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Apple ordered to fling some spare change at wireless patent troll

In related news: $7.3m-richer troll wanders into Lamborghini garage...

Apple has been ordered to pay Core Wireless Licensing $7.3m for infringing on two patents covering mobile communication. The amount is a rounding error on the iPhone giant's books.

A federal jury in California reached the decision on Thursday, agreeing that the company's iPhones and iPads infringe US patents 6,477,151 (which describes a packet radio telephone service) and 6,633,536 (which covers signaling in a digital mobile communications system). Both patents once upon a time belonged to Nokia. A trial on the issue started earlier this month after years of preamble.

Core Wireless exists solely to sue companies over the use of patents that it has hoarded – it has a lot of patents originally owned by Nokia, for example. It is also an organization that is repeatedly sold to others: in 2011, it was acquired by another patent troll, Mosaid Technologies, which itself was bought by Sterling Partners.

That deal saw the company keep one-third of the income it generates from suing company and enforcing the patents, with the rest going to the original filers.

The award for the Luxembourg-based biz comes after the failures of a similar case last year when a jury found that Apple did not infringe another five of its patents. However, last month, Core Wireless did win an additional $456,000 on top of $2.3m in another case that it won against LG. That extra payment came after a judge decided that LG's "abrupt termination" of licensing discussions with Core Wireless was an indication of wrongdoing.

Apple put up a fight in this most recent case, using two computer engineering professors to testify that the patents in question were covered by prior art. They argued that the details of the 2002/3 patents had already been described in some details by documents written in the 1990s as the mobile phone market started to explode.

The jury disagreed but it also did not grant the $24m that Core Wireless claimed it was owed. The actual technology in question has since been superseded and is being pulled out of the modern phones and tablets so in that sense, this is likely to be a one-off payday for the company. Unless it can find other patents to gobble, this troll may soon be on its way out. ®

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