Firm Secures Settlement During Midst of Patent Trial

Jury Gives $25 Million Award in Robins Kaplan Patent Case

By Julie Forster, Star Tribune Staff Writer
Reprinted with permission from the Star Tribune  (2/27/2003)

A federal jury in Wilmington, Del., has awarded a small Michigan company $25 million in damages in a patent case argued by the Minneapolis law firm of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi.

The jury found that Sony Corp. infringed on four patents related to digital camera technology held by St. Clair Intellectual Property Consultants Inc. of Grosse Pointe, Mich.

Ronald Schutz, a patent trial lawyer and partner at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, represented the five-person St. Clair firm.  The award, unless it is overturned, will be the third-largest awarded by a jury so far this year, according to the National Law Journal, which tracks such information.

The case concerned patents for the technology used in almost all digital cameras sold today, which enables the cameras to select among multiple image file formats such as JPEG and MPEG.

They are using the technology in their camera, and we believe that almost every camera maker is using the technology as well,” Schutz said.  “Sony has the most significant market share and that’s why we sued them first.”

From July 1998 to the end of 2002, Sony generated $3 billion in sales from 70 different camera models that were multiple format digital cameras.

St. Clair acquired the four patents in 1995 from the inventors.  The inventor’s company, Personal Computer Cameras Inc., will share in the award.

The two-week trial represented the first phase of the case, in which the jury decided that Sony was making a product covered by the St. Clair patents.  In the second phase, which begins Monday, Sony will get a chance to prove that the patents are invalid.

If a jury decides the patents are invalid, the damage award is void.

Copyright 2003 Star Tribune. Republished with the permission of the Star Tribune, Minneapolis-St. Paul.  No further republication or redistribution is permitted without the written consent of the Star Tribune.

Update: The patent case discussed in this Star Tribune report has settled after the verdict and there will not be a second phase. This means that there will be no challenge in this case to the validity of the patents.