Apple spared from paying a day's revenue in patent damages bout

Judge bins jury's award in iTunes software showdown

Apple will not have to cough up the $533m (£347.61m) in damages it was on the hook for after losing a patent infringement battle.

Judge Rodney Gilstrap of the Texas US Eastern District Court said the jury in an iTunes software patent trial was wrong to come up with the nine-digit sum. He said the figure should be reconsidered, and issued a motion throwing out the half-a-billion-dollar award.

Apple was facing the huge bill after its iTunes software infringed patents held by a company called Smartflash. The iPhone maker wasn't happy with that, and demanded a new trial to recalculate the damages. Smartflash had wanted $852m when it dragged Apple into court.

"The court agrees with Apple’s argument that a new trial on damages is necessary," the judge said on Tuesday. He said the figure was not correctly calculated after bad advice was given to the jury back in February.

"The court is persuaded, in the clarity of post-trial hindsight, that such instruction may have created a skewed damages horizon for the jury," Judge Gilstrap explained.

"It is the court’s duty to view any and all proposed instructions critically and with an eye toward accurate compliance with the law, coupled with effective and fair guidance for the jury."

The three "data storage and access" patents Apple infringed are:

They describe "data storage and access systems ... for downloading and paying for data such as audio and video data, text, software, games and other types of data."

A $533m payout is not a crippling financial blow for Apple. The Cupertino idiot-tax operation reeled in $58bn (£378.26bn) of revenues during its latest financial quarter, and has tens of billions in the bank. Still, Apple has said it will challenge the verdict through an appeals court.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment on the decision. The damages retrial is due to start on September 14 in Tyler, Texas, where Smartflash is headquartered. ®

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