Apple has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to undo a Federal Circuit decision upholding a jury verdict ordering the company to pay $439 million for infringing VirnetX’s network security patents, saying the “grossly unfair” outcome hinged on “fundamental legal errors,” reports Law360 (a subscription is required to read the entire article.)
In January 2014, VirnetX, considered by many (including me) to be a “patent troll,” filed a motion with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas seeking to supplement its infringement contentions against Apple, the defendant in a patent infringement lawsuit. And in May 2016 the company asked a Texas court to order Apple to stop providing its FaceTime and Messages features to customers, following the patent troll’s early court victory regarding patent infringement.
The motion alleged that Apple products, including products containing the redesigned VPN On Demand and Per App VPN features implemented in Apple’s iOS 7, continue to infringe VirnetX’s patented inventions. However, in September 2014, a federal appeals court tossed out a $368 million jury award for patent infringement that VirnetX Holding won against Apple in 2012.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, a specialized Washington-based court that handles patent appeals, ruled the verdict was “tainted” by erroneous jury instructions in the case. This sent the case back to a trial court. And in April 2018 that court ruled that that Apple. infringed four VirnetX network security patents and ordered the tech giant to pay $439 million in damages.
By the way, a patent troll is an individual or an organization that purchases and holds patents for unscrupulous purposes such as stifling competition or launching patent infringement suits. In legal terms, a patent troll is a type of non-practicing entity: someone who holds a patent but is not involved in the design or manufacture of any product or process associated with that patent.