VirnetX Wants to Shut Down FaceTime, but it Won’t Happen

| Analysis

The patent holding company VirnetX has managed to score a string of wins in its ongoing fight with Apple over infringement claims. Most recently, the company won US$625 million in a February ruling, and now is asking the court to bump that up another $190 million and grant an injunction forcing Apple to turn off FaceTime and iMessage. Despite VirnetX's track record so far, however, it isn't likely the court will agree to shut down Apple's video and text chat services.

VirnetX wants to shut down FaceTime and Messages in its patent fight with AppleVirnetX wants to shut down FaceTime and Messages in its patent fight with Apple

VirnetX argued during a post trial hearing earlier this week that it's suffering irreparable harm as long as FaceTime and iMessage are allowed to function, and that both should be shut down while Apple appeals the infringement ruling. Apple is appealing on claims that VirnetX didn't present evidence to support its infringement allegations, and that the company's legal team misrepresented evidence presented to the jury.

The legal fight started in 2010 when VirnetX first accused Apple of patent infringement. VirnetX filed its case in the patent holder friendly U.S. District Court in Eastern Texas and won its case in 2012. That ruling was tossed out on appeal, but VirnetX managed to score larger monetary wins with later court proceedings and ultimately ended up with the $623 million award it now wants to see increased.

VirnetX has been claiming Apple is taking advantage of the courts to drag out the legal process, while Apple says, "VirnetX keeps moving the boundary, asking for more and more and more."

Apple could get a more favorable ruling in a retrial, or VirnetX could win yet again. Either way, the company wants to see FaceTime and iMessage shut down while the legal process follows its course—something that isn't likely to happen despite the company's winning track record.

What's more likely is that VirnetX is using the threat of an injunction to pressure Apple into a big payout. Whether or not Apple bites is up in the air, although considering the company's persistence so far a deal probably isn't in the cards.

Apple has steadfastly maintained that VirnetX is an opportunistic money grabbing patent holding firm. VirnetX, on the other hand, characterizes Apple as a corporate bully using its size to avoid paying patent licensing fees.

VirnetX has a handful of employees on its payroll and a small office in Nevada. Its primary income source comes from licensing the patents it has collected, and filed its lawsuit against Apple only hours after buying the patent in question. Its lawsuits are filed in a court with a strong history of favoring patent holders and for being a favorite venue for patent trolls.

The company claims it isn't a patent troll and does, in fact, market a product based on the intellectual property it owns. VirnetX released Gabriel Collaboration Suite on Apple's App Store on November 30, 2015, well after its legal fight with the Cupertino company was under way. The first release's version number was 7.047, not 1.0, and the company describes it as "a set of integrated applications that enable seamless and secure cross-platform communications between your devices and your friend or coworker's devices."

The app has a handful mixed reviews, which means at least a few people have found it. And if the technical threshold to shed the patent troll moniker is a title on the App Store, then VirnetX has managed to do that. Still, the company's motives are being questioned by the media and its efforts to drive up the payout it gets from Apple leaves a bitter aftertaste.

Regardless of how VirnetX wants this case to play out, it looks like Apple is willing fight in court for as long as it can. That means we'll get to see more legal rhetoric tossed around by both sides, and most likely we can keep talking about it with our friends over FaceTime and in Messages.

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I seem to remember reading that the patents in question were ruled invalid.


There’s no “irreparable harm” here, it’s purely a monetary dispute.

If VirnetX had a competing product that was being disadvantaged by Apple’s actions then they might have a case for a shutdown. But they don’t - this is purely about licensing fees.

To geo’s point, I don’t know whether the patents are valid. But even assuming they are, there’s no basis for “irreparable harm”.


p.s. to geo: the Appeals court threw out the earlier verdict but the result was a do-over of the original trial. And that’s what we are looking at here.

Dennis Allen Kelly

Part of my income relies on patent rights, and I certainly do not appreciate the global megacorps riding rough shod over inventors. Patents are only valid for 20 years after publication, and there can be several years of dispute before a patent is actually granted.

Apple knew they were infringing a patent when they released their software; so, there should be punitive damages to pay too.
It does not matter whether the holder of the patent is the original; author or an assignee; Apple really ought to pay up.

Compare this with the copyright laws were the holder gets protection for 50 years after the death of the author.

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