Victory is fleeting: Judge voids patent troll’s $626M victory against Apple

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Nevada-based company VirtnetX essentially won the lottery when it won a $625.6 million court battle over Apple’s FaceTime and iMessage in February, but now the company is reeling from a judge overturning that ruling, reports Ars Technica.

In that earlier trial, which was a consolidated case, Apple was found guilty of violating four of VirtnetX’s patents, which were described as “secure communications” over the Internet. More specifically, VirtnetX accused Apple of imitating what the patents described with VPN, FaceTime, and iMessage encryption. After jurors in an East Texas federal court found Apple guilty of patent infringement, the company asked for a retrial, arguing that VirtnetX’s lawyers misrepresented evidence.

Interestingly, U.S. District Judge Robert Schroeder, who oversaw that earlier trial, seems to have sided with Apple. According to the judge, VirtnetX repeatedly referenced a 2012 trial in which Apple was found guilty of violating VirtnetX’s patents, with the repeated statements unfairly prejudicing Apple.

“There was a trial in November of 2012 right here in this courthouse and right here in this courtroom,” said VirtnetX’s lawyer during February’s trial. “And at trial, Apple said those same remarks about not using the patent. And, you know, the jury didn’t believe them and agreed with us. And there was a verdict in late 2012, November, that [VOD] and FaceTime infringes.”

Combined with the complicated nature of February’s trial, the repeated statements helped create “potential for juror confusion.” As a result, Judge Schroeder reversed the jury’s decision in that trial and set September 26 as the retrial date.

Unsurprisingly, VirtnetX president and CEO Kendall Larsen was not happy with the reversal, with the executive saying his company is “reviewing all our options.”

“We are confident that we have the resources required for these retrials,” said Larsen in a press release. “We trust that the jury will again make the right decision in the retrials.”

VirtnetX is often characterized as a patent troll due to its choosing to hoard patents rather than implement them in real-world products. As a result, the company has gone after the likes of Microsoft and Cisco for patent infringement. Furthermore, the company is extremely small, with only 12 employees working out of an office in Zephyr Cove, Nevada, according to financial statements.

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