Apple spared $85 million payout in patent court battle

A multi-million-dollar claim against Apple over an alleged wireless technology patent infringement has been thrown out by a US court, with the stage now set for another trial.

The Canadian patent-licensing company WiLAN had previously been awarded $85 million in the court case, which rests on a dispute over the wireless standard used by Apple's iPhones.

The long-running court battle began in 2014 when Apple sued WiLAN seeking a ruling that it did not infringe patents related to allocating bandwidth in a wireless network. WiLAN responded with claims that Apple's iPhone 5 and 6 models infringed its patents by using the LTE wireless standard.

In 2018, a jury found in WiLAN’s favor, awarding it $145 million in damages. A later ruling upheld the jury's infringement finding but nixed the damages award, saying that it was based on flawed expert opinions. A 2020 retrial led to the same verdict and an award of $85 million in WiLAN’s favor.

Apple challenged the new award on several grounds, again citing problems with WiLAN expert's testimony. Writing for a three-judge panel, Chief Circuit Judge Kimberly Moore agreed with Apple and ordered another new trial on damages.

Moore said that claims made by WiLAN's expert that the patents at issue would have been key to an Apple license to its technology were "untethered to the facts of this case."

In a statement WiLAN said that it considered the decision to be favorable, since the court confirmed the patent infringement and that the tech giant owes damages.

Apple has not yet commented on the decision.