Legal battle may be to blame for Apple breaking Steve Jobs’ FaceTime promise

“At WWDC, Apple revealed that it will finally make it possible to do FaceTime group calls for up to 32 people,” Luke Dormehl writes for Cult of Mac. “That’s great news — provided that all your friends, family and co-workers use Apple devices.”

MacDailyNews Take: Friends don’t let friends suffer with Windows or Android.

“But it didn’t have to be like this. Back in 2010, when Steve Jobs introduced FaceTime, he made a big point about how it was set to become an open industry standard that could be used by Apple’s competitors, as well as Apple,” Dormehl writes. “In 2010, Steve Jobs said the following: ‘Now, FaceTime is based on a lot of open standards — H.264 video, AAC audio, and a bunch of alphabet soup acronyms — and we’re going to take it all the way. We’re going to the standards bodies starting tomorrow, and we’re going to make FaceTime an open industry standard.'”

“Nearly a decade on, that still hasn’t happened. And now a theory has emerged as to why,” Dormehl writes. “According to an interesting concept put forward by CNET writer Sean Hollister, the reason could relate to an ongoing lawsuit which made Apple change how FaceTime works to avoid infringing on patents held by VirnetX.”

Read more in the full article here.

“Apple was forced to majorly change how FaceTime works to avoid infringing on the patents of a company called VirnetX,” Sean Hollister writes for CNET. “Instead of letting phones communicate directly with each other, Apple added ‘relay servers’ to help the phones connect.”

“Presumably,” Hollister writes, “someone would have to pay for those servers, and/or figure out a way for them to talk to Google or Microsoft or other third-party servers if FaceTime were going to be truly open.”

“But that doesn’t make a broken promise less frustrating. Particularly now that Apple could potentially fix annoying business video calls as well,” Hollister writes. “A Skype-killing video chat service that worked on Mac, iOS *and* Windows, Android and the open web? That’s something I bet companies would be happy to pay for, too.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Someday this VirnetX saga will be resolved and, if that’s the issue, perhaps Steve Jobs’ promise will be fulfilled.

Of course, if Apple really cared about making FaceTime an open industry standard, couldn’t they have simply settled with VirnetX for some exorbitant number, licensing or purchasing the disputed patents in order to fulfill Jobs’ promise?

Federal jury rules Apple must pay $502.6 million to VirnetX – April 10, 2018
Apple, slapped with a $440 million judgement, to appeal VirnetX patent case – October 16, 2017
Apple loses patent retrial to VirnetX, owes $302.4 million – October 1, 2016
Judge voids VirnetX’s $625.6 million Apple verdict; VirnetX shares plunge – August 1, 2016
Patent troll VirnetX wants judge to block Apple’s FaceTime, iMessage services – May 26, 2016
Apple hit with $626 million damages in VirnetX patent case – February 3, 2016
VirnetX’s $368 million jury award against Apple tossed by appeals court – September 16, 2014
Apple to make changes to VPN behavior in iOS 6.1 as result of VirnetX judgement – April 5, 2013
Judge upholds $368 million patent suit verdict for VirnetX against Apple – February 27, 2013
Jury slaps Apple with $368.2 million fine over VirnetX patents – November 7, 2012
VirnetX awarded new security patent files new complaint against Apple – November 1, 2011


  1. I continue to be on the board of the local PC user group. The biggest source of Apple Envy among Windows box users is FaceTime. They bring it up month after month: WHY can’t they do FaceTime on Windows? All their Mac using friends and family LOVE FaceTime. We want to do FaceTime. Skype sucks compared to FaceTime. Etc.

    (No, I never prompt any of the Apple vs whoever discussions. I have my fingers in enough cross platform tech that I stay on the sidelines. Equally, no one in the group pulls punches at Apple gear either, except of course cost. I just chuckle inside).

    1. BTW, a couple articles about Apple vs patent trolls VirnetX:

      From 2016-02-03:
      Jury: Apple must pay $626 million to patent troll VirnetX
      Patent-based company wins a 9-figure verdict in East Texas. Is it the last?

      Here’s an article from 2018-04-11:
      Apple Ordered to Pay $502 Million in VirnetX Patent Battle Loss

      Apple and VirnetX have been battling it out over the patents since 2010, when the latter accused the tech giant of violating its patents in the iPhone and other devices that use FaceTime and iMessage. Courts have sided with VirnetX in the past and previously awarded the company $302 million. A judge had previously set the damages at $439.7 million. Now, that sum exceeds $500 million….

      Despite the loss, Apple, which hasn’t commented on the verdict, has some possible ways out. As Bloomberg notes, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board said in 2016 that VirnetX patents are invalid. That alone could be enough to see Apple win the long-fought battle.

      Lawyer’s pockets go ‘Jingle-Jingle-Jingle’.

    2. Just tell them that they can’t do FaceTime because their dads bought them crummy computers, and they have crummy dads.

      (Bonus points if you get the reference)

      1. No. We have a great board of friendly and intelligent fellows. We enjoy geeking out at the local diner late into the night. It makes my cat furious.

        Oh and gimme bonus points! Macintosh Jr. The power to crush the other kids. SNL parody ad, always a joy:

  2. “Patent Trial and Appeal Board said in 2016 that VirnetX patents are invalid. ”

    Wouldn’t it be nice if a prerequisite to trial was a determination from the Patent Trial and Appeals Board that a patent was valid, with the Plaintiff paying the cost of examination? Sure would clear the court’s calendars.

      1. To be fair it could also be used by Big companies to invalidate small companies patents by forcing them to pay out large sums of money to prove the validity of their patents while those carnivorous big companies look on rubbing their hands. Those companies rather thought their initial payments were to determine if those patents were valid and may well have committed life savings or massive borrowings on that fact. However there must be some sort of compromise solution and at the very least once a patent has been invalidated then all all further actions must be put on hold and any payments/amounts based on that patent, (or proportions thereof) placed in trust until a final solution is set in relative stone. there seems to be no coordination between the Courts and the patent authorities on the matter as if they operate in their own independent bubbles except where they fight it out in yet other Courts as to who has the final word..

  3. “simply settled with VirnetX for some exorbitant number, licensing or purchasing the disputed patents in order to fulfill Jobs’ promise?”
    Uhm, VirnetX has been trying to get $500M for something like 3 patents for a handful of Apple’s devices. Can you imagine how much they’d ask for, if you tried to license all of their patents for every device? Billions, and that will only embolden other NPEs, to do more lawsuits.

    1. if Apple has done one decent thing in the world, it is to stand up to the patent trolls, who writhe in ecstasy like snakes when their extortionist tactics work against firms who settle with them just to avoid expensive protracted legal proceedings. If Congress had any backbone or conscience it would legislate against these lampreys of capitalism.

  4. VirnetX is bleeding cash. 1.5M in revenue / year for the last 3 years. 17M operating loss.
    Market cap is 200M.
    I think Apple will do a Samscum and keep appealing this until the company goes out of business.

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