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Inventor Sinks Sony Appeal

The inconsistent testimony of a California inventor played into a federal judge's decision to reject Sony Corp.'s appeal to overturn a $90.7 million jury verdict in its long running patent dispute with Immersion Corp.

In 2002 Immersion filed suit against Sony alleging the company's PlayStation products use of "haptic feedback" technology infringes Immersion's patent. The technology allows gamers to experience the game's action through synchronized vibrations in the game controllers. In 2004 an Oakland, Calif., jury found in favor of Immersion.

In the appeal, Sony alleged that nondisclosure of earlier inventions by former Immersion employee Craig Thorner could have been used to undermine the company's patent. However, Immersion accused Sony of paying Thorner $150,000 for false testimony.

The court found Thorner "too unreliable a witness" to enable Sony to prove that Immersion engaged in misconduct. Additionally the court stated that: "Mr. Thorner's own testimony shows that Mr. Thorner reasonably understood his satisfactory testimony against Immersion to be quid pro quo for his receipt of $150,000 payment."

"This motion has raised concerns about both parties' litigation conduct," U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken wrote. "However, the court finds that Sony has not presented clear and convincing evidence of misconduct by Immersion that would warrant a new trial."

Sony is appealing the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

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