Apple has persuaded a US federal judge to throw out a $533m fine imposed by a jury that found the company guilty of infringing patents owned by Smartflash.
A report on Reuters said that Apple managed to overturn the ruling in Tyler, Texas when US district judge Rodney Gilstrap admitted that jurors who came down on the side of Smartflash in an earlier hearing had misunderstood his instructions on how to poperly calculate royalties.
Gilstrap said that his instructions to the jury during the trial in February "may have created a skewed damages horizon", as they were not applicable to the facts of the case despite being legally correct.
The judge ordered a new trial to reassess the damages, which will begin on 14 September.
The legal clash erupted in 2013 when Smartflash accused Apple of infringing three patents concerning accessing and storing music, video and games in iTunes.
The Texas jury sided with Smartflash and found Apple guilty of infringing the three patents.
Apple contested the decision, arguing that the damages figure was not proportionate to the value of the patents, which Apple estimated at $5m.
The company will now be able to contest the fine, but will still need to compensate Smartflash for infringing on the patents.
Apple took a dim view of Smartflash's legal case, and has previously criticised the patent system for allowing companies to harvest royalties for technology patents while not developing any products.
"Smartflash makes no products, has no employees, creates no jobs, has no US presence, and is exploiting our patent system to seek royalties for technology Apple invented," the firm said after the last ruling.
"We refused to pay off this company for the ideas our employees spent years innovating, and unfortunately we have been left with no choice but to take this fight up through the court system."
Apple and Smartflash had not offered any comment on Gilstrap's order of a new trial at the time of writing.
Whatever fine is finally imposed will be small change to Apple, given that the firm made profits of £13bn in its second quarter alone.
But Apple is clearly resentful about having to pay for patents that would otherwise be unused.
Author's View: Apple and other major technology firms cannot simply run amok and pilfer patents set up by others, but the Smartflash case appears to be a clear example of ‘patent trolling', whereby patent-holding companies doggedly pursue royalties for patents that they are not using.
Sitting on these patents is arguably a toxic part of the technology industry, blocking innovation and potentially stifling products and services that could benefit consumers and society.
However, balancing the patents system to be fair to all involved in one country, let alone across the globe, is not an easy task and we are likely to see more such patent cases in the future.
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