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Comcast Scores New Trial in Sprint Suit

A judge with the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware has voided a $27.6 million verdict that found that Comcast had infringed on two Sprint fiber optic patents, holding that Sprint presented the jury an “incorrect” infringement theory. Comcast will be getting a new trial as a result. 

U.S. District Judge Richard G. Andrews granted Comcast's bid for judgment on Friday, Aug. 7., a decision that comes about six months after a Delaware federal jury found that Comcast had infringed on two Sprint patents tied to fiber optic data delivery:  U.S. No. 5,742,605 and U.S. No. 6,108,339, which describe synchronous optical network using a ring architecture -- essentially SONET systems for use in large geographic areas that utilize “self-healing” rings that are interconnected.   

“Sprint presented an incorrect infringement theory to the jury, which may have ‘unfairly influenced the verdict,’" the judge wrote, according to court documents obtained by Multichannel News.  "Therefore, allowing the verdict to stand would result in ‘a miscarriage of justice.’ It follows that Comcast is entitled to a new trial on the issue of infringement.”

Comcast filed a motion for post-trial relief on March 6, 2015. Sprint filed the original complaint on Aug. 28, 2012.

“In sum, Sprint's infringement claims fail as a matter of law in all seventy-nine accused networks,” the judge wrote. “Seventy-three of the accused networks share SONET platforms that perform all the functions of a ‘ring terminal,’ and thus do not have ‘unique ring terminals.’”

The judge also ruled that the two accused Seattle networks do not have “direct" or "DCS" connections, and the two networks could only be connected by a "common switch fabric" in a shared SONET platform.

“Thus, the two accused Seattle networks either lack a ‘plurality of connections’ and ‘connection system,’ or do not have ‘unique ring terminals,’” the judge wrote in the August 7 opinion.  “Sprint failed to present evidence that the DCS connections between the four accused networks in Portland and San Francisco are actually ‘operational to provide interconnectivity’ or ‘configured to groom SO NET traffic.’ Thus, a reasonable jury could not have found infringement for any of the seventy-nine accuse networks.”

Sprint, the judge noted, argued that Comcast waived its right to seek a new trial by failing to object to Sprint's statements at trial, but said Comcast countered that it had objected at trial to Sprint's position that the Court's claim constructions do not require "ring terminals" to connect in both directions around a ring.

Sprint has been asked to comment on the judge’s opinion in the case.

Update: Sprint declined to comment on the judge's opinion.