Apple, the iPhone maker, has been fined $300 million for LTE patent infringement in a retrial.
A federal jury in Texas ordered Apple to pay PanOptis Patent Management and its Optis Cellular and Unwired Planet the money for using their patented wireless technology in iPhones and iPad.
In August of 2020, Apple had been asked to pay $500 million as fine. However, the amount was reduced at the retrial. A judge vacated the earlier award in April, and ordered a new trial focused on damages only. The presiding judge said the jury had not been allowed to consider whether the amount was awarded on the “fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory,” or FRAND, terms required in standard-essential patent cases.
In a statement, Apple said that it was disappointed with the order and planned to appeal against it. It said, “Optis makes no products and its sole business is to sue companies using patents they accumulate. We will continue to defend against their attempts to extract unreasonable payments for patents they acquire.”
Optis, meanwhile, claims that Apple is unwilling to pay a fair royalty price for the patented designs. Optis has also filed a case against Apple in the High Court of England, where it hopes to set a global royalty rate for its patents. Apple has already threatened to close business in the UK if it is ordered by London judges to pay a “commercially unacceptable” amount, Bloomberg reported.
Companies such as Optis are called “patent trolls” by critics. They are licensing firms, which do not manufacture any products but hold the patents of certain technologies. PanOptis’ business is to manage its clients’ patents, allowing them to concentrate on “innovation and new development,” claims its website.
The Texas court has twice ruled against Apple in the past, demanding it pay hundreds of millions of dollars to VirnetX — another company specializing in patent litigation.
The debate regarding patent technology has picked up the heat as more devices are brought under the technology umbrellas. The wider user of IOT-enabled devices in consumer electronics and home appliances means that companies that collaborate to ensure devices are interoperable gain the advantage of ensuring that their inventions are included in the standard. The problem crops up because they license any relevant patents on FRAND terms, which has been vaguely defined and so suffers in interpretation in lawsuits and regulatory investigations around the world.
An appeal by Apple means that the fine will again be disputed. In the last quarter, Apple reported revenue of $81.6 billion. So a $300 million fine might be chump change.