ParkerVision jury award less than expected

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  • | 12:00 p.m. October 25, 2013
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A federal jury in Orlando Thursday decided ParkerVision Inc. is entitled to a nine-figure damages award in its patent infringement lawsuit against Qualcomm Inc., but the sum was far less than the Jacksonville-based company had hoped.

A week after the jury in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida found Qualcomm guilty of "direct and indirect infringement of ParkerVision patents," the same jury awarded ParkerVision $173 million in damages. That money represents royalties ParkerVision is entitled to for Qualcomm's use of ParkerVision's wireless technology in its products, the jury found.

However, before the trial began Oct. 7, ParkerVision said in court documents it was seeking at least $500 million in damages.

ParkerVision was also hoping for additional awards beyond the $500 million, but the jury found Thursday that "ParkerVision did not prove its claims of willfulness, which would have allowed the judge to enhance the damages awarded by the jury," the company said in a news release.

Despite the apparent setback, ParkerVision CEO Jeff Parker claimed victory in the lawsuit, which was filed two years ago.

"Overall, this is a significant win for ParkerVision, proving that our technologies have a meaningful place in the wireless market," he said in the news release.

ParkerVision began developing its wireless technology in the mid-1990s. According to court documents, the company's patented technology "makes receivers in cellphones and tablets smaller, more power efficient, and able to be used on different mobile phone networks."

However, despite negotiations with a number of companies to possibly use its technology over the years, ParkerVision never landed any big contracts and the technology has produced minimal revenue.

The lawsuit with Qualcomm stems from negotiations between the two companies in 1998 and 1999.

After failing to come to an agreement, ParkerVision alleged that Qualcomm decided "to simply appropriate the technology that it knew full well that ParkerVision had patented."

Qualcomm contended that after deciding not to use ParkerVision's technology, it developed its own technology "using a different and reliable approach."

Stephen Busey of Smith Hulsey & Busey in Jacksonville, one of the attorneys representing ParkerVision, said the company is still likely to get more money from Qualcomm beyond the $173 million.

"In addition to the damages awarded by the jury, the verdict predicts material future royalty income for the company," he said.

The $173 million award is for past use of ParkerVision's technology but if Qualcomm continues to use the technology, ParkerVision is entitled to additional royalties.

The two sides would have to negotiate a royalty agreement or they could end up back to court again to decide that matter.

Christine Trimble, vice president of public affairs for Qualcomm, said the company is likely to appeal the jury's verdict.

"We are of course disappointed by the award of damages. We are grateful for the jury's hard work throughout this trial and for the verdict of no willfulness," Trimble said by e-mail.

"We will direct our efforts towards addressing the post-trial process and preparing our appeal," she said.

ParkerVision's stock had risen sharply over the past week since the jury ruled in its favor in the first phase of the trial, with investors anticipating a big award for the company. The stock, which was trading at a little more than $3 before the verdict was announced, reached a high of $7.78 this week.

However, the stock lost all of those gains late Thursday afternoon after the damages award was announced. ParkerVision's stock finished Thursday at $2.90, down $4.19 on the day.

Even if ParkerVision received a big award, the impact on Qualcomm was expected to be minimal. JPMorgan analyst Rod Hall said in a research report last week that, at most, he projected a big award for ParkerVision would reduce Qualcomm's earnings by about 2 cents a share.

Qualcomm reported earnings of $3.04 a share and revenue of more than $18 billion in the nine-month period ended June 30.

"Needless to say the direct impact of this case (on Qualcomm) is relatively small even in the worst case," Hall said.

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