Apple Juror Had First-Hand View of Silicon Valley Litigation

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Written By admin at Monday, August 27th, 2012


By John Letzing

In Silicon Valley, sometimes it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t been tied up in intellectual property litigation in one way or another.

Before Velvin Hogan landed on a jury that on Friday handed Apple Inc. a roughly $ 1 billion judgment at the expense of rival Samsung Electronics, the 67-year-old retiree had first-hand experience with legal tussles over technology.

In 2008, Hogan and his business partner at a start-up called Multicast Labs were sued in Santa Clara Superior Court by a former employee over the ownership of a piece of software developed for the firm. The former employee, Mark Thomas, says he regrets filing the suit now, but adds that he’d grown frustrated with what he says was poor treatment by Hogan. The case was eventually dropped when it began consuming too much of Thomas’s time and money.

“I gave up,” said Thomas, who was embittered by the experience.

Hogan, meanwhile, says the ordeal helped him to empathize with both Apple and defendant Samsung in the high-profile patent infringement trial where he and eight others served as jury members.

“It kind of did help me a little bit,” said Hogan, who became presiding juror in the case. “I could see where both sides were coming from.”

Hogan is also a patent owner himself. Like many other applicants to the patent office, he was initially rejected, he says. That required him to go back and defend–mostly with success, he says–each of his invention’s multiple claims, or the assertions behind a patent making it unique. He says that later helped him analyze the intellectual property that Apple and Samsung were asserting against each other in court.

All that worldly experience with intellectual property may have helped Hogan look past some of the courtroom theatrics that played out over the course of a trial that lasted more than three weeks.

Of the attorneys representing each side, Hogan said: “A lot of times we thought, they’re acting like a bunch of kids. But the reality was they were doing their jobs. We just didn’t listen to their rhetoric.”

Instead, Hogan says jury members zeroed in on the nuts and bolts of the patents involved and the specific allegations made by each company. While poring over Samsung’s claims that Apple wasn’t the first to develop so-called bounceback technology for a touch screen, Hogan said jury members studied the inner workings of the older technology Samsung pointed to as evidence. “We looked at the code, and the approach that Apple made was entirely different, and quite frankly better,” Hogan said.

Hogan asserts that he came into the case with no bias, and that he’s never owned an Apple product. “I thought they were a bit pricey for what they were doing,” he said.

While officially retired, Hogan says he’s still busying himself with Multicast Labs, which develops video compression technology. He says he spends time on the project on an almost daily basis.

“It’s kind of a hobby,” he said, “but it would be nice for it to pay off.”

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