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Apple, many others in crosshairs of touchpad lawsuit

post #1 of 65
Thread Starter 
A small firm hoping to strike it rich through legal action has sued Apple, Microsoft, and virtually every other significant company making a media device under claims that they violate a patent for touchpads.

Submitted Wednesday in a Tyler court in the Eastern District of Texas -- a division often favored for patent infringement complaints due to favorable rulings -- the lawsuit by previously unknown Tsera LLC targets not only the makers of the iPod and the Zune but also their key competitors around the world. Among those under scrutiny are the US divisions of Korean firms like Cowon, iRiver and LG, European companies like Bang & Olufsen, Philips and TrekStor, and even the at times infamous Chinese producer of an iPhone clone, Meizu.

Tsera argues that all 20 of the defendants have, to some degree, misused a 2003 patent that recognizes different swipe movements on a touchpad without having to provide visual feedback or to look at the player to understand what's taking place. As is often the case in such lawsuits, the patent is particularly vague; both the iPod's click wheel and the Zune's click pad scroll using swipes, but they don't necessarily use patterns and instead recognize just forward, back, or (for the Zune) left and right movements as they come in.

The plaintiff hopes to capitalize on Apple most of all and claims that the iPod maker has been informed of the patent since September 2004 and has been "wanton" in continuing to produce the iPod classic and iPod nano without paying for a patent license. Accordingly, Tsera wants to draw extra money from Apple and is looking to collect "enhanced" damages against the Cupertino company where it's content with regular damages from the other 19 businesses.

Similarly, Tsera makes its motives clear and says it would force all the involved companies to pay a royalty for use of the patent if it's victorious.

Neither Apple nor any of the other defendants have commented on the lawsuit, which is demanding a formal trial by jury.
post #2 of 65
They claim to have notified Apple in September 2004 and got around to filing now? I know legal processes are slow, but I don't think they are this slow.
post #3 of 65
Is there no prior art for this? I thought the first iPod with a touch wheel was introduced in 2002, predating this 2003 patent.
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post #4 of 65
Yet another frivolous lawsuit. Won't there ever be a patent reform in this country?
post #5 of 65
Why are there even patents allowed on this? This is becoming incredibly stupid when someone can patent a finger gesture of all things, without even requiring a technology (device) behind it.
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post #6 of 65
Who are you to call this frivolous? Companies spend thousands of dollars protecting themselves with patents. That's why patents exist ***

Quote:
Originally Posted by marokero View Post

Yet another frivolous lawsuit. Won't there ever be a patent reform in this country?

EDIT: PLease, no attacks.
post #7 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by bdkennedy1 View Post

Who are you to call this frivolous? Companies spend thousands of dollars protecting themselves with patents. That's why patents exist ***

Having a bad morning again?
post #8 of 65
Sounds like SCO v. IBM to me. A squatter trying to extort a real companies. Now we know why Apple is sitting on that $29 billion in cash. It's to defend against crap like this and the guy who says Apple and the Mafia are in cahoots against him and threaten him through his iPod.
post #9 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by bdkennedy1 View Post

Who are you to call this frivolous? Companies spend thousands of dollars protecting themselves with patents. That's why patents exist

You do realize that "patent reform" doesn't mean "no patents", right?

I think the company trying to "protect" itself needs to make an argument that it isn't frivolous. Not only do they not have a single product that I can find, they felt such a lack of confidence in their patent that they had to file in the Eastern District of Texas, and those are two key indicators of a patent troll. They don't even have a web site that I can find. So where is this supposed legitimate company, and have they actually spent money on actual research, or was it just an idea that someone thought they'd file? I would bet that the only physical location that this company has is the PO Box needed to qualify for filing in the Eastern District of Texas.
post #10 of 65
"Similarly, Tsera makes its motives clear and says it would force all the involved companies to pay a royalty for use of the patent if it's victorious."

