Apple has won a key ruling against VirnetX over patents related to FaceTime and its VPN on-demand feature. The companies have been in dispute for some time, with damages of $368.2 million awarded to Texas-based VirnetX in a previous case in 2012, and a separate $290.7 million award earlier this year. Now, however, US district judge Robert Schroeder, is vacating the verdicts and has ordered a new trial to begin in September.
The trial was combined into a retrial for damages against Apple in 2012’s case over a VPN-related patent, and as a new trial for patent infringement in iMessage and FaceTime.
Schroeder said VirnetX lawyers acted improperly and may have biased the jury with repeated mentions of the previous win over Apple, creating confusion and unfairly prejudicing Apple. While VirnetX was allowed to mention the verdict, it reportedly did so at the wrong time.
The judge quoted a VirnetX attorney’s argument during the trial that he viewed as potentially prejudicial: “There was a trial in November of 2012 right here in this courthouse and right here in this courtroom. And at trial Apple said those same remarks about not using the patent. And you know, the jury didn't believe them and agreed with us. And there was a verdict in late 2012, November, that [VOD] and FaceTime infringes."
Schroeder also felt that that combining two lawsuits (one over FaceTime and the other over VPN technology) into one trial created the "potential for juror confusion."
That doesn’t mean Apple is on the clear, however. The judge has ordered two new trials to deal with the claims separately, with the first starting on September 26th, 2016.
ArsTechnica reports VirnetX’s patents originated at a company called Science Applications International Corporation. So far VirnetX’s has basically used its patent portfolio to sue technology companies that are actually developing products and services, and has yet to develop their own. Following the judgement, the company's shares fell 44.6 percent.