Ford wins reversal of $105 million trade secrets U.S. court award

Jessica Thompson

A federal judge in Detroit on Monday threw out a jury verdict ordering Ford Motor Co. to pay Versata Software Inc $104.6 million for breaching a 2004 licensing 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 to determine how long Ford would have needed to develop three trade secrets it allegedly stole, and that this also required voiding the damages award.

Leitman ordered Ford to pay Versata $3 for breach of contract.

Versata sued Ford after accusing the automaker of copying its software because it was tired of paying licensing fees, and after Ford rejected an offer in 2014 to license its major software for $17 million a year.

“Overturning a jury verdict is difficult by design,” Leitman said in a 51-page decision.

“But here,” he added, “the lack of evidence presented by Versata forced the jury to rest its damages awards on nothing more than speculation. For that reason the damages awards cannot stand.”

Lawyers for Versata did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Ford did not immediately respond to a similar request.

The $104.6 million award was about 85 percent of what Austin, Texas-based Versata had sought.

Jurors deliberated for two days before holding Ford liable last Oct. 27, following a 15-day trial.

The case is Versata Software Inc et al v Ford Motor Co, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, No. 15-10628.

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