Apple recently avoided a significant damages payout by successfully proving that its opponent, Personalized Media Communications, LLC (“PMC”), had inentionally and unfairly delayed issuance of its patents by decades, until a significant portion of the industry had adopted its technology. Due to this, the Court ruled that PMC’s patents are unenforceable.
Among other patents, PMC sued on U.S. Patent No. 7,775,264 for signal processing methods related to the delivery of content over computer networks. The patent was filed in May of 1995, issued in 2010, but includes technology dating back to the early 80’s. The strategy of delaying the issuance of patents was apparently discovered in an internal document from 1991 citing Apple, Intel, IBM, and Microsoft as potential targets.
Of course, such a strategy is no longer possible to pursue today. After June 8, 1995, the term of a U.S. patent is set at twenty years from its earliest filing date. Therefore, there is no benefit to delaying issuance of a patent. When PMC filed its applications, however, the term was set at seventeen years from the grant date of the patent.