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Apple ordered to pay $23.6M for infringing pager technology patents from 1990s

A jury on Monday found Apple in infringement of pager technology developed for the SkyTel network in the '90s, ordering the company to pay out $23.6 million in damages.




The suit was brought against Apple last year by patent holder Mobile Telecommunications Technologies and targeted iOS devices capable of handling iMessages, creating calendar invites and entering emoji characters.

As noted by Bloomberg, the verdict handed down by a federal jury in Marshall, Texas, found Apple's devices to infringe on five out of six asserted patents, amounting to $23.6 million in damages. MTel originally sought $237.2 million in damages, an amount equating to approximately $1 per infringing device at the time of the suit's filing.

For its part, Apple denied the accusations and argued many of the patents-in-suit were invalid. The jury agreed with Apple on at least one asserted property covering emoji character input, a feature argued to be covered by an MTel messaging patent.

MTel's attorney Daniel Scardino told Re/code that the decision represents recognition of past technologies on which modern advances in smartphone technology are built.

"Apple makes a great product and they deserve a lot of the credit they get," Scardino said. "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."

In the 1990s, MTel was considered a pioneer in the pager industry after rolling out hardware and services for two-way paging. At the time, the SkyTel network was at the cutting edge of mobile telecommunications, though the paging system has since been relegated to use by doctors and emergency services personnel. MTel is now a licensing arm of United Wireless.

Today's verdict was the second in as many months dealing with Apple's supposed infringement of legacy pager technology. In October, Apple avoided a $94 million patent suit leveled by "patent troll" GPNE, which claimed infringement of GPRS communications technology related to pager systems.