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You’ve probably never heard of VirnetX, a company that owns patents related to virtual private networking, but Apple owes it some big bucks.
A federal jury ruled yesterday in Dallas that Apple must pay VirnetX $368.2 million in damages, Bloomberg reports. At issue was virtual private networking (VPN) technology used by Apple’s FaceTime video chat, which VirnetX claims Apple is infringing on.
The news is particularly surprising because it’s rare to see Apple take such a big hit in court. VirnetX has already had success defending its technology — it scored $200 million from Microsoft in 2010 over the same issue. The company was originally aiming for $708 million in damages from Apple, according to Bloomberg.
VirnetX’s tech revolves around creating private networks, which can be used to securely send files and which allow website owners to securely communicate with their customers. It’s the communication aspect that VirnetX is likely focusing on with FaceTime, though Apple says it uses a different technology altogether.
Mckool Smith, a lawyer who represents VirnetX, noted that Apple developers didn’t pay attention to outside patents when creating FaceTime. (In a logical world, that would mean Apple was free from infringement, but that’s not how things work in the bizarro world of software patents.)
Danny Williams, a Houston-based lawyer representing Apple, said the company doesn’t owe any money to VirnetX. “VirnetX is not entitled to money for things they did not invent,” he said. “The VirnetX technology, if used, is a small part of very large, complex products.”
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