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May 2013: Federal Circuit Victory for Google

May 2013

On behalf of Google Inc., the firm recently obtained an unanimous opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upholding the firm’s victory in a 2010 trial in the Eastern District of Texas. The plaintiff, Function Media, accused Google’s AdSense advertising products of infringing three patents, seeking over $600 million in past damages. At trial, Quinn Emanuel obtained a complete defense verdict, with the jury finding both non-infringement and invalidity as to every asserted claim.

On appeal, Function Media raised an avalanche of issues seeking to justify a new trial, attacking several of the district court’s claim construction rulings as well as the jury’s non-infringement and invalidity verdicts. Function Media also argued that the invalidity and non-infringement verdicts on two of the asserted patents were “irreconcilable.” But in its 34-page precedential opinion, the Federal Circuit found for Google on every issue.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s ruling that one patent was invalid for indefiniteness of its means-plus-function claims, emphasizing the requirement that an algorithm must be disclosed when using a means-plus-function claim involving software. It also affirmed the jury’s findings of non-infringement.

On the issue of an allegedly irreconcilable verdict, the panel embraced Quinn Emanuel’s argument and held that a verdict form consisting of yes and no questions on anticipation, obviousness and infringement is a general verdict. As a consequence, under Fifth Circuit law, Function Media’s failure to object at the time the jury returned its verdict constituted waiver of any challenge to that verdict as “irreconcilable.” Accordingly, the Federal Circuit opinion affirmed the judgment for Google that plaintiff take nothing on its claims.