Apple confirms its plans to close retail stores in the patent troll-favored Eastern District of Texas
By: Sarah Perez
Apple has confirmed its plans to close retail stores in the Eastern District of Texas — a move that will allow the company to better protect itself from patent infringement lawsuits, according to Apple news sites 9to5Mac and MacRumors, which broke the news of the stores’ closures. Apple says that the impacted retail employees will be offered new jobs with the company as a result of these changes.
The company will shut down its Apple Willow Bend store in Plano, Texas as well as its Apple Stonebriar store in Frisco, Texas, MacRumors reported, and Apple confirmed. These stores will permanently close up shop on Friday, April 12. Customers in the region will instead be served by a new Apple store located at the Galleria Dallas Shopping Mall, which is expected to open April 13.
Apple did not comment on the stores’ dates of closure or the new store’s opening.
However, it’s common for Apple to leave little downtime during retail stores transitions — though most closures are related to renovations or other reasons that aren’t about trying to escape patent lawsuits.
The Eastern District of Texas had become a popular place for patent trolls to file their lawsuits – which may be filed where the defendant committed the infringement. However, a more recent Supreme Court ruling has attempted to crack down on the practice. The court ruled that patent holders could no longer choose where to file.
Apple has had to make big payouts to patent trolls in recent years: $625.6 million to patent holding firm VirnetX in 2016 over protocol patents; VirnetX won $368 million from Apple in 2013; and more recently $502.6 million over four communication patents.
VirnetX tends to be referred to as a “patent troll” because it makes most of its revenue by suing tech companies. In addition to Apple, it sued Microsoft over patents in Skype and has been in litigation with Cisco. Its cases and subsequent wins are often held up as another example of how patent law in the U.S. is in need of reform.
The Apple store closures could have had a notable impact on area jobs, had Apple not offered new positions to its retail staff.
Apple today employs 1,000 people in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, which has been an increase of 33 percent in the past five years.
The company also recently invested almost $30 million in its Dallas area stores.
Outside the Dallas metro area, Apple is also investing in Texas with its $1 billion for the new campus in Austin, which will accommodate an additional 5,000 employees on top of the 6,200 already in the area.
A rep for Apple confirmed the stores’ closures in a statement, but wouldn’t comment on the company’s reasoning:
“We’re making a major investment in our stores in Texas, including significant upgrades to NorthPark Center, Southlake and Knox Street. With a new Dallas store coming to the Dallas Galleria this April, we’ve made the decision to consolidate stores and close Apple Stonebriar and Apple Willow Bend. All employees from those stores will be offered positions at the new Dallas store or other Apple locations.”