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$7.8 Million Awarded in Drone Patent Case
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After a default judgment was entered against a company for allegedly infringing patents of a drone maker, a jury awarded close to $8 million in damages for the infringement.

Summary: After a default judgment was entered against a company for allegedly infringing patents of a drone maker, a jury awarded close to $8 million in damages for the infringement.

According to the Legal Intelligencer, Drone Technologies, an American drone maker, filed a lawsuit at the beginning of last year, alleging that Parrot, a French company, had infringed upon its patents. The patented technology allowed users to fly drones from their smartphones or tablets, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported. Richard Ting, of Beck & Thomas, represented Drone Technologies, and Eric Soller, of Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti represented Parrot.

  
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Last November, a judge entered a default judgment in favor of Drone Technologies. U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab of the Western District of Pennsylvania entered the ruling, noting months of discovery delays and “a systematic campaign to willfully defy” court orders. According to Top Secret Writers, the courtroom battle was one of the first involving drone technology.

In January, a drone crashed on the grounds of the White House.

Schwab wrote that Parrott engaged in “obstructionist” actions and showed “disrespect” to the court. To deter future case parties from acting in a similar manner, the judge issued the sanction of default judgment for the issue of liability—meaning that Parrot was automatically found to have infringed the patents. The sole issue for the jury to decide, then, was damages.

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Schwab commented that monetary sanctions against Parrot would have been ineffective: “More serious sanctions must be considered because lesser sanctions would be ineffective and defendants’ conduct can no longer be countenanced. The court is mindful that any sanction imposed must not only attempt to undo the prejudice caused to plaintiff, but must also penalize defendants and deter others from taking similar action.”

Amazon plans to deliver packages by drones.



The jury, comprised of eight individuals, awarded $3.8 million in damages for the infringement of two patents from 2012 to 2015, as well as an additional $4 million in future damages for the life of the patents, which expire in 2028 and 2030. Although Parrot asked the court to remove the issue of future damages off the verdict form, the judge left it for the jury to consider.

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Before the trial began last week, Schwab issued an opinion on the differences between the parties’ calculations of damages. He said,

“Plaintiff’s expert sets forth that in his opinion, $7.5 million is an appropriate damages award for sales from date of first infringement through June 2015 (based upon reasonable royalty rates of $16/unit for the AR. Drone and Bebop and $6/unit for MiniDrone products) and $17.3 million is an appropriate lump sum payment for the unlimited use of plaintiff’s patents from June 2015 through the patents’ expiration…Defendants’ expert calculates reasonable damages from date of first infringement through June 2015 as a lump sum payment of at most $400,000 based upon his calculation of the cost of a license (based upon $0.50 per unit, for a total of $647,670) less qualitative factors that he contends suggest a downward pressure on the royalty. In essence, although the expert witnesses arrive at their damages estimates in different manners, both experts calculate an award that could be construed as a lump-sum payment to plaintiff for defendants’ infringement. After the close of evidence, the jury will be instructed how to weigh expert testimony and the various methods they may employ to calculate damages, based upon a reasonable royalty.”

For future damages, Schwab rejected Parrot’s argument, which was that it would be inappropriate since these damages are an equitable determination for the court, and also speculative. The jury was allowed to hear opinions from experts on damages from both sides of the case.

In September, Google announced that it hopes to provide a drone delivery service in the future.

The verdict form contained two different questions for both past and future damages to eliminate the possibility of confusion in the jury.

Source: The Legal Intelligencer

Photo credit: nbcnews.com



 

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