Zynga Patent Win Extends Defense Streak in East Texas

, The Litigation Daily

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Yet another defendant has won a patent case in the supposedly plaintiffs-friendly Eastern District of Texas. This time around, the online gaming company Zynga Inc. and its trial team at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld prevailed over a nonpracticing entity called Personalized Media Communications LLC.

After a weeklong trial and two days of deliberation, a federal jury in Marshall, Texas, returned a verdict on Tuesday that Zynga's games don't infringe two PMC patents. PMC's lawyers at Norton Rose Fulbright were seeking $25 million in damages plus a running royalty of 2 percent of Zynga's revenue from the games through 2028.

If you include Tuesday's verdict, defendants have now won 10 of the 12 patent infringement trials held in the Eastern District this year, according to a blog post by Marshall-based attorney Michael Smith. We first reported on the unexpected hot streak in July, when defendants improved their record to 7-2 (we excluded from our tally two trials that involved patent validity but not infringement).

Zynga is a leading developer of games for social media, with about 230 million average monthly users. Its titles include Farmville and Words with Friends.

PMC doesn't sell products, but it owns about 60 patents relating to delivery of multimedia content. PMC has licensed its patented technology to the likes of Cisco Systems Inc. and Sony Inc.

Zynga was the first company to litigate with PMC all the way to trial. "Our theme was that these patents related to personalization of television communication and that it was really a stretch to try to read them onto personalized gaming," said Steven Zager of Akin Gump, who represented Zynga along with lawyers at Jones Day and Gillam & Smith.

After PMC brought suit in February 2012, Zynga retained Jones Day for its defense. Akin Gump was brought in to lead the trial team, with Zager at the helm. Zager credited Akin Gump partner Fred Williams for bringing the matter to the firm. Akin Gump partner Todd Landis handled key witnesses. Local counsel Melissa Smith of Gillam & Smith handled the damages phase of the case.

Robert Harrell of Norton Rose Fulbright represented PMC along with Wesley Hill and T. John Ward of the Longview, Texas–based firm Ward & Smith. Ward is a former judge in the Eastern District of Texas.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Ward & Smith lawyer (and former judge) T. John Ward as T. John Ward Jr. We regret the error.

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