Caterpillar ordered to pay $73.6 million

A federal jury has ordered Caterpillar to pay a small British firm $73.6 million for ripping off its design for a piece of heavy-duty construction equipment. Caterpillar, based in Peoria, Ill., stole trade secrets from its supplier, Miller U.K. Ltd., when it copied a Miller design for a coupling device that links heavy buckets to hydraulic digging machines, the jury found on Friday at the end of a two-month trial in Chicago's federal court. The verdict — the largest award under the Illinois Trade Secret Act, according to Miller's attorneys — was a David and Goliath-style triumph for Miller, which employs just 105 workers in a small town in the north of England, against Caterpillar, which employs 120,000 workers worldwide and is one of Illinois' largest employers. Miller would likely have gone bust if it had lost the case, according to Reed Oslan, an attorney from Kirkland & Ellis who represented Miller. Miller plans to pursue Caterpillar for its legal fees and interest on the $73.6 million verdict, which could take the total Caterpillar will have to pay to "north of $100 million," he said, adding that he expects Caterpillar to appeal.

U.S. gas prices fall below $2 per gallon

The nationwide average price for a gallon of regular gasoline Monday fell below $2 for the first time since March 2009. The AAA reported that the national average reached $1.99 on Monday, a level expected about a month ago. The new low for the year comes as holiday travelers are hitting the road. AAA said gas prices have dropped because there is more than enough oil and gasoline supply around the world to meet demand. In addition, gas prices generally fall through early winter because people drive less and use less fuel this time of year.

Ericsson, Apple to end suit, develop phones

Swedish telecoms firm Ericsson AB has signed a 7-year deal with Apple Inc. that brings an end to outstanding mutual patent litigations between the two and paves the way for their joint-development of the next generation of superfast phones. Ericsson, the world's largest wireless equipment maker, did not reveal terms of the deal Monday but said it includes a cross-license that covers patents owned by both companies, including the GSM, UMTS and LTE standards used in mobile technology. It made a similar agreement with the world's largest smartphone maker, South Korea's Samsung, last year.

BMW fined $40M over late safety notice

German automaker BMW has been fined $40 million by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for failing to issue safety recalls in a timely manner to Mini owners. Earlier this month NHTSA fined Fiat Chrysler Automobiles $70 million for underreporting crash, death and injury data tied to its cars and trucks, bringing total penalties for FCA to $175 million this year. BMW is subject to a fine as well as a series of performance requirements under a consent order. The company acknowledges that it did not issue recalls within the required five days of learning that 2014 and 2015 Mini Cooper models failed to meet regulatory standards for side-impact crash protection.

Federal regulators reject Staples again

Staples offered to give up $1.25 billion in commercial contracts to acquire Office Depot, but federal regulators have rejected it, the company said Monday. The Federal Trade Commission, which is suing to stop the $6.3 billion merger, declined to comment on Staples' claim. Staples said it will continue its court fight to acquire its competitor headquartered in Boca Raton.

Pep Boys likes new bid from Icahn

Pep Boys on Monday called a revised offer from billionaire Carl Icahn a "superior" bid, just days after the auto parts seller accepted a sweetened deal from tire company Bridgestone. Icahn Enterprises offered $16.50 for each share of Pep Boys on Friday, in a deal worth about $893 million. Icahn Enterprises previous offered $15.50 per share, and Bridgestone matched that offer shortly after. Pep Boys said Monday that it now prefers to take the offer from Icahn Enterprises and that Tokyo's Bridgestone Corp. now has until Wednesday to increase its bid.

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