Patent Trolls and Apple: “Why do you rob banks, Mr. Sutton?”

Software Patent Troll (Not to Scale)

Software Patent Troll (Not to Scale)

It’s been a while since we got seriously nerdy and talked about intellectual property and patent trolls. The issue arises because Bloomberg is reporting that patent troll VirnetX Holding Corp. won $502.6 million against Apple Inc. A federal jury in Texas said Apple was infringing patents for secure communications.

Why does WC call VirnetX a patent troll?

  • They have never themselves produced a product or commercialized a patent.
  • The litigate in the East District of Texas, a notorious patent troll forum.
  • More than half of their employees are lawyers.

If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.1

Why is VirnetX suing Apple?

It’s Willie Sutton’s Law: It may be apocryphal, but the  story is that Sutton was asked by reporter Mitch Ohnstad why he robbed banks. According to Ohnstad, Sutton replied, “Because that’s where the money is”. The quote evolved into Sutton’s law.2 Apple is the biggest, richest company in the world.

This is actually the second verdict by VirnetX against Apple. Last year, they got another East Texas jury verdict for $302 million that a judge later increased to $439.7 million.

The 2017 verdict and, doubtlessly, this new verdict, was appealed to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. Which is appropriate, because a separate proceeding before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board said the patents that are the basis for both of VirnetX’s jury verdicts are invalid. VirnetX has appealed that to the Federal Circuit.

The madness and folly that is software patent law continues to clog the pipes of American jurisprudence.

. . . . .

(By the by, WordPress, which hosts this blog, reports that Wickersham’s Conscience has now had more than a million views. Sure, it’s just another number, but when WC started the blog in 2008 it was an unimaginable number. Thanks to all of you who took the time to stop by.)





  1. WC is a University of Oregon alum. You know, Duck U. It confers a certain expertise. 
  2. Yes, WC is aware that in his autobiography, Sutton hotly denied ever saying that.  But in the next paragraph he said, “If anybody had asked me, I’d have probably said it. That’s what almost anybody would say … it couldn’t be more obvious.” Close enough. 

One thought on “Patent Trolls and Apple: “Why do you rob banks, Mr. Sutton?”

  1. Kudos for surpassing a million views!

    Yours is the ONLY blog I follow.

    Alaskan & national politics, birds, insight & wisdom — who could ask for anything more? (Relatively few typos, too — I’m an editor.)

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