A federal judge granted Apple’s request for a new trial, vacating the previous $625 million judgment that VirnetX won against Apple. The case centers around VirtnetX’s (NYSE:VHC) ownership of a federal patent on video chat. The patent was granted back in the late 90s when video chat was relatively new.
Like many technology patents, it probably should never have been granted to begin with. Over the past ten years or so, a shadow industry of “patent trolls” has developed, where shell companies with no operations — usually run only by a few lawyers — acquires patent portfolios and leverages them to sue technology companies that are actually developing products and services.
Earlier this year, VirnetX had filed an injunction to try and halt Apple’s use of its FaceTime and iMessage services entirely. Such legal histrionics are favorite tactics of patent trolls, which exist only to try and extort huge sums of money from legitimate companies.
The rise of patent trolls has persuaded many tech firms to actually team up with rivals to purchase large patent portfolios themselves, simply to block trolls from using them to sue.
Jury selection for the first retrial in VirnetX vs. Apple will begin on September 26. Here’s hoping that Apple wins the fight and useless trolls like VirnetX go down in flames (VHC shares are down about 45% today on the news).
Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) shares rose to $104.64, up $0.43 (0.41%) in premarket trading Monday. AAPL has fallen about 1% year-to-date.