$7.8M Award Affirmed|for Drone App Maker

PITTSBURGH (CN) – A federal judge affirmed a $7.8 million jury award to the prevailing party in a patent infringement dispute involving apps that allow the piloting of small drones from tablets or smartphones.
     On May 1, after two days and seven hours of deliberation, a jury awarded Drone Technologies Inc. $3.78 million for past damages and $4 million for future damages stemming from Parrot Inc.’s appropriation of the company’s remote-control drone technology.
     Since then, Drone Technologies has filed several motions asking U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab to significantly increase the amount, citing extra fees and others costs it incurred due to Parrot’s refusal to turn over documents during discovery — intransigence that led to a default judgment and assignment of a special master to oversee discovery in February.
     Of the five post-trial motions filed by Drone Technologies, Judge Schwab rejected only one in its totality, a request for additional royalties for future infringement.
     “After unprecedented disruptive and dilatory discovery actions by Defendants, the Court was constrained to enter default judgment against Defendants as to infringement of two United States Patents. The only issue presented during the recent three-day jury trial was the amount of damages, if any, due to Plaintiff for Defendants’ infringement,” Schwab wrote in an opinion announced Friday.
     Schwab found the jury’s initial determination appropriate, even though the amount it awarded for future damages – $1.43 per unit -was different from the rate it applied to determine royalties owed for past damages – $5 per unit.
     The judge held “the jury was not instructed or obliged to award past and future damages using the same reasonable royalty rate, and its varied rates for damages reflects the difficulty in determining an appropriate amount of damages, especially where sales have not yet occurred.”
     According to the ruling, the original difference between the parties’ total damage calculations was $24 million. Drone Technologies’ experts concluded Parrot owed a total of $24.8 million, while Parrot Inc.’s experts said the company should only pay $680,000.
     The court noted that the jury verdict was “driven by credibility determinations” and was “a hard case in many ways.”
     Drone Technologies’ motions for additional fees, including reasonable expenses and attorneys fees in connection with discovery disputes, and its motion for post-judgment interest were each granted.
     Schwab ordered that attorneys fees connected to Parrot’s “failure to comply with discovery obligations” be reviewed by a special mater to determine total sums owed, and that an award of pre-judgment interest “would compensate plaintiff for the delayed compensation due to defendant’s infringement.”
     Drone Technologies ‘s motion for additional pre-judgment interest was also granted, but only in part, to be applied to past damages and fees but not to future.
     Finally, a renewed motion for an exceptional case finding and fees award was granted in part and denied in part.
     Schwab found that “Defendants’ failure to comply with repeated and varied Orders of Court results in an inescapable inference that Defendants have consciously and deliberately strategized to delay this litigation rather than have the dispute settled on the merits, which Defendants should have welcomed if Plaintiff were truly a meritless litigant.” Schwab again appointed a special master to determine the total sum of attorneys fees owed but denied the request for expert witness fees.

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