Future Tense

Samsung Alleges “Juror Misconduct,’ Asks Judge To Throw Out Apple Patent Verdict

Samsung Galaxy and Apple iPhone

Samsung is apparently upset that a juror used his outside patent-law experience to sway the verdict in its patent trial against Apple.

Photo by Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty Images

From the department of unsurprising news: Samsung is asking a judge to throw out the verdict in the Apple v. Samsung patent trial on the grounds of juror misconduct. Exactly what misconduct Samsung is alleging is unclear, because two pages of a key brief were redacted, according to CNET. But it’s a good bet that Velvin Hogan is involved somehow—especially since a related Samsung brief includes a transcript of the judge asking Hogan if he could apply the law as instructed “and not based on your understanding of the law based on your own cases.”

Who is Velvin Hogan? Well, in short, he’s the guy who used his understanding of the law based on his own cases to persuade his fellow jurors to hand Apple a billion-dollar victory in the trial. An electrical engineer who holds patents himself, Hogan acted as the jury’s foreman and essentially steered it toward its eventual decision, according to post-trial interviews that he and other jurors gave to various media outlets. For instance, he told Bloomberg TV how he broke an early stalemate among the jurors:

When I was at home thinking about that patent claim by claim, limit by limit, I had what we’d call an “aha!” moment. And I suddenly decided that I could defend this if it was my patent. And with that, I took that story back to the jury, laid it out for ‘em, they understood the points that I was talking about, and then we meticulously went patent by patent, claim by claim against the test that the judge had given us…

… And awarded Apple a billion bucks. Whether this legally constitutes juror misconduct remains to be determined. Santa Clara law professor Brian Love told CNET he thinks it will be tough to prove. “You’re looking for material or something else coming in that wasn’t introduced at trial, a juror reading reports about the case and they’re being influenced by outside forces,” he said.

Ars Technica reports that Apple responded to the brief Tuesday night with its own filing accusing its rival of “continuing the attack on the jury and the jury process that Samsung has waged in the press worldwide… .” Apple labeled Samsung’s claims “baseless” and “frivolous,” which is lawyer-speak for “We disagree.”

I noted on the trial’s first day that it’s a little absurd to ask a jury of Joes off the street to sift through and adjudicate all the competing claims in a sprawling tech-patent trial. Of course, Samsung knew that from the start just as well as Apple did, and it accepted the risk of a jury trial rather than settle out of court.

I’m not a lawyer, so I have no idea how Samsung’s juror misconduct claim will play out in court. But from a common-sense perspective, it’s hard to say what’s worse: a jury deciding a billion-dollar case on the basis of one juror’s personal prior experience with patent law, or a jury deciding a billion-dollar case on the basis of no prior experience with patent law whatsoever.