Apple a big loser in the latest patent wars, to the tune of $625m

4 Feb 2016

Apple has been ordered to pay $625m after a patent dispute with VirnetX went the way of the latter, though the tech giant has plans to appeal the decision.

Apple’s primary business is technology, and the selling of what it makes. However, more and more of the company’s time is being taken up with patent wars.

There’s the king of all patent disputes with Samsung, which is happening on multiple continents, has seen various winners and really serves nobody too well in the long run.

There’s a $862m dispute with the University of Wisconsin-Madison over a patent infringement about one of the chips found in its devices. There’s also that Siri case that took place in China last year.

But, perhaps more pressingly, and certainly more surprisingly, there’s a six-year dispute with VirnetX – which has been labelled a patent troll by some as its sole operation appears to be patent litigation.

The latest case revolves around a dispute over VPN security technology, which VirnetX says it owns the patents for, and which it claims Apple uses in some of its software, such as FaceTime. After an earlier trial ruling, which saw Apple fined $368m, was overturned on appeal, a new retrial of sorts has seen the Cupertino company fined $635m.

“We are surprised and disappointed by the verdict and we’re going to appeal,” said Apple in a statement. “Our employees independently designed this technology over many years, and we received patents to protect this intellectual property.”

Last summer, a report on the patent troll industry showed a remarkable spike in patent litigation.

According to a report by Unified Patents, patent lawsuits were on the up, with non-practicing entities – which are companies that make their money from patent licensing – representing 68pc of all cases in US district courts.

Apple, at the time, was the most litigated against tech company going, according to the report.

“The jury saw what we have been saying all along,” said the lawyers who represented VirnetX. “Apple has been infringing VirnetX’s patented technology for years.”

FaceTime image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic