Four VirnetX patents ruled invalid in legal battle with Apple

Four patents VirnetX, an Internet security software and technology company, said were infringed by Apple have been deemed invalid by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, as the patents don't actually cover new inventions, the Office's Patent Trial and Appeal Board argued, according to Bloomberg. VirnetX CEO Kendell Larsen said his company will appeal the USPTO's decisions.

In January 2014, VirnetX filed a motion with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas seeking to supplement its infringement contentions against Apple, the defendant in a patent infringement lawsuit. And in May 2016 the company asked a Texas court to order Apple to stop providing its FaceTime and Messages features to customers, following the patent troll’s early court victory regarding patent infringement.

The motion alleged that Apple products, including products containing the redesigned VPN On Demand and Per App VPN features implemented in Apple’s iOS 7, continue to infringe VirnetX’s patented inventions. Some of the currently accused products in this lawsuit include the iPhone 5, iPod touch (fifth generation), iPad (fourth generation), iPad mini, and certain Macs.

However, in September 2014, a federal appeals court tossed out a $368 million jury award for patent infringement that VirnetX Holding won against Apple in 2012. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, a specialized Washington-based court that handles patent appeals, ruled the verdict was "tainted" by erroneous jury instructions in the case. This sent the case back to a trial court.

Some folks consider VirnetX a “patent troll”: an individual or an organization that purchases and holds patents for unscrupulous purposes such as stifling competition or launching patent infringement suits. In legal terms, a patent troll is a type of non-practicing entity: someone who holds a patent but is not involved in the design or manufacture of any product or process associated with that patent.