VISKASE AWARDED $164.9 MILLION
IN PATENT INFRINGEMENT CASE
Chicago Tribune, July 7, 1999
[Bartlit Beck took over this case as lead trial counsel to work with co-counsel Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione after Court vacated original jury award. Won summary judgment of infringement and reinstatement of original damage award, plus enhanced damages for willful infringement.]
In the nation's largest patent-infringement judgment in dollar terms this year, Viskase Cos. Inc. of Bedford Park has been awarded $164.9 million in damages from American National Can Co. of Chicago.
American National, a unit of Paris-based Pechiney, plans to appeal the judgment, its attorneys said. U.S. District Court in Chicago awarded the food-packaging materials company $62.5 million more than the amount of a 1996 jury verdict.
The additional money included about $20 million for American National's willful infringement, $5.5 million for supplemental damages and $36.9 million in prejudgment interest.
The jury found that American National's manufacture and sale of heat-shrinkable film--used for fresh meat, processed meat and poultry applications--infringed Viskase's patents.
The large award in the suit is part of a decade-old trend toward higher awards in patent-infringement cases, attorneys for both sides said.
Roy Hofer of Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione in Chicago, who represents Viskase in the lawsuit, said judges and juries are realizing how important patents are to fair competition.
James Atwood of Covington & Burling in Washington, the lead attorney for American National in the case, said juries sometimes do not understand the issues and get carried away.
Although the judgment is more than twice Viskase's stock market value, its shares rose only 50 cents, or 11.8 percent, to $4.75,Tuesday.
Viskase announced the judgment Tuesday, although it was made last week.
The stock's small movement might be because the case was originally filed in 1993--and because it could be two years before Viskase receives any money from the lawsuit, assuming the judgment is not reversed, said Ed Gustafson, chief executive of Viskase.
Viskase shares had jumped $1.19, or 41 percent, to $4.06, in May after a federal court reinstated the jury's damage award.