VirnetX demands FaceTime and iMessage block

News
31 May, 2016

Patent holder was recently awarded $625 million in damages, but it wants more

Apple is contesting a call from a software firm for it to cease its FaceTime and iMessage services over what the accusing party claims is “irreparable harm”.

VirnetX, a Nevada-based software and patent licensing firm, was awarded $625 million after a judge concluded Apple had wilfully infringed four of its patents.

Now the firm is seeking further damages of $190 million or more, and has called for Apple to be blocked from using VirnetX’s patented technology for its video and encrypted text messaging services.

Apple is opposing the action. The iPhone maker has argued that the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has invalidated VirnetX's claim to the inventions, and wants the Texas court to disregard the firm’s claims. This argument could yet been softened, as the USPTO’s decision is due to be contested in a separate case before the Supreme Court.

FaceTime and iMessage are built-in, free services available on Apple’s iPhone, iPad and Mac, and the company has added that its customers will be harmed if it was forced to cease providing them.

Countering this, VirnetX said its own messaging service, Gabriel Collaboration Suite, is hurting because of Apple’s actions.

Gabriel is not well known in its own right. VirnetX, however, does licence its technology to major companies, including, Siemens, NEC and Microsoft, the latter of which owns VoIP service Skype.

04/02/2016: Apple must pay $625m after infringing patents on FaceTime and iMessage

Apple has been ordered to pay $625.6 million for infringing patents used in several of its apps, including iMessage and FaceTime.

A Texas jury ruled unanimously that Apple’s iMessage, FaceTime and VPN services, as well as the devices running them, were an infringement of patents covering secure communications protocols held by Nevada-based software firm VirnetX.

VirnetX previously sued Apple in 2012 lawsuit for the same IP, when it was awarded $368.2 million in damages, and Apple was forced to redesign FaceTime’s software. That verdict was later nullified on appeal in September 2014.

Following this appeal ruling, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit called for a damages retrial. In the retrial, VirnetX demanded $532 million, but later inflated the sum to $625.6 million because Apple continued to use protocols covered by its patents in FaceTime.

VirnetX amended its second court order to include infringement allegations related to FaceTime’s redesign.

Today’s ruling, first spotted by Apple Insider, instructed Apple to pay out for infringing on VirnetX’ communication patents. Apple’s VPN On Demand feature, used in iOS 3 through iOS 6, covered by two VirnetX patents, has cost the company $334.9 million in damages.

The version of FaceTime used in iOS 4 to iOS 6 and OS X 10.7 to OS X 10.8, and its tweaked revisions, which include iMessage, also infringed on two of its patents, costing Apple another $290.7 million.

VirnetX has a reputation for being a “patent troll”, and bringing court action against large tech firms. It has previously sued Microsoft, winning a $200 million settlement in 2010, and won $23 million more in a 2014 case involving Skype.