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I was a bit puzzled by part of Newegg's patent case history:

Remarkably, the judge overseeing the case ruled during trial that the jury wouldn't be allowed to make a decision about Newegg's arguments that the patent was invalid. That line of reasoning—that Soverain's patents were bogus to begin with—would become the basis of Newegg's appeal.

It was a US case, and the US has strong precedents for Jury Nullification, in criminal law, at least. Are there particular exemptions in patent law that allow the apparent prevention of Jury Nullification, or is there otherwise precedence that would prevent a jury from ruling based on the lack of apparent validity of the patent/law (the common application of nullification) and instead only rule whether they violated the patent, yes or no? Or does Jury Nullification not exist in patent law in the same way it does in criminal law?

I'm aware a judge can more or less tell a jury anything and they'll believe that's how it works, but I'm wondering if this is a thing that would actually stand up to proper scrutiny.

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2 Answers

It is not clear to me what exactly your question is, but I do not see jury nullification here on the issue of invalidity.

The ’314 and ’492 patents were argued obvious. The trial court probably felt it had grounds to rule in favor of the patentee on obviousness before it even went to the jury. However, the Court seems to have allowed the accused infringer to present its case of obviousness. Before the jury was allowed to decide obviousness, the patentee filed a motion arguing that there was not enough evidence to support even a threshold finding of obviousness, and therefore the invalidity argument failed as a matter of law. (This is different than a jury reaching a verdict contrary to the weight of the evidence.)

On appeal, the Court disagreed, finding that there were sufficient facts to support an obviousness finding. Even more, the appellate Court viewed that evidence as clear and convincing, resulting in the Court entering judgment in the accused infringer's favor.

The Federal Circuit opinion is here: http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/images/stories/opinions-orders/2011-1009.Opinion.1-17-2013.1.PDF

Denis Crouch and others would have good insight on this and some of your side-questions. However, I suspect that many patent trial attorneys would disagree with your comparison to criminal law trials. Patent trials on average are far more complex with multiple issues subdivided into questions of law and fact. The court and jury each do their part. I feel that juries have a great ability to arrive at the correct verdict. A judge cannot simply "tell them anything," and a jury will apply reasoned decision making more often than I think you credit.

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The question seems to take the position that the judge is or should be required to provide the opportunity for jury nullification and commits an error by not allowing for that to happen. As described in the Wikipedia link in the question, jury nullification is a tool to reject the system, it is not a formal part of the system. So its absence is not a flaw in the operation of the system. In this case the judge was overrulled for incorrectly deciding that no jury could possibly find obviousness - given the evidence.

So yes, the fact that a judge removes a question from a jury can pass strick scrutiny. judgement as a matter of law -- federal rule 50 This one, in particular, did not.

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