Perhaps, but more likely if they're victorious they'll use that money to fund even more lawsuits -- these things are like cancer... and don't tell me that lots of the money generated isn't going to people affiliated with those 'favorable' courts in Texas. This is dirty business all around, and has nothing to do with real innovation.
post #11 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post

Sounds like SCO v. IBM to me. A squatter trying to extort a real companies. Now we know why Apple is sitting on that $29 billion in cash. It's to defend against crap like this and the guy who says Apple and the Mafia are in cahoots against him and threaten him through his iPod.

I think patents should expire if a company doesn't build real technology with them. Just spending a lot of money on lawyers to file patents for vague ideas hoping one day someone seems like they are making an actual product based on that idea and so you can sue...just retarded that you can do this.
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post #12 of 65
Tsera LLC meet SCO

SCO meet Tsera LLC

I'm sure you both will have a lot in common, soon.
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post #13 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by bdkennedy1 View Post

Who are you to call this frivolous? Companies spend thousands of dollars protecting themselves with patents. That's why patents exist ***

Resorting to name calling and personal insults is exceedingly bad form . . . .
post #14 of 65
Apple should sue the Tyler court in the Eastern District of Texas!
post #15 of 65
Boy oh boy, I can't wait till my patent gets approved... I'm gonna be RICH I tell ya RICH!

The embodyment of a manufactured metal, plastic or composite strip of apx 5 inches in length. Whereby the item is shaped, formed, milled, and/or stamped to create a oblong and/or circular bowl at one end of the strip. The depth of the bowl can equal a precise measurement or a random depth. This device can be colored or left in its natural state, and can be ornately marked or left plain.

-----

Yea I'm gonna me silly stinkin rich!

I'm hard at work on my NEXT breakthru patent... And not to let the cat out of the bag I guess giving you a little hint wouldn't hurt... Think sharp! Damn perhaps I've said too much!

Dave
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post #16 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveGee View Post

Boy oh boy, I can't wait till my patent gets approved... I'm gonna be RICH I tell ya RICH!

The embodyment of a manufactured metal, plastic or composite strip of apx 5 inches in length. Whereby the item is shaped, formed, milled, and/or stamped to create a oblong and/or circular bowl at one end of the strip. The depth of the bowl can equal a precise measurement or a random depth. This device can be colored or left in its natural state, and can be ornately marked or left plain.

-----

Yea I'm gonna me silly stinkin rich!

I'm hard at work on my NEXT breakthru patent... And not to let the cat out of the bag I guess giving you a little hint wouldn't hurt... Think sharp! Damn perhaps I've said too much!

Dave

That's all well and good, but the hard part will be finding a cheesy lawyer to prepare/file the lawsuit for you! (sarcasm)
post #17 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by christopher126 View Post

That's all well and good, but the hard part will be finding a cheesy lawyer to prepare/file the lawsuit for you! (sarcasm)

Yea... where am I ever gonna find a shady lowlife lawyer type who would just as soon sell his mother if it meant even a nickle more on his asset sheet... where to look... where to look...
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post #18 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveGee View Post

Boy oh boy, I can't wait till my patent gets approved... I'm gonna be RICH I tell ya RICH!

The embodyment of a manufactured metal, plastic or composite strip of apx 5 inches in length. Whereby the item is shaped, formed, milled, and/or stamped to create a oblong and/or circular bowl at one end of the strip. The depth of the bowl can equal a precise measurement or a random depth. This device can be colored or left in its natural state, and can be ornately marked or left plain.

-----

Yea I'm gonna me silly stinkin rich!

I'm hard at work on my NEXT breakthru patent... And not to let the cat out of the bag I guess giving you a little hint wouldn't hurt... Think sharp! Damn perhaps I've said too much!

Dave

The only thing more boring than these patent articles are the cliched responses that inevitably follow.
post #19 of 65
if the people that run these suing companies happened to 'accidentally' die in their sleep and apple's 29billion was reduced to 28.9billion the world would certainly be a better place.

i totally agree, if you don't have a working product, then you should not be able to sue for patent infringement.
post #20 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Is there no prior art for this? I thought the first iPod with a touch wheel was introduced in 2002, predating this 2003 patent.

Trackpads have been around for some time. I'm sure there's plenty of prior art including the iPod click-wheel. We'll see how this plays out.
post #21 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

A small firm hoping to strike it rich through legal action ...

