For some companies, winning $625 million from Apple is not enough of a reward.
On Wednesday, VirnetX asked a Texas judge to
order Apple to shut down iMessage and FaceTime while their patent case goes to appeal. Previously, VirnetX was awarded $625 million in the case after it convinced the jury that Apple committed patent infringement. If the judge grants the injunction, Apple will be forced to either suspend iMessage and FaceTime or find a last-minute workaround to the patented technology.
One of the patents in question involves establishing secure communications through Internet domain names. In asking for the injunction, VirnetX argued that although forcing a company to shut down two of its most popular services may seem excessive, it’s necessary because the infringement has done “irreparable harm” to VirnetX.
In 2012, VirnetX was awarded $368 million in damages in a very similar case against Apple. In 2014, VirnetX was on the verge of winning a royalty of 1 percent of all iPhone and iPad sales. However, both the $368 million and the iPhone royalty were overturned on appeal.
Apple has previously told
Fortune that it believes VirnetX’s claims to the patent is invalid, and that this lawsuit only echoes “the desperate need for patent reform.”
VirnetX has been labeled as a “patent troll,” or a lawyer-led company that merely exists to acquire phony patents to take bigger companies to court and get hefty settlements. Naturally,
VirnetX’s CEO rejects this label.
Why this matters: Although injunctions during patent infringement cases are not uncommon, they have become less frequent since a
2006 Supreme Court decision in favor of eBay. If the Texas judges follows that SCOTUS decision, it’s unlikely that an injunction will be granted.
Because VirnetX’s previous multimillion-dollar win was overturned on appeal, the company may be using this injunction to prevent that from happening again—basically to scare Apple away from contesting the $625 million decision.