The U.S. Supreme Court handed Cisco Systems a multibillion-dollar victory on Monday when it refused to hear an appeal by Centripetal Networks to reinstate a $2.75 billion award against Cisco in a cybersecurity patent dispute.
The award was the largest in U.S. patent law.
But the 2020 award by a lower-court federal judge was recently overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which said the lower court judge, Henry Morgan, mishandled the case after he acknowledged that he had learned during the late stages of a non-jury trial that his wife owned about 100 shares, valued at about $4,688, of Cisco stock.
Morgan, who died earlier this year, said in 2020 that he had already ruled on key issues in the legal dispute before he learned of his wife’s ownership of the stock. He also said he could continue to rule in the case without bias.
The federal appeals court disagreed, saying Morgan should have recused himself from the case or should have sold off the stocks, rather than putting them into a blind trust. Because he didn’t recuse himself or sell the shares, the appeals court threw out the award last June.
“Where a judge becomes aware of a possible appearance of impropriety, there is a substantial risk that he or she might bend over backwards to rule against that party to try to prove that there is no bias,” the appeals court wrote.
Centripetal Networks, a cybersecurity firm with offices in Reston, Virginia and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, appealed the appellate court ruling.
Without comment, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday effectively rejected the appeal by refusing to hear even here.
So the case is now back to square one.
“We are pleased with the (Supreme Court) result and look forward to addressing the merits in the District Court,” a Cisco spokesperson said.
A representative for Centripetal could not be reached for comment.
The patent case dates back to 2018, when Centripetal Networks sued Cisco on claims the networking giant incorporated its network protection technology into its network switches and routers and the monitoring offerings that analyze their data.