Apple must pay for use of 1990s pager technology without permission

19 Nov 2014

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Consumer tech titan Apple must pay US$23.6m for using SkyTel pager technology in its devices without permission, a jury in Texas has determined.

Although pagers were rendered obsolete many moons ago, the underlying technology behind the devices clearly stands up better to time.

MTel owns the patents that were developed by SkyTel and only got 10pc of what it was seeking in damages.

The patents in question – originally issued in the 1990s – were due to expire soon.

In the 1990s, MTel was considered leader in pager technology after introducing two-way pager communications. The paging system has since been relegated to use by doctors and emergency services personnel, with MTel now a licensing arm of United Wireless.

“The guys working back then at SkyTel were way ahead of their time,” United Wireless CEO Andrew Fitton said to Bloomberg. “This is vindication for all their work."

MTel’s attorney Daniel Scardino said he was pleased with the result of the case. “Apple makes a great product and they deserve a lot of the credit they get,” he told Re/Code. “But they should also give credit to those who are due credit for advancing the state of technology that came before them. That’s what this trial is all about.”

Patent image, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt is senior communications and context executive at NDRC. He previously worked as a journalist with Silicon Republic.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com