Apple challenges VirnetX patent case; reneges on iOS VPN changes

Summary:UPDATED 2: Apple is appealing a $368 million judgment brought by VirnetX in 2010. Apple therefore will not change VPN behavior on already shipped iOS 6.1 powered devices.

Apple has backtracked on a decision it made to change how iPhones and iPads handle virtual private networking (VPN) access, following the conclusion of a patent lawsuit with VirnetX.

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Image: ZDNet

VirnetX won a $368.2 million patent victory , which led to Apple announcing that it would change how users would connect to their corporate networks. Apple attempted to reduce the damages awarded to the patent and licensing firm but it was blocked in February .

It comes as the technology giant said in a recent 10-Q filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it is "challenging the verdict" because it believes it has "valid defenses and has not recorded a loss accrual at this time."

Apple has not yet filed an appeal, according to ComputerWorld, which reported on the SEC filing on Friday.

Apple was planning to issue an update to iOS 6.1 that would have configured devices with VPN set as "always" to instead establish a connection as and when needed. A software update was planned for later this month. VPN technology allows users off the corporate network to act as though they are connected at the workplace.

As a result of the challenge to VirnetX's case, Apple is no longer planning to issue the fix that would remove the on-demand VPN service, according to an Apple knowledge base article:

Apple no longer plans to change the behavior of the VPN On Demand feature of iOS 6.1 for devices that have already been shipped. The "Always" option will continue to work as it currently does on these devices.

Apple specifically pointed out VirnetX's suit in the article, and cited the company as being the reason why the changes were planned and then reneged upon.

The planned changes brought significant concern by the enterprise market. According to Mobile Active Defense, a smartphone security firm, the proposed software update [PDF] "will affect a large percentage of companies with employees using iPhones and iPads," as users will "immediately lose the ability to automatically connect with their corporate network. 

Updated at 2:13 p.m. ET: with additional detail from Apple's 10-Q filing with the SEC.

Topics: Apple, Networking, Security

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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