Morgan Lewis Wins $131M Verdict in Cochlear Implant IP Row

, The Litigation Daily

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hearing aid

A federal jury in Los Angeles found that Australian hearing implant maker Cochlear Ltd. infringed two patents held by the Alfred E. Mann Foundation for Scientific Research. The jury on Thursday awarded the Los Angeles nonprofit and its lawyers at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius a $131 million damages award.

That number could potentially triple since, as noted on the verdict form, Cochlear was found to have willfully infringed the foundation's patents. Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton represented Cochlear at trial.

The foundation originally filed suit with counsel from Morrison & Foerster and Merchant & Gould in December 2007 claiming that Cochlear's implants infringed its patents for technology that allows physicians to monitor and adjust implants to make sure they're working properly. The foundation later brought on Kaye Scholer to handle the case. Morgan Lewis's Daniel Johnson Jr., one of the lead Morgan Lewis lawyers at trial, told us in a phone interview Friday, that his firm came onto the case after partner Daniel Grunfeld joined the firm from Kaye Scholer this summer and the foundation held a beauty contest to choose counsel.

U.S. District Judge Fernando Olguin gave each side 13 hours to put on its case. Johnson said the three jurors he and his team were able to speak with told them they did a good job of explaining the technology. "We feel very good about the way the case and the evidence went in," Johnson said.

Sheppard Mullin's Bruce Chapman pointed us to a statement the company released on Thursday, saying Cochlear will ask the judge to overturn the verdict and, if necessary, pursue an appeal.

"We strongly disagree with the jury verdict and will appeal any judgment entered against Cochlear by the court," the company's CEO Chris Roberts said in the statement.

Johnson from Morgan Lewis told us that so far the judge has denied both sides' competing motions for judgment as a matter of law, and that Cochlear has a laches defense—essentially that the foundation waited to long to bring its claims—that could potentially lower the damages amount.

Still, he said he's happy with the jury's decision. "We're not switching places, let's put in that way," he said.

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