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Apple ordered to pay $8m over playlist patents

Personal Audio spat

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A federal jury has ordered Apple to pay a patent-holding firm $8m for violating two patents, after a protracted battle in the Eastern District of Texas, a jurisdiction notorious for handing down decisions friendly to patent holders.

Eight million dollars, however, is substantially less than first claimed by Personal Audio LLC, a company that exisits solely to enforce its patents, not to build products. The Texas firm had requested $84m.

The suit was filed on June 25, 2009, and originally involved not only Apple, but also Coby Electronics, Archos, and Sirius XM Radio. Coby and Archos settled with Personal Audio out of court, and their portion of the case was dismissed in May 2010. Sirius did the same, and their involvment was dismissed in July 2010.

Apple stayed, a jury trial (eventually) ensued, and Apple lost – if damages of a mere $8m can be considered a loss.

Jury verdict in Personal Audio v. Apple patent-infringement lawsuit

The 470th document filed in case number 9:09-cv-00111-RC was the jury's verdict

At issue were two patents, 6,199,076 and 7,509,178, both summarized in part as relating to "An audio program and message distribution system in which a host system organizes and transmits program segments to client subscriber locations."

Essentially, the two patents describe a device – in this case, an iPod, iPhone, or iPad – being able to download playlists and navigate within them. The Texas jury came to the conclusion that the patents were valid, and that Apple was violating them.

After two years of convoluted legal maneuvering among all the parties involved, Judge Ron Clark submitted his 56-page instructions to the jury last Thursday. The jury filed their verdict on Friday, 744 days after the case was filed.

Jury verdict in Personal Audio v. Apple patent-infringement lawsuit

Two years + 10 Personal Audio lawyers + 16 Apple lawyers + 470 document filings = $8m

With a mere $8m at stake, there's little financial motivation for Apple to appeal the jury's decision or the amount of the award – but stranger things have happened in today's wide, wacky, woolly world of patent litigation.

Exhibit A: the Lodsys licensing lunacy, which is currently grinding away in that same US District Court in the Eastern District of Texas. ®

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