Litton wins $1.2 billion verdict against Honeywell Company claimed patent infringement

September 01, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- In the largest patent-infringement verdict ever, Litton Industries won $1.2 billion in Los Angeles federal court yesterday on allegations that Honeywell Inc. stole its technology for coating mirrors used in aircraft navigation systems.

Litton officials said they believed the award would largely stand against legal challenges, though U.S. District Judge Mariana Pfaelzer, who heard the case, must still rule on Honeywell's assertion that Litton improperly obtained the patent.

Honeywell General Counsel Edward D. Grayson said he was "outraged" by the verdict and said subsequent rulings or appeals might eliminate the award altogether. Honeywell denied using any Litton technology.

Shares of Litton and Honeywell were halted in trading on the New York Stock Exchange yesterday afternoon before the jury's verdict was announced. Trading never resumed. Honeywell was up 87.5 cents, to $38.875, while Litton gained $1, to $66.50.

Litton asserted that it developed a special process to deposit reflective coatings on small mirrors inside ring laser gyroscopes, used in commercial aircraft navigation systems. Honeywell adopted the Litton process after it ran into problems with its own mirror technology, said Norman L. Roberts, Litton senior vice president and general counsel.

The award is the latest in a series of giant verdicts since the early 1980s, when the federal judiciary strengthened the ability of major corporations to bring patent-infringement cases, according to Tony Karambelas, patent counsel at Loral Corp., the New York aerospace company.

"Patents are serious business now," he said. "The U.S. went from having the weakest patent system in the world to having the strongest. You can see it now in a number of these cases. This Litton award is a glowing endorsement of the system."

Aerospace industry awards tend to be so high because of the high value of the products themselves. The jury award to Beverly Hills-based Litton compensated the company for lost past and future profits on billions of dollars' worth of navigation systems.

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