Court fines Apple a whopping $625 million over FaceTime and VPN patent infringement

apple encryption court order news logo
There are few corporate entities less scrupulous than so-called patent trolls. They’re companies that don’t manufacture or sell the intellectual property they own, but nonetheless happily extract licensing fees and settlements from companies they identify as guilty of infringing on said property. In this morally dubious category of firms, Nevada-based VirnetX is unquestionably one of the most prolific: It won a $200 million verdict against Microsoft in 2010, and turned its attention to Apple that same year. Now the decision against Apple is out, and the news isn’t at all good for the iPhone maker.

“Cases like this simply reinforce the desperate need for patent reform.”

Jurors in an East Texas federal court awarded VirnetX a massive $625 million over patents related to Apple’s virtual private network (VPN) and FaceTime features. The penalties amounted to almost a $100 million more than VirnetX was seeking.

The fine actually represents a consolidation of two separate settlements. A jury in 2012 ordered Apple to pay $355 million after ruling that the company violated several of VirnetX’s secure VPN network patents, but the decision was overturned on appeal. This week, the court reinstated the original fine and assessed additional damages of $290 million over intellectual property violations in FaceTime.

At issue are several patents, at least one of which which dates back to 1998. They describe “secure communications” over the Internet, vague technology that VirnetX argues Apple improperly imitated in its implementation of VPN, FaceTime, and iMessage encryption. “The jury saw what we have been saying all along: Apple has been infringing on VirnetX’s patented technology for years,” the legal firm that represents VirnetX said in a statement.

Apple, unsurprisingly, disagreed. “We are surprised and disappointed by the outcome and we’re going to appeal,” said a company spokesperson, who added that all of the patents which VirnetX cited in its original case have since been invalidated by the United States Patent Office. “Our employees independently designed this technology over many years,” the company said. “Cases like this simply reinforce the desperate need for patent reform.”

The Cupertino company may have a point. According to research firm United Patents, holding companies like VirnetX filed 66.9 percent of patent lawsuits in the United States in 2015 alone, and the Eastern District of Texas handled a disproportionate number of those cases — 44 percent (and over 400 alone last November). Why the preference for Texas? Consumer advocacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation maintains that the Eastern District erects arbitrary judicial barriers to defendants in patent trials. While companies as large and profitable as Apple can afford a legal team capable of combating such out-of-state cases, smaller firms often opt to settle with patent abusers.

There’s hope on the horizon — a petition currently before the Federal Circuit aims to reduce the number of cases in the Eastern District’s jurisdiction — but until bogus patent enforcement becomes significantly more challenging or expensive, patent holding firms will no doubt continue to litigate. VirnetX, for one, is actively pursuing cases against Cisco, Siemens, Avaya, and others.


Lawsuit over Capital One data breach could eventually get you sweet revenge

The law firm Colson Hicks Eidson has filed a class-action lawsuit against Capital One “for negligence in failing to safeguard consumers’ personal information” in the recent data breach that impacted 100 million consumers.
Movies & TV

Apple TV+ : Everything we know about Apple’s Netflix-style streaming service

Apple has an ambitious slate of original programming it has been developing for its streaming service Apple TV+, and now we know some details about where and when we'll be able to see it. Here's everything we know about Apple TV+ so far.
Home Theater

Ditto lets you watch up to four sources of video at once on an Apple TV

Apple TV's screen mirroring feature is very handy, but also very limited. You can only mirror Apple devices and only one at a time. A new version of Squirrel's Ditto app for tvOS eliminates these restrictions.

Need a new tablet? Here are the best Apple iPad deals for August 2019

In the wide world of tablets, Apple is still the king. If you're on team Apple and just can't live without iOS, we've curated an up-to-date list of all of the best iPad deals currently available for August 2019.

Motorola One Action says goodbye to annoying vertical videos

The new midrange Motorola One Action features an ultra-wide-angle lens that means you can take horizontal video while filming vertically. Here's everything you need to know about the Motorola One Action.

A dead pixel doesn't mean a dead display. Here's how to repair it

Dead pixel got you down? We don't blame you. Check out our guide on how to fix a dead pixel and save yourself that costly screen replacement or an unwanted trip to your local repair shop.

Critical Bluetooth security bug discovered. Protect yourself with a quick update

Researchers have discovered a major new security flaw in Bluetooth, which could leave millions of devices at risk of a malicious hack. The attack allows a hacker to “break” Bluetooth security without anyone knowing.

Score this Amazon-renewed Apple iPhone XS at a $350 discount

iPhones are pretty expensive pieces of technology, but if you don’t mind buying a renewed model, you can save quite a bit of money. Amazon is offering renewed unlocked versions of the Apple iPhone XS at a $350 discount.

Best smartwatch deals for August 2019: Samsung, Fitbit, and Apple Watch sales

Smartwatches make life easier by sending alerts right on your wrist. Many also provide fitness-tracking features. If you're ready to take the plunge into wearables and want to save money, here are the best smartwatch deals for August 2019.

Learn how to make your iPhone play local radio in iOS 13

Find out exactly how to use the Live Radio in iOS 13: Our guide will explain how iOS 13 connects to live radio, what commands to give, and how to revisit past stations. Enjoy your favorite live radio right from your iPhone.

Looking for a good cheap phone? Get the Samsung Galaxy A10 for $145 on Amazon

Samsung's A-Series lineup features phone models from the low-end to the mid-tier. One of its cheaper ones, the Galaxy A10, is perhaps watered-down specs-wise but still boasts enough workable features that make it recommendable.

These fraudulent Android apps were downloaded 8 million times

According to a new report from security research firm Trend Micro, a hefty 85 Android apps have been caught serving fraudulent ads that take over the user's screen -- and those apps have been downloaded 8 million times.

Score this Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus with a huge $101 discount at Amazon

If you're thinking about upgrading your phone and not willing to expend over $800 on the S10, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is a great option. It's discounted by $101 at Amazon, dropping its price from $700 to only $599.
Social Media

Spice up your Instagram videos by adding your top tunes to the soundtrack

Have you ever taken a beautiful video, only to have it ruined by some jerk in the background yelling curse words? Here's a list of apps you can use to add your own music to Instagram posts as well as your Story.