Long patent process: Apple may save 0.5 billion on VirnetX

Apple’s billions in payments for alleged patent infringements by VPN technology could be halved if an appeal verdict is upheld.

Fine halved: Apple’s long-standing dispute with the patent exploiter VirnetX, which revolves around several well-known areas in the iPhone producer’s operating systems, is entering the next round. This time it is an Apple Court of Appeal ruling that has upheld the decision of the so-called Patent Tribunal. According to this, two patents assigned to VirnetX are invalidated.

The dispute has dragged on for more than a decade

This case is currently about VPN technology that can be activated “on demand” in Apple’s systems. The court case started 13 years ago. In 2020, an East Texas court awarded VirnetX $502 million. Apple then tried to invalidate the patents in question – a total of two. The competent institution at the US Patent and Trademark Office (Patent Trial and Appeal Board, PTAB) agreed with the company because the inventions were not new. VirnetX then appealed and has now lost, as reported by the Reuters news agency.

VirnetX can now consider whether to seek a “rehearing” with the PTAB or proceed directly to the US Supreme Court. That has not yet been decided, said a manager of the company. The stock market reacted negatively, on Thursday afternoon the shares in the patent exploitation company fell by more than 14 percent. Apple initially did not comment on the outcome of the case.

Not the only procedure

However, the VPN patent lawsuit is not the only conflict between VirnetX and Apple. Overall, it’s about a billion US dollars. In another lawsuit involving Apple’s FaceTime video chat technology and iMessage instant messaging service, a jury initially awarded VirnetX $302 million in fees that Apple must pay. Later it even became 440 million. This is also about safety procedures. Last year, it even looked like Apple might have to pay VirnetX $1.1 billion.

As early as 2013, Apple had adjusted functions in iOS 6.1 to avoid patent claims by VirnetX. Convenience functions were reduced and users were forced to set up the VPN themselves. Apple is regularly confronted with patent lawsuits by so-called patent trolls, whose raison d’être is to buy up licenses and then take action against companies with more or less deep pockets that may infringe these intellectual property rights.


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