Law360 (March 2, 2023, 6:08 PM EST) — A California federal judge has rebuffed Yahoo’s
bid to scrap a $15 million jury verdict against it in software company Droplets’ patent suit
over technology used to update web pages, deciding instead to pile pre-and post-judgment
interest on the now more than $27 million infringement award.
U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar’s Wednesday order denied Yahoo! Inc.’s June 2022 motion for
a judgment as a matter of law, which sought to undo a California federal jury verdict that
found Yahoo’s “Search Assist” product infringed patented technology owned by Droplets
Inc. and awarded the patent owner nine-figures. Judge Tigar was not convinced by Yahoo’s
argument that its product did not perform claimed aspects, such as “selectively reestablishing a communication connection.”
According to the order, the argument failed because Yahoo was asking the court to “apply
an interpretation narrower than the plain and ordinary meaning” of the patented
technology’s claim language and the court’s construction.
“Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Droplets and drawing all reasonable
inferences in its favor, the court finds that judgment as a matter of law is not warranted,”
Judge Tigar said.
Rather than wipe out the $15 million judgment, Judge Tigar granted Droplet’s competing
post-trial bid for pre-and post-judgment interest. Courtland L. Reichman of Reichman
Jorgensen Lehman & Feldberg LLP, counsel for Droplets, told Law360 Thursday that “the
jury’s verdict reflects Droplets’ breakthrough innovation.”
“The total award exceeds $27 million, which comes after a decade long fight to vindicate
Droplets’ rights and stop free riding on its technology,” Reichman said. “We appreciate the
court’s hard work.”
In March 2021, an Oakland, California, federal jury found Yahoo owed Droplets $15 million
for infringing its patented technology. The jurors had ultimately concluded that the patent
owner had shown it was more likely than not that Yahoo infringed one patent claim with one
product, Yahoo Search Assist, but found against Droplets with respect to four other Yahoo
Both Yahoo and Droplets filed post-trial motions the following June. Droplets argued in its
filing that it was entitled to $3 million in attorney fees based on the firm’s fixed fee billing
model and nontaxable costs, plus $17.6 million in prejudgment and post-judgment interest.
Droplets also asked the court for a new trial on the four products that the jury determined
did not infringe the asserted technology.
But Judge Tigar’s Wednesday order shot down Droplet’s bid for attorney fees and its bid for
a new trial. According to the order, attorney fees are not warranted since “this case
presented close questions throughout, and the jury verdict suggests neither party’s position
was objectively unreasonable.”
“To be granted a new trial on the basis of an erroneous jury instruction, Droplets must
show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the jury instruction was legally erroneous
and that the error had prejudicial effort,” Judge Tigar added. “Because the court finds that
Droplets has not established that it was prejudiced by the erroneous jury instruction, the
court denies Droplets’ motion for a new trial.”
Counsel for Yahoo did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
The patents-in-suit are U.S. Patent No. 6,687,745 and 7,502,838.
Droplets is represented by Courtland L. Reichman, Shawna L. Ballard, Kate Falkenstien,
Michael G. Flanigan, Khue V. Hoang, Jaime F. Cardenas-Navia, Michael MatulewiczCrowley, Christine Lehman, Aisha Mahmood Haley and Phil Eklem of Reichman Jorgensen
Lehman & Feldberg LLP.
Yahoo is represented by Jennifer Haltom Doan and Joshua R. Thane of Haltom &
Doan and George D. Niespolo, Meghan C. Killian, Kevin P. Anderson, Aleksander Goranin,
Woody Jameson, Matt C. Gaudet and Alice Snedeker of Duane Morris LLP and in-house by
Hieu Hong Phan.
–Additional reporting by Dorothy Atkins. Editing by Vaqas Asghar.