Although this statement might be true, from a journalistic standpoint this is a very poor way to begin an article. You are basically saying right up front that the lawsuit has no merit whatsoever, but then proceed to write about it in a way that suggests that you are still on the fence about it. If you want to be professional, you should strike this statement. Conversely, if it's jsut an opinion piece, the body of it should be written more like an opinion piece.

Also, without any kind of link, (or even a good description), of what this firms patent actually entails, it's not really a story at all and no comments on it one way or the other mean anything.

Edit: patent here:

looks like junk to me
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post #22 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by DJRumpy View Post

Why are there even patents allowed on this? This is becoming incredibly stupid when someone can patent a finger gesture of all things, without even requiring a technology (device) behind it.

I have a patented finger gesture I'd like to share with this east Texas court. Can we let them secede already?
post #23 of 65
This approach by Apple is one that drives innovation and adoption, not poaching and making lawyers wealthy.

Mini DisplayPort
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Mini DisplayPort is a miniaturized version of the DisplayPort interface. First publicly announced by Apple on October 14, 2008, it is used in revisions of the MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro notebooks, iMac, Mac Mini, and Mac Pro desktops and also the 24-inch Apple Cinema Display.[1]

Unlike its Mini-DVI and Micro-DVI predecessors, Mini DisplayPort is capable of driving resolutions up to 2560x1600, commonly used with 30-inch displays. With a suitable adapter, Mini DisplayPort may be used to drive displays with a VGA or DVI interface.[2][3][4]

On November 27, 2008, Apple announced that it would license the Mini DisplayPort connector with no fee.[5] Apple reserves the right to void the license if the licensee does "commence an action for patent infringement against Apple", in which case the "Implementation License and the rights granted hereunder will terminate immediately and automatically, without notice from Apple" and you must "immediately cease any further exercise of the license rights".[6]

On January 13, 2009, VESA announced that Mini DisplayPort would be included in the upcoming DisplayPort 1.2 specification.[7][8]
post #24 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by DJRumpy View Post

Why are there even patents allowed on this? This is becoming incredibly stupid when someone can patent a finger gesture of all things, without even requiring a technology (device) behind it.

you can't. well not anymore. there was a time you could. and even then some vague patents have been tossed in recent cases sighting that it's merely an idea and like with copyrights you can't patent an idea. only the method of creating it. just like neither Apple nor Microsoft can patent the idea of a graphical interface that uses icons etc in place of typing computer commands. they can copyright the exact interface each uses (appearance of the icons, names of various parts etc)

also, because this is an "unknown until now" it is possible that said company got the patent and then sat on it with no intent to do anything but try this kind of move. those are the majority of the 'idea' patents that get tossed out. so in the end, this may go no where

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post #25 of 65
"F--- off Tsera you parasites" was the phrase that sprang to my mind
post #26 of 65
I cannot find a website for Tsera. I mean, if they are a legitimate high tech company, they would have a website touting their products right? Can anyone find a link?
post #27 of 65
My first mac with a touch pad was from 1997. The touch pads have been around for years. Now I haven't read the full accusation here, but it sounds strange that this patented technology has been in regular use for I don't know.. 15 years?
post #28 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by palegolas View Post

My first mac with a touch pad was from 1997. The touch pads have been around for years. Now I haven't read the full accusation here, but it sounds strange that this patented technology has been in regular use for I don't know.. 15 years?

Touch pads, yes, but swiping... maybe not. I'm dubious about anyone who takes 2 years to sue someone over a very popular product that revolutionized smartphones.

What really matters is if the patent was really violated or if it was so poorly written in the first place that it will overturned. This will take years and I doubt Apple's stock price will be affected (note: it goes up and down every day for lesser reasons!).

