We have seen several news articles talking about the damages in the Vringo (VRNG) vs. Google (GOOG) trial. Early indications were that a $30 million award was made by the jury to Vringo. Following this announcement, Judge Jackson unexpectedly called for a recess and we haven't seen any further disclosures of a material nature until yesterday, Nov. 7. What investors saw was a filing by the court: Document 790. I went to retrieve this document online, which is usually made available to the public via PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) for a fee, and saw that it was sealed to the public and not available for anyone to review at this time: "Verdict Document 789 was redacted (items removed or blocked out) and Verdict Document 790 is sealed [as of] Nov. 7, 2012."
If the judge would have viewed these damages as the law allows in a court of Virginia, it would have only made sense that he would have already made a ruling, but he hasn't. Therefore, investors are on alert and in lock-down mode, waiting for more details. To date, the trial has been an emotional roller coaster.
According to Document 790, a ruling or verdict has apparently been placed in a sealed envelope. Why? Well, when there is a delay in announcing the results of a trial, this could occur when waiting for the judge and all of the parties involved, along with the attorneys, to come back to court. The verdict is kept in a sealed envelope until court reconvenes and is then handed to the judge for his or her comments and ruling. Ultimately, the ruling and final judgment remain in the hands of Judge Jackson in Virginia.
What should investors make of this? Well, the delay is very likely (as many have suggested) in order to allow the parties time to try and settle before the judge makes his ruling. Both sides may have even gotten a glimpse of where he plans to take it.
But remember, the document with a possible verdict is sealed and has yet to be released to the public or announced by Vringo. Only the attorneys of both parties, while in the presence of the judge, can see the contents.
What We Should All Know Now
1. The verdict is sealed, yet to be released or announced by the company.
2. A sealed verdict tells us something has happened, and it's possible that the judge may use this as a tool to try one more time to get the parties to settle.
3. A ruling from Judge Jackson has not been entered at this time.
4. Most likely, post-trial motions will follow the ruling if parties don't settle.
5. Let's be very clear: A "final judgment" in this case has not been made, but I feel as if we should have some additional material news within days, if not today.
What We Know in the Meantime
As I wrote in a prior article, on Nov. 6, 2012, the "420" and "664" patents owned by Vringo were finally "validated" in a federal court in Virginia, and the jury unanimously returned a verdict award for Vringo amounting to $32 million with respect to past damages involving the following defendants: Google, AOL (AOL), Target (TGT), Gannett (GCI), and IAC/InterActive (IACI). The jury granted what is known in the legal arena as "reasonable royalty rates" in addition to the approximate $32 million in damages. So, plaintiff Vringo will also be awarded an additional 3.5% in running royalties on its patents until they are due to expire in 2016.
Disclosure: I am long VRNG.