Apple got a little good news in court today, as a judge tossed out a $308.5 million verdict in a digital rights management patent battle that patent troll Personalized Media Communications (PMC) won in back March.
Bloomberg reports that while delivering the verdict, U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap said Apple was a victim of PMC’s plan to milk the tech industry for high royalties on old ideas. The judge ruled that PMC’s patent for digital rights management is unenforceable because the company delayed its application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in an attempt to get more money. Gilstrap said that Personalized Media “shall take nothing” and instead will have to cover some of Apple’s legal costs.
PMC filed hundreds of patent applications in the 1980s and 1990s, but no patents were awarded until 2010. The company took advantage of loopholes that allowed for an indefinite application process and then a patent valid for 17 years.
PMC delayed receiving its patents until after the technology in the patent had already been adopted, allowing it to make more money from tech companies.
“Are we really going to today allow people to enforce patents claiming technology from 1981?” said Joseph Matal, a former acting director of the Patent and Trademark Office now with Haynes and Boone. “It makes a mockery of the system to allow this kind of stuff. All of this should have been in the public domain as of two decades ago.”
Internal PMC documentation showed that the company had selected Apple as a “natural candidate” to target with its delayed patents, along with Intel, IBM, and Microsoft.
PMC won a $308.5 million verdict against Apple in March after a jury said that Apple infringed on DRM patents with the FairPlay technology that it used to distribute encrypted content through iTunes, the App Store, and Apple Music.