updated 08:25 am EDT, Tue November 1, 2011
VirnetX claims iOS, Mac infringe just-granted tech
Frequently labeled as a patent troll, VirnetX on Tuesday launched one of its more aggressive attacks by suing Apple (below) over a patent it had only just been granted. The company, which has sued Apple before, alleged that "at least" current iOS devices and Lion-equipped Macs were violating some claims of a patent for a "Method for Establishing Secure Communication Link Between Computers of Virtual Private Network," or a standard VPN connection. The patent had been granted just the same day, suggesting that the aim of the patent was only to sue others for profit.
The company admitted that it was only letting Apple know of the supposed infringement through the lawsuit itself rather than trying to negotiate a license first.
Despite the patent having just existed for hours before the lawsuit, VirnetX claimed that Apple had engaged in "willful" violations and that it was owed tripled damages as a matter of law. While it asked for a ban on Apple's products, it made clear that the primary goal was a "compulsory ongoing licensing fee" that it wanted if a ban wasn't granted.
The lawsuit follows the typical pattern associated with patent trolling. Apart from the deliberate surprise, the lawsuit was filed in an Eastern District of Texas court in the Tyler Division, an area often picked for such lawsuits over its tendency to favor the patent holder. VirnetX's case is also being put forward by the law firm McKool Smith, which regularly represents such patent attacks.
VirnetX is unusual among companies of its type in having actual products, such as a secure domain name service, but still relies primarily on its lawsuits and royalties for its business.