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Cisco given new trial over patent

– Cisco Systems Inc. has won an appeals court ruling that throws out a $63.8 million patent-infringement verdict and gives it a new chance to argue it didn’t infringe a Texas company’s patent for wireless-transmission technology.

The trial judge in the case gave jurors erroneous instructions on the legal standard for infringement of Commil USA’s patent, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said in an opinion posted June 25 on its website.

The patent, issued in 2002, covers a way of maintaining network connections through a series of base stations, so a person with a laptop computer, mobile phone or device using a wireless-transmission feature such as Bluetooth doesn’t lose the signal while walking through a building.

Commil claimed that the infringement occurred through the use of Cisco’s Wi-Fi access points and controllers.

A key issue in the appeal was whether Cisco knew it was actively inducing others to infringe the patent, a standard set by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 2011 ruling. The jury was told it could find liability if Cisco “knew or should have known” that its action could lead others to infringe the patent.

“It is clear that the jury was permitted to find induced infringement based on mere negligence where knowledge is required,” Circuit Judge Sharon Prost wrote. “This erroneous instruction certainly could have changed the result.”

Commil lawyer Mark Werbner of Sayles Werbner in Dallas said he expects similar results in a new trial.

“Under the facts of the case, this is not a significant issue. Obviously Cisco thinks so,” he said. “There is ample evidence that Cisco’s conduct was knowing and not just negligent.”

This was already the second trial in the case. A first trial, which Cisco also lost, was thrown out by the magistrate who presided over the case because Cisco’s lawyers made inappropriate religious comments before the jury about the inventors of the patent, who are Israeli.