Apple Loses MTel Pager Patent Case, Ordered to Pay $23.6M

Apple has been ordered to pay Mobile Telecommunications Technologies LLC US$23.6 million for infringing on six patents related to 1990s-era pager technology. MTel claimed the messaging and WiFi technology used in the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch infringe on patents it owns, and a federal jury in Marshall, Texas, agreed.

Apple ordered to pay MTel $23.6 million for infringing on pager patentsApple ordered to pay MTel $23.6 million for infringing on pager patents

MTel is the company behind SkyTel pagers, so the company doesn't follow the typical patent troll model even though the infringement case was filed in Marshall, Texas — a court known for favoring patent trolls. The SkyTel two-way pager network is still in service despite the popularity of newer mobile communication tech including smartphones and old-school cell phones. The network primarily serves first responders and emergency medical personel.

The company had hoped to get a $1 royalty per infringing device from Apple, according to Bloomberg, which would've amounted to about $237 million.

Apple denied it infringed on MTel's patents, some of which recently expired. The iPhone and iPad maker also said MTel was trying to take credit for calendar invites and emoji icons, and that the company hadn't patented anything new.

MTel previously filed infringement lawsuits against UPS and BlackBerry over similar claims. The company's patents seem to cover much of the tech behind text messaging, so now that Apple has lost in court, it's possible MTel could have plans to target more smartphone makers.

Apple recently won a second patent infringement case related to pager technology from GPNE. In that case, Apple was barred from calling the intellectual property holding company a patent troll and from saying GPNE was using extortion tactics.

Apple can appeal the ruling in the MTel case, but hasn't offered any public comment yet as to whether or not that's in the works.