SAN FRANCISCO—The U.S. Supreme Court Monday (Nov. 28) refused to disturb a patent infringement ruling by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) which found for Tessera Technologies Inc. over several chipmakers, according to a report by the Dow Jones news service.
The 2009 ITC ruling found that several chipmakers, including Qualcomm Inc., Spansion Inc., STMicroelectronics NV, Freescale Semiconductor Inc., and ATI Technologies infringed chip packaging patents held by Tessera. ATI is now owned by Advanced Micro Devices Inc.
Companies named in the suit found ways around the ban, which lasted from July 2009 to September 2010, at which point the patents involved expired. Workarounds included contracting for packaging and assembly with vendor Amkor Technology Inc., which has a license for the Tessera technology. Tessera has previously argued that this is not sufficient to protect the companies from paying damages to Tessera.
Tessera will attempt to prove damages inflicted by the patent infringement in a separate trial pending before the U.S. District Court for Northern California.
A spokeswoman for Spansion described the Supreme Court's rejection of the challenge of the ITC ruling as a "non-event" for Spansion. "The challenge relates to an ITC action filed by Tessera against Spansion and several others in 2007," the spokeswoman said. "In 2009, the ITC ruled in favor of Tessera, and that ruling has been subject to appeal ever since. All of the patents at issue expired in September 2010."
"The Supreme Court's ruling removes the last procedural hurdle to getting the stayed cases in the federal district courts moving forward," said Robert Young, Tessera's chairman and CEO, in a statement. Young said Tessera prefers to settle disputes such as this one with patent license agreements, but that in the absence of license agreements it would pursue damages from each company named in the ITC suit in district court cases.
Since the patents have already expired and apparently only really covered a relatively small period of time, with no damages yet determined, it is not too surprising that the Supreme Court refused to consider the case. Of course, now the "damages trial" could still be considered if the results are appealed.
Is it just me or was this much ado about nothing? Who were the winners and losers? While Tessera "won" the patents expired, what is the real effect of the lawsuit? Is there going to be a damages followup suit now or? I sometimes wonder if companies try to use the threat of a court battle to encourage quick settlements..