Apple loses Facetime patent lawsuit to VirnetX

Facetime VirnetX had said that Apple's Facetime technology involved the unlicensed use of its technologies

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A US court has ruled that Apple should pay damages to a Connecticut-based company because its Facetime video chat tool infringed the firm's patents.

VirnetX was awarded $368.2m (£231m).

The sum is about half the amount VirnetX had originally demanded and will only cause a small dent in the iPhone-maker's strong balance sheet.

But the ruling could have more serious consequences if VirnetX carries out a threat to block the further use of its innovations in Apple's products.

Apple said it had no comment to make on the case. It still has the right to appeal against the judgement.

Sales ban

VirnetX had alleged that two of its patents - registered in 2002 and 2009 - had been infringed by Apple's iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads.

These referred to ways to establishing a secure communication link between different types of computers using a protocol referred to as TARP (Tunneled Agile Routing Protocol).

VirnetX had previously secured a $200m settlement from Microsoft over similar claims and has made related allegations against Cisco, Siemens and others.

"Apple says they don't infringe, but Apple developers testified that they didn't pay any attention to anyone's patents when developing their system," a lawyer for VirnetX was quoted as saying by the Bloomberg news agency.

Apple had denied infringement saying that VirnetX's patented techniques had only played a small role in its systems.

But the verdict will boost a related claim filed by VirnetX with the US's International Trade Commission which could theoretically lead to a sales ban on Apple products that infringe its technology.

VirnetX is also pursuing a further Facetime-related claim against Apple making reference to four patents which it alleges the Mac computers, iPhones and iPads infringe.

More lawsuits

The ruling marks Apple's second patent loss in a week, after a judge dismissed a case it brought against Google's Motorola unit on Monday.

A defeat last month in the UK has seen it ordered to run a notice on its homepage acknowledging that Samsung's tablets had not infringed its European iPad design rights.

In September a German court also rejected Apple's claims that competitors had infringed its multi-touch inventions.

In a sign of further problems to come, Ars Techica has reported that a judge overseeing a US case - in which Apple claims its App Store trademark has been breached by Amazon - had expressed scepticism that consumers would indeed be confused.

But in its favour Apple can cite its massive $1.05bn software and design damages award against Samsung in August.

A judge will review the ruling next month - and consider Apple's claim that several of its rival's handsets be banned.

In the meantime, Apple has just filed a further claim against the South Korean manufacturer based on the allegation that version 4.1 of the Android system, which is installed on several Samsung devices, infringes its own software patents.

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