back to article Bill for half a billion quid lands on Apple's desk in Facetime patent scrap

A notorious US patent court has ordered Apple to pay out more than half a billion dollars for infringing two patents related to its messaging software. A jury in the US Eastern District Court of Texas awarded $625m (£428m) to VirnetX, a patent-holding company that has long claimed that Apple's Facetime and iMessage offerings …

  1. ratfox Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    I wonder how it is to be in the jury in the Eastern District of Texas. What do they do to get that kind of record? Is it judges that are giving biased instructions? Do local newspapers defend the place as the last bastion where patent holders can have their rights recognized? Or does everybody simply know that the lawsuit industry is bringing money into a region which would otherwise be bare and desolate?

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Someone told them a patent infringement is akin to rustling cattle.

      (Which, if we are talking real patents, isn't actually that far off, come to think about it.)

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Why east Texas

      At some point patent lawyers crunched the numbers and found they had more success in that east Texas district than any other. So it makes sense to file there.

      I suspect it is more down to the judges than the juries. The juries decide who wins and the award, but the judges decide what the juries will and won't hear. I don't know what VirnetX's lawyers said in their closing statements that Apple had a problem with, but if it is something that Apple could have successfully objected to in another court but not in this one, and it had a bearing on the jury's ultimate decision, how the judge runs the courtroom is having a major impact on the outcome.

      1. Grikath Silver badge

        Re: Why east Texas

        Look up the sheer amount of "legal IP specialists" in that area..

        It's become a local industry there.. And you got to protect the local industry...

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: Why east Texas

          The IP specialists came because the lawsuits did. East Texas didn't decide to set up a cottage industry for patent lawsuits, it just happened.

  2. Sir Barry

    Beers all round

    Bloody hell!

    Apple spoke to El Reg.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Beers all round

      Beat me to it. Had to read it three times - Apple talked to El Reg! Is this the first sign of the apocalypse? Should I start preparing for the rapture, or zombies? What next? Tim Cook as MC for their next office party?

      1. g e

        Re: Beers all round

        It is coming...

        The Baconing

        The righteous shall all be NOM'd and the delicious meatiness shall abound!

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Beers all round

      That would explain the pig I saw flying over the airport this morning, then.

    3. <shakes head>

      Re: Beers all round

      a bit sad that the reg has sunk to suck lows that apple are now talking to them, we have now lost that badge of honour

  3. PsychicMonkey

    Apple wanting patent reform?

    wow, seems they don't like it up'em as the saying goes!

    A pox on all their houses!

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Apple wanting patent reform?

      Looks like the rubber band is on the other claw now!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A genuine question

    Has Apple ever filed in the aforementioned court as the aggreived party in a case, rather than responding to another case?

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Maybe Apple will move to Virginia.

  6. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Apple spoke to El Reg

    of course they did. It suited them. Would have been poetic justice if El Reg had refused to print what they said.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: Apple spoke to El Reg

      My first thought too! Apple speaking to El Reg! Seventh sign? I'm checking the skies now.

    2. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Apple spoke to El Reg


      And they all said that my heavy investment in a manufacturer of fine porcelain sanitary ware, designed for those of an Ursine persuasion, was a mistake!

  7. Ali Um Bongo

    Let Me Guess....

    Given the US Patent Office's past track record, it's likely the patents in question consisted of drawings of a stickman holding a square with another stickman's face on it. And the accompanying text read:

    *We baggsy using the internet for video phonecalls —possibly utilising electricity and silicon chips and other stuff "*

    1. gz

      Re: Let Me Guess....


  8. Tempest

    When will Apple learn what is meant by the term ...

    Open Software?

    They stole the name Apple, they stole their logo and Jobs stole the mouse. A corporate criminal enterprise that got caught, again.

  9. Chris G Silver badge

    Members of The Jury

    Does the jury base it's decision entirely on instructions from the judge or do they get to make their own minds up if they want to? Or something in between?

    The mind boggles at the thought of a bunch of cowpokes deciding on a technical issued that isn't barbed wire or a pickup truck,or is that West texas? Come to think of it, I would prefer the decisions of a bunch of cowpokes to those of quite a few mostly non technical judges.

  10. ma1010 Silver badge

    Stupid lawsuit

    Obviously this lawsuit is totally without any common sense or foundation. It's almost as silly as someone winning hundreds of millions of dollars in a lawsuit over, oh I dunno, putting rounded corners on a phone or something. Something like THAT would also be a great reason to look at patent reform.

    But we didn't hear that particular cry before from Apple, did we? But NOW they start crying for patent reform. When the shoe goes on the other foot, it can pinch like a bastard, can't it?

