Last year was a historic year in terms of intellectual property jury awards, according to a new Bloomberg report. The ten largest IP awards of 2011, including six patent infringement and four trade secret cases, totaled $4.6 billion, almost twice the amount awarded the prior year.
As Bloomberg notes, the dramatic increase reflect two very large trade secret verdicts. St. Jude Medical Inc. was awarded $2.3 billion when an ex-employee of the medical device company took trade secrets to a Chinese start-up company. Meanwhile, DuPont Co. won $920 million against a South Korean company over secrets connected to its Kevlar technology.
Verdicts in patent cases were also up as well. In fact, two patent awards were among the 10-largest in U.S. history. In one case, a Johnson & Johnson unit was ordered to pay $482 million over stent technology. In the other, Versata Software Inc. was awarded $345 million in a dispute with SAP AG over a patent involving business-application software.
The rise in jury awards reflects a number of different factors. In many ways, it confirms that IP rights are becoming increasingly more valuable to companies and, thus, they are willing to go to greater lengths to protect them. As reflected in these jury awards, litigants are becoming more aggressive by taking their cases all the way to trial. Finally, the rise in IP verdicts also reflects a rise in innovation. As I have discussed on this blog, companies are filing patents and trademarks at a rapid pace, further elevating the importance of IP rights.