Apple couldn’t get past patent law at the U.S. Supreme Court

Glenn W. Peterson

Anytime California residents use “VPN on demand” or FaceTime on their iPhones or iPads, they are using technology that the courts say doesn’t belong to Apple. VirnetX began patent law litigation against Apple back in 2010 alleging the smartphone giant infringed upon its patents for these technologies. Since that time, the case has made its way all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A federal court awarded VirnetX $302 million plus fees and interest in 2016 for Apple’s infringement of four of the other company’s patents. Apple appealed, but a federal appeals court upheld the lower court’s verdict, which grew to $440 million with accrued interest and fees by 2019. Apple again appealed — this time to the U.S. Supreme Court saying the amount of damages overestimates the value of the technology that is the subject of the patents.

In the meantime, Apple filed claims that the patents in question are invalid with the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, which has declared one of the four patents that is the subject of the litigation invalid. A decision has not yet been made on the other three. Apple brought this up to the country’s highest court, but it wasn’t enough. The company’s appeal was rejected, which means the case now goes back to the federal trial court for the award to be enforced.

This case provides an example to small California businesses who hold patents that they do not have to bow to larger, more powerful corporations that circumvent patent law. Like VirnetX, they can also take their allegations of infringement to the courts. Working with the right intellectual property attorney could help increase the odds of success in protecting their patents.