Written by City News Service
A judge tossed a lawsuit by the two men behind the development of a type of user-friendly computer keyboard who alleged they lost $30 million when their former lawyers mishandled a patent licensing agreement with Microsoft.
On Friday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joseph Kalin granted a motion by lawyers for Joseph Vanek, Brian Cardoza and Eugene Cummings to dismiss the case filed by plaintiffs Robert Granadino and Hernan Camacho. Kalin found there was insufficient evidence for it to go to the jury.
Kalin dismissed the jurors and told them there likely will be an appeal.
In his opening statement Sept. 23, plaintiffs' lawyer Maxwell Blecher said the attorney who represented Granadino and Camacho in the discussions with Microsoft reached a settlement agreement with the software giant without fully informing their clients.
"They agreed to accept an agreement unheard of and unprecedented in the patent licensing field," Blecher said. "It was a terrible agreement."
But attorney James Murphy, on behalf of the defendants, said the three did not do anything without the consent of Granadino and Camacho. He said Granadino wanted to avoid a major legal showdown with Microsoft.
"Granadino never wanted to sue Microsoft, knowing full well it could result in the determination of the invalidity of the patents," Murphy said.
Although Blecher said the plaintiffs' patents were affirmed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Murphy said some of their claims were actually invalidated.
Granadino and Camacho are the owners of the Pasadena-based company Metamorfyx. The keyboard at issue -- spearheaded in development by Camacho and achieved in the early 1990s by teaming up with Granadino -- was designed to reduce users' chances of acquiring Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and other muscle strain afflictions, Blecher said.
Although Microsoft and other companies had already been selling similar keyboards, after Granadino and Camacho obtained their patents, the other companies were obligated to stop offering their versions unless they paid royalties, Blecher said.
The first patents were obtained with a previous law firm, but Granadino kept seeing other ergonomic keyboards in the marketplace and turned to Cardoza for advice, Blecher said. Granadino and Cardoza were friends since childhood, Blecher said.
Cardoza worked for Southern California Edison Co. He was not a patent lawyer, but went to law school with Vanek, a patent attorney, Blecher said. Vanek was acquainted with Cummings, an expert in the patent field, Blecher said.
Murphy said Granadino and Camacho were kept informed every step of the way by their lawyers about the Microsoft negotiations. He also said the Microsoft agreement was reviewed and given the nod by the law firm Bryan Cave, where Granadino's wife worked.