Texas Jury Says Apple didn't Infringe on WiLAN Patents

Patent holding company WiLAN took it on the chin Wednesday when a Federal Jury ruled that Apple isn't infringing on the CDMA and HSPA-related patents it holds. That's good news for Apple, and an interesting turn, too, since the court that ruled against WiLAN is the Eastern District in Texas -- a court that's known for favoring patent holders.

WiLAN loses out in patent fight with AppleWiLAN loses out in patent fight with Apple

WiLAN accused Apple, along with Alcatel-Lucent USA, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, HTC America, Kyocera International and Kyocera Communications, Novatel Wireless, and Sierra Wireless America, of infringing on its RE37,802 patent. Apple chose to stand its ground while the other companies ultimately settled out of court.

Apple's tactic paid off because the jury in the trial not only said that the company wasn't infringing, but also said that the WiLAN patents aren't valid. WiLAN said in a statement, "WiLAN is disappointed with the jury's decision and is currently reviewing its options with trial counsel, McKool Smith. WiLAN does not believe previous license agreements signed related to the patents are negatively impacted by this decision."

WiLAN had been hoping to win nearly US$250 million from Apple, which in the end didn't work out as the company had hoped. Even worse, WiLAN lost its case in a court that has a long history of siding with patent holders.

Losing the case poses another problem for WiLAN: The company makes its money from licensing patent and suing other companies for patent infringement. When your business model is based only on making money off of patents, losing a case in court is an expensive prospect, and this time it's even more expensive because the patents in question were also ruled invalid.

The patent holding company has tangled with Apple in the past, too. In 2010 WiLAN hit Apple with a Bluetooth patent infringement case for including the wireless technology in its Mac computers, as well as the iPhone and iPad.

WiLAN can appeal the ruling and depending on how much more it wants to invest in the case, it may. That's a big "if," however, because court room litigation is an expensive prospect, and WiLAN is reporting quarterly losses.

For Apple, the win backs up its claim that there never was any patent infringement and also sends an important message that it won't be bullied by patent trolls. Unfortunately, that message will fall on mostly deaf ears since the patent trolls will continue to do what they know: File lawsuits to pressure companies into giving them money.