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Judge nixes $533 million iTunes damages, orders new trial

A US District Court judge says his instructions to a jury may have "skewed" how damages should have been assessed on Apple's iTunes.

Apple won't be forced to pay patent-infringement royalties on iTunes -- yet. Apple

Apple will have at least a few more months before it's asked to ante up for patent infringement in its iTunes software.

US District Court Judge Rodney Gilstrap on Tuesday voided $532.9 million in damages levied against Apple in February in a case brought by patent-holder SmartFlash. The judge said that he may have "skewed" the jury when issuing instructions on how to assess damages, Reuters reported. The judge has ordered a new trial on damages for September 14, according to the report.

iTunes software has long been one of Apple's most important platforms. The software initially acted as a repository for user music at its launch in 2001, but as time went on, expanded to include a wide range of services, including marketplaces for music, videos, apps, and more. The software most recently added support for music-streaming service Apple Music, which launched last week.

SmartFlash makes no products of its own but holds a patent portfolio that it licenses to device makers. Such firms are often dubbed patent trolls for their penchant of seeking to license their patented tech and, if unsatisfied with the result, suing companies for alleged patent infringement.

SmartFlash in 2013 filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Apple, saying that the company's iTunes software was violating patents it held. SmartFlash -- which has also sued Samsung, Google and Amazon over similar patent violations -- won its case against Apple.

In February, a jury determined that Apple should pay $532.9 million for patent violation. SmartFlash had sought $852 million in damages, while Apple argued that the damages should top out at $4.5 million.

For its part, Apple has shared its displeasure with SmartFlash, saying in February that the company is "exploiting" the marketplace.

"Smartflash makes no products, has no employees, creates no jobs, has no U.S. presence, and is exploiting our patent system to seek royalties for technology Apple invented," the company said in a statement at the time.

Two days after Apple was ordered to pay damages, SmartFlash filed a second lawsuit over the same patents but including products -- such as the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and iPad Air 2 -- that didn't exist when the first suit was filed.

The judge's ruling this week voids the initial damages and will only require that new damages be assessed.

SmartFlash did immediately respond to a request for comment. Apple declined comment.