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Apple appeals to Supreme Court over 'grossly unfair' VirnetX ruling

How to make a FaceTime call on iPhone, iPad, or Mac
How to make a FaceTime call on iPhone, iPad, or Mac (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Apple has told the Supreme Court it objects to a Federal Court ruling against it.
  • Patent troll VirnetX was awarded $439 million in January of 2019.
  • Apple claims that the sum is too high, and that other previous cases were not taken into account.

Apple has told the Supreme Court it objects to a Federal Court ruling, in which patent licensing company VirnetX was awarded the sum of $439 million in January 2019.

According to Law360:

Apple has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to undo a Federal Circuit decision upholding a jury verdict ordering the company to pay $439 million for infringing VirnetX's network security patents, saying the "grossly unfair" outcome hinged on "fundamental legal errors." In a petition for a writ of certiorari filed Dec. 27, the tech giant argued that the Federal Circuit's January 2019 decision was wrong for two reasons: It failed to limit the damages awarded to the value of the patented features, and it let the verdict stand after the patents were invalidated by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office."

In the filing Apple writes:

"Defying this court's commands, the Federal Circuit committed two fundamental legal errors to sustain a whopping $439 million judgment... It applied a rule that is fueling grossly excessive damages awards. And it sustained the inflated award even though the PTO has invalidated the underlying patent claims."

Essentially, Apple believes the ruling is unfair because previous precedent deemed that damages should be limited to the value of the patent itself within a product, not the product itself. Most of the Apple/VirnetX disputes revolve around FaceTime and iMessage, so by the same rule damages should be restricted to the value of those features, not the value of the iPhone.

The second, perhaps more important bone of contention, is that the USPTO invalidated the patents held by VirnetX the suit was based on. However, the Federal Court seemingly did not reconsider its findings on the grounds the case was no longer pending. Apple argues the case is still pending, as the Supreme Court is yet to deny an order reviewing the case"

"There is no need or justification to require a defendant to pay massive damages for infringing patent claims that the PTO has decided should never have been issued in the first place."

It makes sense when you put it like that. However, Apple's battle with VirnetX is nearly 10 years old, and if history has taught us anything, it's that this case is far from simple, and reason doesn't usually seem to prevail...

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple.