Apple told to pay US$506 million in Texas patent trial verdict

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(Aug 12): Apple Inc. was told by a federal jury in Texas to pay Optis Wireless Technology US$506.2 million in patent royalties related to 4G technology in the iPhone and other devices.

The jury in Marshall, Texas, found that five patents were infringed. It also found that the infringement was willful, which means District Judge Rodney Gilstrap could increase the amount by as much as three times the amount set by the jurors.

Optis and its partners in the case, Panoptis Patent Management, and Unwired Planet LLC, claimed that Apple’s smartphones, watches, and tablets that operate over the LTE cellular standard were using its technology. Apple, which argued the patents were invalid, pledged to appeal.

“Lawsuits like this by companies who accumulate patents simply to harass the industry only serve to stifle innovation and harm consumers,” Apple said in a statement.

The case is in the same eastern Texas district where Apple is facing another potential half-billion verdict. VirnetX Holding Corp. is seeking royalties on Apple’s Virtual Private Network on Demand. An earlier jury had awarded $503 million, but an appeals court ordered a new trial on damages after tossing part of the underlying liability finding.

The VirnetX trial was scheduled to begin next week in Tyler, but on Monday District Court Judge Robert Schroeder postponed it until October, saying the region is “in the midst of a Covid-19 outbreak.”

Apple was less successful in getting the Optis trial pushed to October, though its arguments were made in July, when there were fewer cases in the region.

Lawyers for the closely held Optis said it was the first patent jury trial in the U.S. since the pandemic began.

“The court was very careful and conscious of how the jury was spaced,” said Optis’s lawyer, Jason Sheasby at Irell & Manella. “Everyone was wearing face masks, and the court was totally focused on health of the jurors and health of the witnesses.”

The case is Optis Wireless Technology v. Apple Inc., 19-66, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (Marshall).