T-Mobile’s lawyers just saved Sprint $32 million.
Both wireless carriers had been sued by the same Omaha, Neb.-based company, Prism Technologies LLC. In separate lawsuits, Prism claimed each wireless carrier had infringed its patents dealing with security systems for computer networks.
Sprint lost its case in June 2015, and after the six-day trail, a federal jury awarded Prism $30 million. The balance grew as Sprint held onto its money while both companies appealed parts of the decision.
While that case was on appeal, T-Mobile and Prism went before a jury. After 14 days of trial, T-Mobile won. Again, both companies appealed.
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On Tuesday, a federal judge released Sprint from its judgment, which had grown to $32 million, citing T-Mobile’s case and the need to see “that justice is done.”
Neither Sprint nor T-Mobile commented on the cases. Prism’s chief executive could not be reached.
The turning point for Sprint came nearly two months ago in a June 23 decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. It was a ruling in T-Mobile’s case, not Sprint’s.
Prism’s patent claims “merely recite a host of elements that are indisputably generic computer components,” the appeals court declared in the T-Mobile case.
Sprint’s attorneys had failed to win this argument because they never made it, according to the order freeing them from the now-$32 million judgment total. Sprint, it said, had accepted the validity of Prism’s patent claims.
Armed with this higher court finding, Sprint’s attorneys went back to court.
They essentially argued that Sprint may have lost in court, but it shouldn’t have to pay up over a bad patent claim. That would hardly serve justice, and they cited a federal procedural code called Rule 60(b).
Here’s how U.S. District Court Senior Judge Lyle E. Strom put it in his Aug. 8 order:
“The purpose of Rule 60(b) is to balance the principle of finality of a judgment with the interest of the court in seeing that justice is done in light of all the facts,” he wrote. “Given that the Federal Circuit has conclusively adjudged the patent claims, which provide the very basis for Prism’s $30 million judgment, to be invalid; the Court finds no just reason why such a judgment ought to stand when the claims ‘are predicated on a nullity’ and unenforceable to the rest of the world.”
Prism argued it still should collect because the T-Mobile ruling didn’t apply in the Sprint case. For one, it said, some of the patent claims in the Sprint case were not raised in the T-Mobile case.
But Strom found “overlap” in those claims, deferred to the appeals court decision and freed Sprint from the judgment.