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Appeals court upholds Apple victory in Cover Flow patent case

Apple comes out on top again in a now 4-year-old dispute over three patents held by Mirror Worlds.

Apple's Cover Flow view in iTunes.
Apple's Cover Flow view in iTunes. Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Apple has once again been cleared of infringing on patents held by Mirror Worlds.

In a ruling posted today by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, the court upheld (PDF) a lower court decision from April 2011, which sided with Apple.

Mirror Worlds originally accused Apple of infringing on its patents with features included in its Mac OS X operating systems going back to 10.4 "Tiger," as well as in its iOS devices including the iPhone, iPod, and iPad. The company, which was founded by Yale University computer-science professor David Gelernter, took aim at Apple's Cover Flow, Spotlight, and Time Machine features made available on devices running various iterations of that software.

Part of the Mirror Worlds patent for "streaming" files.
Part of the Mirror Worlds patent for "streaming" files. Mirror Worlds

A jury initially found Apple guilty of infringement in October 2010 and tallied up damages of more than $625 million. Apple responded by saying the damages were too high and urged the court to re-evaluate the evidence. Six months later, U.S. District Judge Leonard Davis sided with Apple and reversed the decision, noting that while the jury's take on the case was important, the group might have been swayed by Mirror Worlds' argument, which the court said lacked foundation.

"In this case, Mirror Worlds may have painted an appealing picture for the jury, but it failed to lay a solid foundation sufficient to support important elements it was required to establish under the law," Judge Davis wrote at the time.

Mirror Worlds then appealed, which led up to today's decision.

The spat is just one of many between Apple and other technology companies where millions of dollars are at stake. A high-profile trial between Apple and Samsung involving patents (among other things) recently upped the ante in the field, leaving Samsung on the hook for more than $1 billion after a jury found it to infringe on several Apple patents across multiple handsets. Like the Mirror Worlds case, it too is likely headed for an appeal.

Bloomberg first reported the ruling earlier today.