A federal judge has voided the $532.9 million award that a Texas jury ordered Apple to pay in a patent dispute earlier this year. Apple's not off the hook, however, with District Judge Rodney Gilstrap ordering a new trial to determine damages after deciding that the jury may have been confused by instructions when calculating the original total. The plaintiff in the lawsuit is a Texas-based company called Smartflash, whose primary business is patent licensing. It's a shell company that makes money by litigating patents.
In the original 2013 filing, Smartflash accused Apple of infringing on three of its patents in iTunes and other software. The patents in question pertain to "data storage and managing access through payment systems." Smartflash claims that founder Patrick Racz discussed the technologies with someone who would be ultimately hired by Apple.
The trial was held at the federal court for the Eastern District of Texas, where juries have an established history of ruling against major tech companies and awarding large sums to plaintiffs suing over patents. Smartflash was initially aiming for even more, seeking $852 million in damages. Despite the smaller amount it was awarded in February, the company was encouraged by the courtroom win and filed another patent suit against Apple shortly thereafter.
Apple is appealing the original decision and has aggressively criticized Smartflash in public statements. "Smartflash makes no products, has no employees, creates no jobs, has no US presence, and is exploiting our patent system to seek royalties for technology Apple invented," a spokesperson said in February. Smartflash has also sued Samsung, Amazon, and Google over patent infringements — all in the same court district.