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VirnetX Inc. v. Apple Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

August 1, 2019, Decided

2017-1591, 2017-1592, 2017-1593


 [*1367]  Prost, Chief Judge.

Appellant VirnetX Inc. ("VirnetX") appeals from decisions of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board ("Board") related to three inter partes reexaminations [**2]  maintained by Apple Inc. ("Apple") and Cisco Systems, Inc. ("Cisco"). The United States Patent and Trademark Office ("PTO") concluded that Apple was not barred from maintaining its reexams by the estoppel provision of the pre-America Invents Act ("AIA") version of 35 U.S.C. § 317(b) (2006). The Board affirmed the Examiner's determination that the claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 7,418,504 ("the '504 patent") and 7,921,211 ("the '211 patent") are unpatentable as anticipated or obvious over the prior art of record. For the reasons below, we affirm-in-part, vacate-in-part, and remand.


The '504 and '211 patents describe systems and methods for "establishing a secure communication link between a first computer and a second computer over a computer network, such as the Internet." '211 patent col. 6 ll. 36-39. These systems and methods are "built on top of the existing Internet protocol (IP)." Id. at col. 6 ll. 17-20.

The Internet uses addressing systems for sending data. In such systems, physical computers can be identified by a unique IP address (e.g., 123.345.6.7). VirnetX Inc. v. Apple Inc., 665 F. App'x 880, 882 (Fed. Cir. 2016).

Each IP address corresponds to a domain name (e.g., See '211 patent col. 38 ll. 58-61, col. 39 ll. 13-14. A user on one computer can enter a domain name in a web browser to communicate with another computer or server. When the user [**3]  does so, the computer sends a domain name service ("DNS") request to the domain name server for the IP address corresponding to a given domain name. Id. at col. 38 l. 58-col. 39 l. 3. The domain name server then looks up the IP address of the requested domain name and returns it to the requesting computer. Id. at col. 39 ll. 3-7.

Both VirnetX patents claim systems, methods, and media for creating secure communication links via DNS systems. For example, claim 1 of the '211 patent recites:

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931 F.3d 1363 *; 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 22912 **; 2019 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 285277; 2019 WL 3483194


Prior History:  [**1] Appeals from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Patent Trial and Appeal Board in Nos. 95/001,788, 95/001,789, 95/001,856.

VirnetX, Inc. v. Cisco Sys., 767 F.3d 1308, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 17748 (Fed. Cir., Sept. 16, 2014)



invalidity, patent, infringement, estoppel, reexams, reexamination, final decision, proceedings, terminated, appeals, petition for certiorari, district court, final judgment, inter partes, domain name, petitioning, damages, decisions, duplicative, vacated, burden of proof, jury's finding, entire case, triggered, contends, prevailed, reasons, certiorari review, unpatentable, unrelated

Business & Corporate Compliance, Patent Law, US Patent & Trademark Office Proceedings, Reexamination Proceedings, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Patent Law, Jurisdiction & Review, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Infringement Actions, Defenses, Patent Invalidity, Infringing Acts, Civil Procedure, Judgments, Preclusion of Judgments, Estoppel, Administrative Law, Judicial Review, Deference to Agency Statutory Interpretation, Prosecution History Estoppel, Appeals