Stay tuned!
post #29 of 65
Can't the effects from the movie "Minority Report" and "The Matrix" also be considered prior art? All the holographic, visual hand swipes used to interface to systems certainly gave rise to it I would think!
post #30 of 65
A hand gesture sounds a lot more like something one would attempt to get a trademark for, not a patent. It's not like they actually invented a new product.
post #31 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by Virgil-TB2 View Post

Although this statement might be true, from a journalistic standpoint this is a very poor way to begin an article. You are basically saying right up front that the lawsuit has no merit whatsoever, but then proceed to write about it in a way that suggests that you are still on the fence about it. If you want to be professional, you should strike this statement. Conversely, if it's jsut an opinion piece, the body of it should be written more like an opinion piece.

Also, without any kind of link, (or even a good description), of what this firms patent actually entails, it's not really a story at all and no comments on it one way or the other mean anything.

Edit: patent here:

looks like junk to me

You can trivially verify the statement at the start of the article by googling: Tsera -sue -sues -lawsuit

Tell me that if you did that with a real company you wouldn't find their website in the listing. Actually, more power to you if you can find even one genuine tiny company for which such a search doesn't at least produce a telephone number near the top of the search
post #32 of 65
Ah, such a litigious world.

As I read this Apple Insider page with comments about the Tsera suit, I'm looking at an ad this same page is running: "Chinese Drywall Lawsuits. Suffer From Toxic Chinese Drywall? Free Case Review. 800-LAW-INFO www.yourlawyer.com"

The irony of it all!

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post #33 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by bdkennedy1 View Post

Who are you to call this frivolous? Companies spend thousands of dollars protecting themselves with patents. That's why patents exist ***

EDIT: PLease, no attacks.


I guess I missed whatever was said, but it doesn't matter. I believe patents should only be enforceable if said company actually put effort in developing beyond what was put on paper. There's no common sense anymore...
post #34 of 65
I don't see whats wrong with this lawsuit.

They filled it in 1999 (only granted in 2003) way before anyone thought of using touchpads to control portable electronics (specifically stated in the patent). Back in 1999 the nipple mouses were popular on alot of laptops. But regardless this patent specifically ignores laptops and talks portable electronics and mentions MP3 players and that the touchpads would replace buttons and have a built in array of patterns it would recognize (and yes up or down or circles are patterns).

I think its quite specific and patents are designed to allow anyone to protect their idea on a first come basis and publish that idea to allow others to use that idea and eventually become public domain. If you don't like it, change it. But the very fact that this was published in 1999 (as part of a request of the patent office) and then again in 2003 when it was approved shows that Apple very well could have copied this idea from someone else and patents protect your ideas. Like it or not it is first come first serve.

And to those who say they must implement it are talking out their ass. Not everyone has the finances to implement something and patents are ideas of products. And this is very specific... trackpad to control MP3 player using patterns.

As in the delay to filing a lawsuit, as long as they are within their legal timeframe. Who cares, they notified Apple extremely fast of the problem. And sometimes a probably small company or single person with a good idea might need time to find the proper lawyer.

I do think there are frivolous over generic patents and lawsuits. But this patent is extremely specific to me mention the final invisioned product. i can actually see the person(s) thinking in 1999 how cool it would be to control an MP3 player using patterns instead of buttons. You don't have to feel for the right button but can be controlled out of sight (even mentioned in the patent). It was a SOLID IDEA.

And the end of the day... you don't patent a PRODUCT you patent an IDEA.

Again... you can change the law if you wish but as it stands Patents are ideas. There are many companies that specialize in patenting your idea and then shopping it around in hopes of making you both big bucks. The idea is there, that is the patent and protects you while you shop around. Sometimes you never sell your idea but that doesn't erase patents in current law. And it does not give the right to anyone to steal your idea claiming you never successfully sold your idea or built your idea.

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post #35 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by UltimateKylie View Post

... They filled it in 1999 (only granted in 2003) way before anyone thought of using touchpads to control portable electronics (specifically stated in the patent). Back in 1999 the nipple mouses were popular on alot of laptops. But regardless this patent specifically ignores laptops and talks portable electronics and mentions MP3 players and that the touchpads would replace buttons and have a built in array of patterns it would recognize (and yes up or down or circles are patterns). ....

Some good thinking here, but I think you are wrong ultimately.

