Are Juries Up to the “Monumental Task” of Deciding Patent Cases?

Is a single jury equipped to consider competing expert testimony on reasonable royalty damages? Thankfully, a District of Delaware judge has answered in the affirmative. Much has been made in recent years about the American jury’s ability to comprehend, digest, and assess the evidence in complex civil litigation, most notably in patent cases. By denying a plaintiff’s motion to bifurcate, Magistrate Thynge has implicitly reaffirmed the vitality of the lay factfinder’s role in patent litigation.

The Court rejected, among other reasons, plaintiff’s claims of “jury incompetence” on the issue of reasonable royalty damages. By doing so, the Court noted plaintiff’s curious argument: “Crown offer[ed] that its experts have calculated a different royalty rate than [defendant’s experts], and therefore, Crown would be prejudiced by the introduction of [defendant’s] evidence on that issue.” Declining to accept plaintiff’s protestations that one jury could not undertake such a “monumental task,” the Court denied the request for bifurcation.

In a world awash with proposals for specialized patent courts and other devices foreign to the common law, it is reassuring to know that the institution of the jury, a staple of all civil litigation, no matter how complex, retains the confidence of the judicial branch.

Crown Packaging Tech. Inc. v. Rexam Beverage Can Co., C.A. No. 05-608-MPT (July 24, 2007) (Thynge, M.J.).

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