Apple Challenges Bid To Block iMessage, Facetime


The company argues its customers would be harmed by removing iMessage, Facetime and VPN On Demand from its devices

Apple has said it plans to challenge efforts by a patent licensing company that aim to disable Apple’s Facetime and iMessage services, following a jury verdict that found the software contained patented technology.

The case casts light on the extensive litigation that has accompanied the growth of the mobile device business upon which Apple’s current fortunes are founded.


Facetime, iMessage ban

In February patent licensing company VirnetX was awarded $625m (£426m) in royalties by a Texas jury who found that Apple had infringed four of the company’s patents.

“The jury agreed once again that Apple has been using the technology developed by our inventors,” said VirnetX chief executive Kendall Larsen at the time.

The company, based in Nevada, last week formally asked the court for at least $190m in further damages, as well as the suspension of Apple’s Facetime, iMessage and VPN On Demand, all three of which were involved in the court decision.

The ongoing sales of the Apple services were causing irreperable harm to VirnetX, the company argued, according to reports in the legal press.

In 2012 a court ordered Apple to pay VirnetX $368.2m in damages, but that ruling was eventually thrown out and was followed by a retrial earlier this year.

‘Mistrial’ argument

Apple is contesting the court’s findings, is seeking a mistrial and a termination to any royalty obligations.

The company argues that any injunction would be inappropriate since the patents involved in the case have been invalidated by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The company says VirnetX presented insufficient evidence of infringement and made an invalid argument to the jury.

Apple declined to comment.

The validity of VirnetX’s patents hasn’t been settled definitively, and is currently being contested before the Supreme Court.

VirnetX makes a security and communications platform called Gabriel that is built on its patents, but that technology was only released in 2015, and the bulk of the company’s revenues come from patent licensing activities that have gone on for a number of years.

Aside from its litigation with Apple, Cisco and others, the company has reached settlements with companies including Microsoft, Mitel, NEC and Siemens.

In March 2010 Microsoft appealed a legal judgement ordering it to pay $105.7m to VirnetX but later that year settled the case for the substantially higher amount of $200m.

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