commercialization of a patent claim within 18 months (or so) or lose it. Innovation would sky rocket. Patent trolls would have to find a legitimate way to make a living and we would all be better for it. By the way, this idea is not new and I claim no patent on it. It has been at the door of both houses of Congress for more than a year now.

 
 
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