It is commonplace to bemoan the lack of juror comprehension in patent cases and to describe jury deliberations as a “black box” resisting analysis.
The Federal Circuit favors the use of special jury verdicts to alleviate such criticisms. Special verdicts can focus jury attention on the facts that may or may not support key patent findings such as those relating to infringement under the doctrine of equivalents, obviousness or other invalidity determinations, and damage and reasonable royalty calculations.
Whether special verdicts achieve “better” overall results than general verdicts, however, is a debatable proposition in light of social science research into how juries think and reason.
The underlying record in a recent Federal Circuit decision, Therasense v. Becton Dickinson and Co. (pdf), provides a good working example for evaluating jury comprehension issues when both jury notes and a special verdict are utilized at trial.
Case Background and Result. The Therasense case involves an ’890 patent directed to electrochemical sensors for measuring glucose levels in blood. The plaintiff alleged that BD Test Strips manufactured and sold by the defendants infringed two claims of the subject patent.
After a trial taking place over four weeks, the jury returned a special verdict (pdf) finding infringement pursuant to the doctrine of equivalents, but in response to the very next special jury verdict question found that the ’890 patent was invalid based on anticipation or obviousness grounds.
The bulk of the Federal Circuit’s decision focuses on the jury’s answer to the following special verdict question: ” Have defendants proven by clear and convincing evidence that Claims 11 and 12 of the ’890 patent are invalid by reason of anticipation or obviousness. Yes √ No ___.”
More after the jump.