(Bloomberg) — Apple Inc. was told to pay $300 million in royalties after a retrial in a patent dispute over wireless technology used in its iPhones and other products, part of a global fight with a company that says it owns patents on the LTE cellular standard.
The jury in Marshall, Texas, said PanOptis Patent Management and its Optis Cellular and Unwired Planet units were owed that amount as a lump sum to cover past and future use of the technology. An earlier jury last year had awarded $506.2 million.
The trial focused only on how much Apple should pay. U.S. District Court Judge Rodney Gilstrap in April upheld the jury’s liability finding but ordered a new trial on damages, saying the jury should have been allowed to consider whether the royalty demand was consistent with a requirement that standard-essential patents be licensed on “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory,” or FRAND, terms.
“We thank the jury for their time but are disappointed by the verdict and plan to appeal,” Apple, based in Cupertino, California, said in a statement. “Optis makes no products and its sole business is to sue companies using patents they accumulate. We will continue to defend against their attempts to extract unreasonable payments for patents they acquire.”
The Texas trial is part of an effort by Optis to collect as much as $7 billion from the iPhone maker. A U.K. court may decide to set a global royalty rate, prompting Apple lawyers in July to threaten that the company may pull out of the British market if forced to pay a “commercially unacceptable” amount.
The Texas case involves technology the company claims is critical to implementation of the 4G communications standard. Optis says Apple’s smartphones, watches, and tablets that operate over 4G networks were using its patented technology.
Optis doesn’t make any products. The five patents in the Texas case were originally issued to Panasonic Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Co. Panasonic and LG transferred ownership of two patents each to Optis Cellular in 2014, while Samsung transferred its patent to Unwired Planet in 2017, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database.
Debates over how to value patents on so-called “standard-essential technology” have roiled the tech industry for decades, and have become more imperative as wireless inventions are incorporated in additional consumer products, like home appliances and automobiles.
Companies that collaborate to ensure devices are interoperable gain the advantage of ensuring that their inventions are included in the standard. As a result, they pledge to license any relevant patents on FRAND terms, although that phrase never has been clearly defined and has led to lawsuits and regulatory investigations around the world.
Optis claims that Apple had refused all fair offers and has accused the company of being an “unwilling licensee,” a key issue in the trial in London.
The case is Optis Wireless Technology v. Apple Inc., 19-66, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (Marshall).
(Updates with Apple comment in fourth paragraph.)
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