    Did I hear someone say "Karma"?

  11. CheesyTheClown

    Obvious and prior art

    Agile network protocol for secure communications using secure domain names

    US 7921211 B2

    As a former protocol engineer for Tandberg AS (now Cisco) who implemented time synchronization and encryption as well as NAT/firewall traversal code, I would dispute this patent as :

    a) unoriginal... the described invention is not an invention rather than a bundle of other peoples inventions in an obvious manor. The description on the invention even spells that out.

    b) impractical... even in a QoS enabled environment with cut-through low-latency switches, the application of this combination is ... as Sarah Palin would say non-sensical. I highly doubt Apple implemented this "invention" as suggested.

    c) obvious ... dns proxying has been a hiding technique we all have used for decades before this patent.

    d) unoriginal again... obfuscation by "shaking the box" has been around since the 70's... even in film references.

    US 7418504 B2

    I haven't read it all the way through since it's so silly (almost a duplicate of the other) that it was granted. I feel that they chose their specific wording to make it so the patent reviewer wouldn't understand it well enough to say no to it. I probably could find 1000 holes in this one without much effort from the skimming I've done so far.

    These patents feel like they were written because the author thought they were so smart and no one else would think of these things. In reality, they appear pretty simple and I'm almost 100% convinced that I could easily dispute most of the claims made. Of course, I would be shocked if there aren't earlier patents which would be applicable as prior art but would open things up for another case. People patent this stuff all the time. They pick some REALLY obvious stuff, write it down somewhat cryptically, pay a fee and then sue.

    I don't care much for Apple, but I dislike patent trolls more.

  12. Oengus Silver badge

    Why is there a case at all?

    If "All four of VirnetX's patents have been found invalid by the patent office. Cases like this simply reinforce the desperate need for patent reform." is true, why is there even a court case? Shouldn't the case be thrown out because the patents don't exist.

    If the patents had been ruled invalid and my lawyers didn't file that with the courts immediately and request that the case be dismissed I would fire them then sue the lawyers.

  13. Crazy Operations Guy

    Easy patent reform

    Implement a requirement that the company holding the patent must also be producing, or actively developing a product that the patent covers, otherwise the patent is allowed for others to use.

    1. Queasy Rider

      Re: Easy patent reform

      I think ARM would have an objection to that.

  14. Queasy Rider

    Help me understand

    I would sincerely like to know what is REALLY causing this problem. Is it within the patent office? I've read stories of patent officers stubbornly refusing to deny any patent at all, stories of patent examiners being rated by how many patents they approve, regardless of quality. If that is the case then the problem is patent office management. Is it patent off funds or budget? But what about external influences? Could large patent generating outfits like IBM be lobbying, and therefore holding back legislators from rectifying the situation? When the IBMs of the world hold most of the patents, are patent trolls just considered a minor cost of doing business? Do legislators even care? This inquiring mind would like to know.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    some idiots think that the VirnetX case is about cryptowars

    for example VirnetX did actually test/use similar protocols to iMessage when they developed netEraser for SAIC around the year 2000. That VirnetX patent portfolio was definitively funded by US intelligence agencies. if you check the media from 16 years ago there was a brief flurry of optimism over netEraser style secure communications being able to be shortly released to help humanity, instead we got niche warfare products, eventually leading to patent trolling when the expensive fruit company does start to sell meelions of shiny devices. . .how impressive!

    Dr. Robert Short III and Edmund ‘Gif’ Munger were the co-inventors and designers in the years 1999-2000 of the instant secure connect mechanism for third-party identity management and collaboration services based upon encryption and certification technology with assured system availability which became known as netEraser (In-Q-Tel/VirnetX)

    There have been repeated attempts to ask SAIC/VirnetX questions concerning the development of netEraser, in the US court & patent system, from the likes of Apple, CISCO, NEC and Microsoft. netEraser seems to build upon the work of Professor Henning Schulzrinne of Columbia University; 1999 internet systems known widely as the SIP protocol and the RtTP protocol (session initiation protocol & real-time transport protocol).

    links, why not. . . *SAIC NetEraser* *previous VirnetX SAIC related court case* *SAIC Gif Munger discussion with NSTAC* *SIP page updated by Prof Schulzrinne* *page about Prof Schulzrinne*

  16. Stevie Silver badge



    I only just got that fucking app working on Saturday by dint of installing the "bricking" update on all the family ipads.

    Didn't brick a one, by the way. Bar genius told me that that issue was down to people not knowing their Apple account password. Not sure that jibes with others' experience, but our various ipads upgraded seamlessly.

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