First, Apple was the first to use a trackpad or touchpad and that was in 1994. It could be argued that part and parcel of that idea is the "gesture" even though specific gestures were not introduced until much later. (The first person to think of the idea of using gestures to control electronics using capacitance, patented their idea in 1919 BTW.)

Secondly, the first iPod had a mechanical wheel, which was then replaced by the capacitance clickwheel version. So moving your finger in a circle is a gesture, but they could easily argue that it was just a way of using touchpad technology that they developed, to replace the physical wheel. The clickwheel is therefore a natural development of previous technology that should be allowed.

Third, the patent in question probably does itself in by specifically mentioning that one isn't looking at the device when using it, and by the fact that the fingerworks people were doing this stuff for years and years and these guys never went after them.

Lastly, your statement that you don't patent a product, but an idea is almost completely backwards from the real situation. You can't patent an idea at all, you can only patent an implementation of an idea, which in most cases is a product or a series or group of product ideas.

The strength of their patent is in the details. You can't just say "i hereby patent the idea of controlling a device with gestures," you have to say how you want to do that exactly and provide an example or two. These guys' example describes a touchpad that is used without looking at, that responds to pre-programmed gestures. It's both different from the implementations of the manufacturers they are suing and also very vague. Thus there is probably a lot of previous art (the very existence of Apple's trackpad is likely one), and there is some question as to whether the idea is even patentable in it's generality.
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post #36 of 65
@ UltimateKylie & Virgil-TB2,

Now that is proper debating. Nice talking points.
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post #37 of 65
Most lawsuits, especially the "frivolous" kinds, are meant to do one thing..... make money by not going to into court...but only profit by settling out of court.
post #38 of 65
Yes, money invites lawsuits, whether legitimate or not. And Apple, as anyone knows, has a lot cash.

Nothing is new. America is the land of lawsuits. America has more lawyers than medical doctors. More lawyers per capita than any country on earth. These greedy lawyers have to make a living some way or the other. And what a better way than to scare companies with deep pocket.

Can laws be changed to stop these abuses? No, because the congress who are lawmakers are mostly lawyers. We are doomed!
post #39 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by UltimateKylie View Post

And the end of the day... you don't patent a PRODUCT you patent an IDEA.

As far as I understand, it's neither. A patent is on a particular process or implementation. To make a far-fetched example, you can't patent the idea of a teleporter, but you could patent an implementation that makes teleporting possible.

I do think that a product and actual research should be involved, there's no evidence of either here. Otherwise, you get a case like this where someone makes a patent, waits for other people to do the actual hard, expensive work of making it happen and then try to extract royalties without having to do anything other than file a patent and a lawsuit.
post #40 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by Virgil-TB2 View Post

Some good thinking here, but I think you are wrong ultimately.

First, Apple was the first to use a trackpad or touchpad and that was in 1994. It could be argued that part and parcel of that idea is the "gesture" even though specific gestures were not introduced until much later. (The first person to think of the idea of using gestures to control electronics using capacitance, patented their idea in 1919 BTW.)

Secondly, the first iPod had a mechanical wheel, which was then replaced by the capacitance clickwheel version. So moving your finger in a circle is a gesture, but they could easily argue that it was just a way of using touchpad technology that they developed, to replace the physical wheel. The clickwheel is therefore a natural development of previous technology that should be allowed.

Third, the patent in question probably does itself in by specifically mentioning that one isn't looking at the device when using it, and by the fact that the fingerworks people were doing this stuff for years and years and these guys never went after them.

Lastly, your statement that you don't patent a product, but an idea is almost completely backwards from the real situation. You can't patent an idea at all, you can only patent an implementation of an idea, which in most cases is a product or a series or group of product ideas.

The strength of their patent is in the details. You can't just say "i hereby patent the idea of controlling a device with gestures," you have to say how you want to do that exactly and provide an example or two. These guys' example describes a touchpad that is used without looking at, that responds to pre-programmed gestures. It's both different from the implementations of the manufacturers they are suing and also very vague. Thus there is probably a lot of previous art (the very existence of Apple's trackpad is likely one), and there is some question as to whether the idea is even patentable in it's generality.

Exactly.
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