Apple challenges $625.5M patent-infringement award

A jury rules that programs found in the company's computers, iPods and iPhones breach a Yale professor's copyrights

Published October 5, 2010 9:29PM (EDT)

Apple Inc. is challenging a federal jury's order that it pay $625.5 million in damages for violating a small technology company's patents.

If upheld, the verdict would be one of the largest in a patent lawsuit.

Last Friday, the jury in Tyler, Texas, found that Apple infringed on three patents held by Mirror Worlds LLC, a company founded by Yale University computer science professor David Gelernter to commercialize his ideas.

The patents cover characteristic features on Apple's Macintosh computers, iPods and iPhones. The technologies include Cover Flow, which lets users flip through album covers and other content as if through a stack of cards; Time Machine, which performs automatic backups; and Spotlight, which is software for searching computer hard drives.

Over the weekend, Apple asked the U.S. District Court to hold off on imposing the jury award, saying there were still issues that needed to be addressed. Among other things, Apple objects to the way the damages were calculated.

Apple has not commented further on the case. Lawyers for Mirror Worlds did not return requests for comment.

In 1991, before access to the World Wide Web was mainstream, Gelernter published a book called "Mirror Worlds: or the Day Software Puts the Universe in a Shoebox...How it Will Happen and What it Will Mean." The volume laid out a vision of the future in which people can access and interpret unprecedented volumes of real-time, real-world data using a computer.

A decade later, Gelernter's Mirror Worlds Technologies Inc. launched its first and only product, Scopeware, which could organize all sorts of information on a timeline or "lifestream." It looked like a cascade of index cards on the screen, each representing a unique piece of e-mail, a Web page, spreadsheet or other document, updated constantly as new items arrive. From descriptions at the time, Scopeware had a similar look to and functionality as Apple's Cover Flow, which is built into the company's Mac OS X operating system and the software that runs on iPods and other devices.

By Jessica Mintz

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