Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus has already proven to be a smash hit, but the company may not get to celebrate to its fullest extent.
The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (USCAFC) ruled today that Apple’s VPN on Demand and FaceTime services infringe upon all four of Virnet X’s patents that were in question – and that Virnet X’s four patents (patents ‘135, ‘151, ‘504,’ and ‘211’) were valid.
Virnet X’s ‘135 patent relates to Apple’s VPN on Demand (or “virtual private network”), which allows individuals to communicate with each other. One computer is allowed to utilize an IP address by which its user can access another computer.
Virnet patent ‘151’ involves “secure encrypted channels” instead of a virtual private network, and users generate this whenever they enter domain name into Apple’s Safari web browser on iOS into any Apple device (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch). Apple said in court that its VPN on Demand doesn’t infringe upon Virnet’s patents because Virnet claims that its patents are about establishing secure connections – and that Apple’s VPN on Demand service connects one computer with an IP address, whether or not the connection is secure.
Virnet’s response to Apple’s claims that its VPN on Demand service doesn’t prioritize secure connections over insecure ones was to use official documentation to prove otherwise: “VirnetX’s expert relied on Apple’s own internal technical documentation, product specifications, and marketing presentations, several of which describe specific security measures used by the private networks to which VPN on Demand is intended to connect.”
Virnet X patents ‘504 and ‘211 were upheld as valid and Virnet filed a lawsuit against Apple’s FaceTime in addition to its VPN service. Apple claimed that FaceTime does not violate Virnet’s ‘504 and ‘211 patents because it doesn’t establish direct communication due to the use of NAT routers – but the court disagreed with this claim. Apple said that the use of NAT routers doesn’t exclude the possibility of direct communication, and VirnetX agreed.
There are complaints filed by VirnetX that were set aside for future rulings and were not given weight in today’s decision, but the major decision – that Apple’s VPN and FaceTime are in violation of VirnetX’s patents – was declared. VirnetX CEO and President Kendall Larsen expressed his gratitude: “While we are disappointed that the Federal Circuit has vacated portions of the judgment for further proceedings, we are bolstered by the fact that the patents were again found valid and that it was confirmed that Apple’s VPN on Demand functionality infringes the VirnetX patents. We look forward to readdressing the FaceTime infringement and damages issue as soon as possible.”
VirnetX, as well as other companies, have been accused of being “troll” companies who set out to sue Apple with irrelevant patents for the sake of bringing Apple to its knees, but it seems as though Cupertino couldn’t wrangle itself out of this one. The company that’s infamous for suing others is facing some of the same wrath it’s dealt to others – a little patent justice. Perhaps Apple’s latest infringement will help the company see that its non-stop patent wars need to come to an end not just internationally, but in the United States as well.