A jury in U.S. District Court in Tyler, Texas, ordered Apple Inc. to pay $22.1 million in damages to Cellular Communications Equipment LLC, a unit of Acacia Research Corp. (ACTG) in their infringement dispute.

Shares of Acacia gained as much as 20% in after hours trading. They gained $1.01, or 16.64% to $7.08 in after hours trading. Acacia shares have traded between $2.82 and $10.63 over the past year.

Rob Stewart, an Acacia spokesman, said the finding of willful infringement by the jury means that Apple may have to pay up to $66.3 million depending on what the judge rules.

Cellular Communications is involved in trials with a number of other defendants including HTC Corp., ZTE Corp., Pantech Co. Ltd.

"This win bodes well for us in the other trials," Stewart said.

This is the first big win for Acacia since an unfavorable ruling in its Adaptix unit's enforcement action against Alcatel-Lucent in December. That loss ended up costing former Executive Chairman Robert "Chip" Harris and former CEO Matt Vella their jobs.

Under Executive Chairman Louis Graziadio, Acacia has been husbanding its cash for use in investments or acquisitions outside its patent monetization business such as the $50 million in invested in Veritone Inc. last month as part of a new partnership to help the cloud-based artificial intelligence technology company monetize its patents.

If Acacia can turn this win into others, it may revive the company's patent assertion business.

"Adaptix was a big deal for Acacia," said Mark Gober, a senior director at 3LP Advisors, an IP advisory firm.

He said Acacia spent $160 million on Adaptix back in 2012 and investors have wanted to see a return on that investment.

"This recent ruling is certainly positive – and it comes at a time in which willful infringement is a true threat for defendants," he said.

"Whether and when Acacia will see significant cash from this ruling is still a big question mark. It really depends on their settlement expectations relative to Apple’s. We’ve seen Apple fight vigorously when hundreds of millions of dollars are on the line, such as the VirnetX case. We’ve also seen Apple settle cases for low tens of millions of dollars, such as the Marathon/RPI case.

--To reach the reporter responsible for this story, please contact Dan Lonkevich at 707 318-7899 or at dan@thepatentinvestor.com