Many companies find themselves in the crosshairs of so-called "patent trolls". Smaller businesses often don't have the resources to take on a protracted legal battle, regardless of outcome, and as such look to settle in order to avoid exhausting their resources. But large corporations with considerable resources and crack legal teams aren't immune from the scourge. With massive sales and market share comes a target on your back from non-practicing entities(NPEs) that see a way to exploit their patents to a huge payday if they win. And one such NPE just received a second decision against a tech giant.
VirnetX filed suit against Apple in an East Texas court, claiming that the omnipresent electronics manufacturer has infringed upon the company's patents related to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). Those VPNs are what Apple uses for its FaceTime video messaging system.
This case was a continuation of the ongoing legal battle between the two companies. VirnetX had previously filed suit against Apple in 2012 over the alleged infringement of Apple's VPNs. That suit ended with VirnetX being awarded $368 million, as well as a royalty of one percent on iPhone and iPad revenue. And while that decision was later overturned on appeal, the Appeals Court did uphold the finding that Apple's VPN infringed upon VirnetX's patents.
Now, the second leg of the legal battle between VirnetX and Apple has ended with the so-called "patent trolls winning a $626 million decision in the most recent proceedings, an even larger sum than they were awarded in the first trial. The jury found that Apple was willfully violating the patents held by VirnetX at the time, although Apple has since gone back to alter its VPN services to avoid infringement.
The decision in VirnetX's favor isn't be the first such legal victory for the company. They had previously reached a $200 million settlement with Microsoft, as well as another $23 million settlement from Microsoft-owned Skype. While the previous ruling would seem to be a poor omen, Apple will undoubtedly hope that any decisions or settlements can minimize the financial impact on the company.