back to article Apple grudgingly opens up its check book, pays VirnetX $454m in patent royalties after a decade of wrangling

Apple has finally coughed up the $454m it owes VirnetX for infringing its video-conferencing patents, nearly a decade after Cupertino first lost the lawsuit. On Friday, the secure comms outfit announced victory over Apple in a short statement: “VirnetX, an Internet security software and technology company, announced today that …

  1. cb7

    What a bunch of cnuts.

    Good on VirnetX for having the resources to do battle against this hedious monstrosity.

    $454m just doesn't seem like enough. Especially considering how hard Apple tried to avoid paying. The award should double for each failed appeal.

    The number of iPads and iPhones people buy and use purely so they can Facetime other Apple worshippers is huge. That award should have been a few $Bn at least.

    1. Snake Silver badge

      U.S. legal

      The problem is our legal system, which in a way is fundamentally broken. In the U.K., the losing side may be on the hook for legal costs but not (here) in the U.S. This allows everything from frivolous lawsuits; to delay tactics; to endless appeals; to almost the equivalent of blackmail fraud in filing lawsuits with no merit or chance to win in a simple effort to bankrupt the other side before they can get their court-appointed justice.

      The laws need to be rewritten to allow judges more leeway in applying penalties due to frivolity or dishonesty from either side.

      1. Wade Burchette Silver badge

        Re: U.S. legal

        The purpose sometimes is, not to win, but to bankrupt you through legal proceedings. Death by a thousand cuts. You see people/businesses with big wallets do this to silence a poorer person/business. And if the poorer person/business finds a way to raise the legal money needed, the rich person/business will delay, delay, delay and do other dirty tactics hoping you run out of money.

        I know you won't be surprised, but many US politicians used to be lawyers.

  2. JimboSmith Silver badge

    Reminds me of why my football team is currently a tenant of Birmingham City and the St Andrews Stadium. See here https://www.theguardian.com/football/2019/apr/20/toxic-tactics-coventry-slide-oblivion-litigious-hedge-fund-sisu for more info

    Basically they tried to get the stadium management company (then owned by the council) and their lease for the arena on the cheap. They instigated legal case after legal case and appealed etc. At almost every turn they've lost, with a judge describing one case as a no score draw. Council subsequently sold the stadium operation company to Wasps rugby who now own the Ricoh Arena in all but freehold. Despite all this our owners refuse to give up on the legals against the council and Wasps rugby. They currently have a state aid complaint in with the EU which is what caused us to end up in Birmingham. They also insist we're going to build our own stadium in Coventry but have been saying that for years

    As a result we've been exiled to Birmingham but it's not all bad as the manager and team have got us to top of League One.

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
      Happy

      As a result we've been exiled to Birmingham

      .. as opposed to being sent to Coventry!

      1. JimboSmith Silver badge

        .. as opposed to being sent to Coventry!

        You're not the first person to make that comment and doubtless won't be the last. Have an upvote though. I should probably have written self exiled as that's what's really happened. We went to Northampton before that as part of their bankrupt the stadium campaign. All that did was nearly bankrupt the club.

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
          Happy

          It's like when someone has a weird name, and on meeting someone new, they get the same old joke they've heard millions of times, from someone who thinks that they are the first person to say it!

          However, in this case, the joke was meant for others, not you. You were just collateral damage, sorry! :-)

  3. Peter Prof Fox

    Switch the burden of proof?

    If I win once then perhaps an appeal (If on genuine and reasonable grounds -- Does the US system have that sort of nuance?) should be allowed. After two wins then the boot should be on the other foot. ie. Prove a mis-trial. Hard to do since at the appeal one would presume all legal guns would be blazing. Surely at third trial the question of incompetence of lawyers must arise. "Oh yes your honour, we lost because of utterly incompetent lawyers." shouldn't be a defence,

    Good result.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Switch the burden of proof?

      One has to wonder why 'my lawyers were rubbish' is ever (save possibly in the case that lawyers have been provided for you) a reason to appeal. After all, you picked 'em, so if they can't present your case sufficiently well that's surely your problem?

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Switch the burden of proof?

      The U.S. system mostly works like that, but they currently make it easy to allege something justifying an appeal, including failure to correctly interpret law or case law on the part of a jury who likely doesn't know it. There are three general solutions to this problem, and each come with downsides which could potentially be significant:

      1. Make it difficult to get grounds for appeal on anything other than intentional mishandling by the judge or judges. This would reduce the case load of useless cases. This could result in a situation where an incompetent or unjust judge gets to do what they like without much risk of having their judgements overturned, which could produce injustice.

      2. Make it easy to get grounds for appeal. This would make it easier for a problem somewhere in the legal system to produce only short-term consequences and be evident to those responsible for trying to fix it. It produces an absurd number of cases and could throw the judicial system into paralysis.

