PITTSBURGH – A federal appellate court inon Monday overturned a jury’s finding that Thomson Reuters Corp. infringed a patent for trading municipal bonds in Internet auctions.
Jurors awarded MuniAuction Inc. $38.4 million in damages in October 2006 after finding New York-based Thomson Corp. willfully infringed MuniAuction’s patent.
Theoverturned that decision, finding that Thomson didn’t infringe on any patents.
U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster had said the jury believed Thomson deliberately copied MuniAuction’s software and tried to portray itself as a group of small companies, rather than the billion-dollar business it is. doubled the damages and tacked on prejudgment interest in July 2007. Lancaster doubled the damages and tacked on prejudgment interest, raising the award to more than $84 million.
Lawyers for Pittsburgh-based Grant Street Group, MuniAuction’s parent company, argued it developed the software for selling municipal bonds online in April 1996. The program opened the process and increased the number of businesses that could participate in bidding, they said.
Thomson Corp. — the company’s name before it bought Reuters in April — and i-Deal began offering a similar service for free in 1998.
The 3rd Circuit judges noted “that the use of the Internet and web browser technology to conduct electronic auctions was well-established at the time the (MuniAuction) patent application was filed.”
They said they were not persuaded by MuniAuction’s argument that “a person of ordinary skill would not have known how to implement the communicating and displaying steps of the patent with a web browser during the relevant time period.”
A message left for a Thomson Reuters spokesman Monday afternoon was not immediately returned. A receptionist who answered the phone at Grant Street Group Monday afternoon said the company was not immediately commenting on the issue.