In a case bound to reignite the debate over patent trolls, a jury found that Apple’s iTunes software infringed on three patents and said the tech giant must pay $532.9 million in damages.
The case was brought in Texas by privately-held Smartflash, a company whose sole business is licensing technology patents it holds. That is done through a combination of negotiations and aggressive litigation.
Large tech companies have labeled such operators “patent trolls” for trying to use courts to force royalty payments.
“Smartflash makes no products, has no employees, creates no jobs, has no U.S. presence, and is exploiting our patent system to seek royalties for technology Apple invented,” said Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokeswoman, in a statement to Bloomberg. “We refused to pay off this company for the ideas our employees spent years innovating and unfortunately we have been left with no choice but to take this fight up through the court system.”
Companies such as Smartflash typically argue that they are fighting to protect the rights of small, independent inventors who are seeing their intellectual property increasingly infringed by powerful tech companies like Apple, Google and Samsung who have come to dominate various platforms.
In this case, Smartflash filed a lawsuit last year in which it claimed Apple had infringed three patents in various features related to its iTunes store. While Apple argued the patents were invalid and the claims overreached, the jury apparently was more persuaded by Smartflash’s arguments that at least one Apple executive had been briefed on its technologies years earlier, according to Bloomberg.
Apple said it would appeal.
Apple designs and markets consumer electronics, computer software, and personal computers. The company’s best-known hardware products include the Macintosh line of computers, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. Apple software includes t… read more »
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