      3. Make laws easier for the general public to understand and require the same of contracts, patents, and other similar components of the legal system by limiting the scope of any particular part and requiring the drafter of the law, contract, etc. to fill out clarifying details. This would reduce the likelihood of misinterpretation allegations to be taken seriously. This runs the very serious risks that someone might understand what they were agreeing to and what restrictions applied to them. Because of these risks, this alternative is clearly very dangerous and therefore probably won't be put in place.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Coat

    You win some ...

  6. DougS Silver badge

    They won't be going after just Apple

    Their patents are extremely broad and basically cover ANY direct point to point conferencing software. Like Skype, Whatsapp, etc. Armed with a fat warchest to pay lawyers for years to come, they will no doubt be suing everyone who is or has had video conferencing software that doesn't intermediate through a server (the change Apple was forced to make years ago to avoid being Virnetx's bitch for the life of the patents)

    1. mark l 2 Silver badge

      Re: They won't be going after just Apple

      Maybe Microsoft and Facebook have decided to pay up to royalties to license the patents rather than risk getting dragged in to court. Although i think Skype is no longer point to point any more since Microsoft purchased it a few years ago I think all calls go through their servers now.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: They won't be going after just Apple

        I never read anything about such a license - you'd think that VirnetX would have mentioned that a lot during the years of trials with Apple.

        Even if Skype goes around their patents like Apple does now, that wouldn't stop it from being the target of a lawsuit for past damages.

    2. CBM

      LEA front?

      A paranoid person would note that usual circumvention for the patents involves doing the link via a server rather than point to point... which is very much more convenient for LEA interception, can't help but wonder if the alphabet agencies (CIA/NSA/FBI etc) are mixed in this somewhere.

  7. tiggity Silver badge

    Please get rid of the .co.uk reg domain

    As it is really irritating seeing a "UK" domain but then "check" is prominently displayed instead of "cheque"

    Just give up pretences of UK ness and revert to simplified English for everything, it will be less annoying

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Please get rid of the .co.uk reg domain

      El Reg is a uk site, but if you bothered to look the author for this article is "By Kieren McCarthy in San Francisco 16 Mar 2020 at 23:51.

      Are you surprised that the american correspondent, covering an american legal battle, between american firms, writes in american English?

      *rolleyes*

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Please get rid of the .co.uk reg domain

        Kieren is English.

        1. EnviableOne Silver badge

          Re: Please get rid of the .co.uk reg domain

          probably not by descent, Kieran is the Irish form of the Gaelic Ciarán (little dark one)

  8. Buzzword

    Here's the detail

    There are four patents at stake:

    6,502,135 - Agile network protocol for secure communications with assured system availability (filed 2000)

    7,490,151 - Establishment of a secure communication link based on a domain name service (DNS) request (filed 2002)

    7,418,504 - Agile network protocol for secure communications using secure domain names (filed 2003)

    7,921,211 - Agile network protocol for secure communications using secure domain names (filed 2007)

    All four of them mean broadly the same thing: When you try to connect to server X, the software first checks if X is known to be a secure server. If so, the software sets up a VPN to initiate a secure connection; if not, it initiates an insecure connection. The details vary between the patents, but the gist is the same.

    I'd have thought there'd be prior art to invalidate all of them, but U.S. patent law is a curious beast.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: Here's the detail

      If Apple had any sense they'd use some of their money to lobby for patent reform. But one suspects that, under the current system, they gain more than they lose.

  9. Wade Burchette Silver badge

    Apple is the kind of company ...

    Apple is the kind of company that will spend $1000 to avoid pay $1 and admitting fault. They would rather be right than anything else.

    1. Nunyabiznes Silver badge

      Re: Apple is the kind of company ...

      Correct.

      They certainly don't mind doing wrong - they just don't like getting called out on it.

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Apple is the kind of company ...

        Apple are never wrong. If they appear to be wrong, it is simply a side effect of the Jobesian Reality Distortion Field(TM) not yet having taken effect.

        Please just start holding it correctly, and everything will appear right in short order...

  10. simonlb Silver badge
    Stop

    Hopefully, One Day...

    Hopefully, one day someone will revise the legal process so that if you have already lost a case twice and insist on appealing again to drag out the process (like Apple and numerous others like to do), there is an additional clause put in so that if you lose the case a third time you are classed as a 'Vexatious Litigant' and any payments already awarded against you are doubled with an additional punitive sum also added (call it a 'cease and desist' payment) and no further appeals or lawsuits relating to this now closed case can ever be brought again.

  11. Adelio

    Intelectual Property.

    Although I understand the principle of I.P. The way it seems to being used seems wrong.

    More and more.. Actually companies have been abusing the Patent system for a very long time. Edison anybody. anyway, Patents seem like they only work for large companies. Small companies and individuals have very little chance of fighting a patent litigant.

    And the patent of software, That definately seems like a way to abuse companies.

    It does seem like the US patent systme is totally broken. Not saying that it is much better elswhere in the world.

  12. EnviableOne Silver badge

    $454m a drop in the ocean

    Apple have 1000 times that in cash reserves (all be it not actually in the US)

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020