ParkerVision $173M award tossed out, judge questions company's expert witnesses

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  • | 12:00 p.m. June 24, 2014
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A federal judge tossed out a jury’s $173 million patent infringement award to ParkerVision Inc., ruling that the jury erred in its decision in the lawsuit against Qualcomm Inc.

“While the court is loath to overturn the jury’s verdict, on this record, it is the court’s only choice,” U.S. District Judge Roy B. Dalton Jr. said in his ruling Friday that was made public on Monday.

Jacksonville-based ParkerVision said it will appeal.

Dalton presided over the trial last fall in the Orlando Division of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. His ruling Friday was made in chambers in Jacksonville.

Dalton’s order discredited the testimony of two of ParkerVision’s expert witnesses, including David Sorrells, the company’s chief technical officer.

“Given the technology at issue, the Court finds that Mr. Sorrells’ superficial analysis is an insufficient evidentiary basis for the jury’s infringement verdict in this action,” Dalton said.

He also found fault with the testimony of Paul Prucnal, a professor of electrical engineering at Princeton University. Dalton said Prucnal’s “concessions” during cross-examination and other testimony were “fatal” to ParkerVision’s case.

“Indeed, where similarly complex technology has been at issue, testimony like that offered by Dr. Prucnal has been held insufficient to sustain an infringement verdict,” he said.

ParkerVision filed the lawsuit against San Diego-based Qualcomm in 2011, alleging that Qualcomm has been illegally using ParkerVision technology in wireless products.

The two companies had negotiated possible use of ParkerVision’s wireless technology in the late 1990s and after negotiations fell apart, ParkerVision claims that Qualcomm went ahead and copied ParkerVision’s patented technology. Qualcomm has argued that it developed its own technology.

The jury in October agreed with ParkerVision and not only awarded the company $173 million in damages for past use, it also gave ParkerVision an opportunity to earn additional royalties from Qualcomm for future use of the technology.

ParkerVision was negotiating future royalties as Dalton listened to appeals of the jury verdict last month.

While waiting for the judge’s rulings, ParkerVision filed a

second lawsuit against Qualcomm and added Qualcomm customer HTC Corp. as a defendant, alleging that they were illegally using patented ParkerVision technologies that were different than those at issue in the first lawsuit.

The lawsuits have been a significant part of ParkerVision’s corporate strategy. The company has recorded minimal revenue from its wireless technology since it was developed in the 1990s and no revenue at all for the past three years.

ParkerVision’s stock plunged Monday after the judge’s order was revealed. It fell as much as $3.80 to $1.21 in early trading before closing the day at $1.85.

Bloomberg News reported that the early 76 percent drop was the biggest intraday decline in the stock since ParkerVision went public in 1993.

ParkerVision did get one ruling in its favor from Dalton, as the judge upheld the validity of its patents, which had been challenged by Qualcomm.

“While we are pleased that the court upheld the jury’s decision that the patents are valid, we are obviously disappointed with the District Court’s ruling that judgment be entered for Qualcomm on non-infringement,” CEO Jeffrey Parker said in a brief news release.

“We will appeal this latest ruling on non-infringement,” he said.

Further appeals will have to go to an appellate court, as Dalton indicated in his order that he will not be hearing any more arguments.

“The Clerk is directed to enter judgment in favor of Qualcomm and against Parkervision and to close this case,” he said.

Qualcomm had a different reaction to the rulings than ParkerVision.

“As the Court noted in its detailed decision, the evidence could only support a finding of non-infringement,” said a statement issued by Alex Rogers, senior vice president and head of litigation at Qualcomm.

“Qualcomm simply does not use the techniques claimed in ParkerVision’s patents. We appreciate the Court’s diligence and, of course, we are very pleased with the result,” he said.

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