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Apple served $23.6m bill for infringing old pager patents

A jury in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas has awarded a patent holder millions after finding Apple infringed its ageing pager patents.

Apple has been ordered to cough up $23.6m after a US jury found certain iOS messaging features infringed pager technology developed in the 1990s.

The sum Apple has been ordered is a fraction of the $237.2m claim the complainant, Mobile Telecommunications Technologies (Mtel), had demanded in a suit that targeted iOS devices featuring iMessage, calendar invite creation, and emoji characters.

The sum was settled on despite the jury agreeing that Apple had infringed five out of six patents that were granted to the SkyTel network in the mid- to late 1990s and are now owned by Mtel.

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As noted by Bloomberg, Mtel, considered a pioneer in wireless messaging in the 1990s, had sought damages amounting to approximately $1 per iPod, iPhone, and iPad unit sold as well as Apple's Airport wi-fi products. Mtel has since moved on to become the licensing arm of United Wireless, which co-owns and operates the legacy SkyTel paging network for users such as doctors.

Five of the patents in question relate to messaging between devices across carrier networks, while the fifth covered emoji. While Apple denied its products infringed any of the patents, the jury found Apple had done so on all counts but the emoji patent.

The verdict was delivered on Monday in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

Apple declined to comment on the verdict when contacted by ZDNet.

Daniel Scardino, the lawyer representing Mtel, said the decision acknowledged the efforts of early pioneers in mobile messaging.

"Apple makes a great product and they deserve a lot of the credit they get," Scardino told Re/code. "But they should also give credit to those who are due credit for advancing the state of technology that came before them. That's what this trial is all about."

Late last month Apple defeated a separate $94m patent claim by GPNE, a company that Apple described as a "patent troll", referring to companies that don't make or use the patents they own. It too was suing Apple over old patents for paging technology, however the jury in California rejected claims that Apple's iOS devices infringed the patents in question.

The verdict in favour of Mtel is a double-edged sword for companies like Apple. While the sum is much lower than was initially demanded, the Mtel decision could spell bad news for Samsung, which is also being sued by the patent holder in a case scheduled to be heard on December 15.

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