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Bill for half a billion quid lands on Apple's desk in Facetime patent scrap

Cupertino iGiant tells El Reg it's demanding a mistrial

A notorious US patent court has ordered Apple to pay out more than half a billion dollars for infringing two patents related to its messaging software.

A jury in the US Eastern District Court of Texas awarded $625m (£428m) to VirnetX, a patent-holding company that has long claimed that Apple's Facetime and iMessage offerings violate four of its patents.

Wednesday's ruling concerned two of those patents, US Patents 7,418,504 and 7,921,211, both of which cover methods for secure message transmission.

VirnetX had previously won a $328m decision, but an appeals court eventually tossed that award and sent the case back to East Texas for two of the patent claims to be reconsidered.

The US Texas Eastern District Court is the venue of choice for patent suits, as it has shown itself time and again to greatly favor patent holders.

As one might expect, Apple said that it was disappointed by the ruling and plans to appeal the award.

"Our employees independently designed this technology over many years, and we received patents to protect this intellectual property," Apple said in a statement to El Reg. "All four of VirnetX's patents have been found invalid by the patent office. Cases like this simply reinforce the desperate need for patent reform."

Apple has, in fact, already filed a motion [PDF] seeking a mistrial, alleging misconduct by VirnetX lawyers during the closing arguments in the case. "Apple objects to VirnetX's closing argument as outside the record, inconsistent with the law, and served to confuse, mislead, and inflame the jury," the filing reads. ®

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