Apple’s popular FaceTime video chat service is going to cost Apple a pretty penny for being able to provide you with monthly video chats with the parents. Today, a Texas jury awarded VirnetX, a patent-holding company, a whopping $625.6 million in damages after ruling that Apple infringed on four patents in its FaceTime technology.
Apple has filed a motion for a mistrial, as Apple claims that VirnetX’s legal team misrepresented the facts.
In an email statement, an Apple spokeswoman stated “Our employees independently designed this technology over many years, and we received patents to protect this intellectual property. Cases like this simply reinforce the desperate need for patent reform.”
Apple is no stranger to patent infringement cases itself, most notably clashing heads with Korean tech giant Samsung over its technology in its smartphones. But while Apple pursues litigation to protect its products, patent-holding companies like VirnetX are known as “patent trolls” who don’t make their money through application of their patents, but rather through lawsuits over patent infringement.
This a widespread notion that the US patent system desperately needs reform. The White House, Congress, and state attorney generals have fought to reduce the mounting number of patent lawsuits overflowing the judicial system. Patent lawsuits are particularly common in the tech industry, where tech giants and patent trolls are regularly taken to court. This potentially hurts innovation, especially for smaller companies without the money to stay afloat after costly litigations.
The federal government has been trying to cut down on patent suits. In 2011, Congress passed the America Invents Act, the first patent law reform in decades. In 2014, the Supreme Court struck down a software patent in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank, where the patents were held to be invalid because the claims were drawn to an abstract idea. Since this ruling, many lower courts have been thrown out other software patents as well, making it harder for patent trolls to pursue bigger companies.
This Apple suit is a do-over of a 2012 jury trial between the two companies, in which VirnetX won $368 million. Apple successfully appealed and got the decision overturned and ordered a new trial. VirnetX has a history of going to battle with bigger companies, having also sued Microsoft, Cisco, Avaya and others over its patents.