A federal court in Eastern Texas, notorious for siding with so-called 'patent trolls' - with whom it has become wildly popular - has struck again. This time, it has ruled that Apple must pay $502.6 million to VirnetX, a 'patent hoarding' company or patent troll.
Apple and VirnetX have been in a prolonged court battle since 2010 when the patent-holding company accused Apple of infringing four VirnetX patents in its FaceTime, iMessage and VPN on Demand services.
This week, an Eastern Texas court ruled that Apple infringes on four VirnetX patents and must pay $502.6m in damages.
According to Bloomberg, who first reported the decision, VirnetX's stock skyrocketed by 44 per cent on Tuesday after the jury concluded Apple was violating its patents. The company is listed on the NYSE American stock exchange, formerly known as the American Stock Exchange or AMEX.
Kendall Larsen, CEO of VirnetX, described the damages, which were based on sales of more than 400 million Apple devices, as "fair".
"The evidence was clear," Larsen said after the verdict was announced. "Tell the truth and you don't have to worry about anything."
Bloomberg notes, though, that this could be a short-lived victory for VirnetX. In 2016, the US Patent and Trademark Office's Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) invalidated four VirnetX patents in a related case, two of which were leveraged in the case decided this week.
VirnetX is currently in the process of appealing the PTAB ruling, which means the patents remain valid in the eyes of the court. The Federal Circuit declined to put the latest trial on hold, Bloomberg says, saying it was so far along that a verdict would come before a final validity decision.
Apple lawyers did not comment on this latest decision, though the company will likely appeal.
Apple isn't the only company that the patent troll has pursued. Microsoft agreed to pay $200m to VirnetX in 2010 to obtain a licence for two patents covering communicating over the internet.
This ruling came after a federal jury in the same troll-friendly Texas court ordered Microsoft to pay $105.75m to the money-grabbing firm.
VirnetX then accused Microsoft in 2013 of infringing its patents in the firm's Skype service.
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