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Ford overturns $105 million trade secrets judgment

The Ford logo is seen at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., January 15, 2019./Brendan McDermid/File Photo

On Monday, a Detroit federal court overturned a jury conviction ordering Ford Motor Co (F.N) to pay Versata Software Inc $104.6 million for breaking a 2004 license contract and misappropriating trade secrets.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Leitman said that while Versata Software, which licensed software to Ford from 1998 to 2015, offered sufficient evidence of a contract breach, it did not offer evidence to let jurors calculate damages accurately.

He also said jurors had no basis for determining how long Ford would have needed to develop three trade secrets it allegedly stole and that this also required voiding the damages award. Instead, Leitman ordered Ford to pay Versata $3 for breach of contract.

Versata sued Ford after Ford rejected an offer to license its key software for $17 million a year in 2014.

“Overturning a jury verdict is difficult by design,” Leitman concluded in a 51-page opinion. “But here,” he said, “Versata’s lack of evidence forced the jury to base its damages awards on speculation.” Therefore, damages awards cannot stand.”

Versata attorneys did not reply to demands for comment. A similar request went unanswered by Ford. Austin-based Versata received $104.6 million, 85% of its request.

After a 15-day trial, Ford was found guilty after two days of deliberation. Versata Software Inc et al. v Ford Motor Co, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, 15-10628.


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