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Apple accused of false patent marking in new lawsuit

post #1 of 69
Thread Starter 
Apple, along with wireless carriers Sprint and Verizon, is targeted in a new lawsuit filed by the organization Americans for Fair Patent Use, alleging false patent markings in product documentation.

Filed last week in a U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas, the suit names Apple, Sprint Nextel Corp., Verizon Wireless and Samsung Telecommunications America as the defendants. The plaintiff, Americans for Fair Patent Use, asserts that the companies have falsely marked products with expired patents, or patents that do not cover the marked products, "with the intent to deceive the public about the patent coverage for their products."

Apple products targeted in the suit are the iPhone, iPod touch, fifth- and sixth-generation iPod classic, the third- and fourth-generation iPod nano. It noted that the fifth-generation iPod was marked with manuals, user guides or product information guides with references to U.S. Patent Nos. 4,577,216, 4,631,603, 4,819,098, and 4,907,093. The remaining products included references to U.S. Patent Nos. 4,577,216, 4,631,603, 4,819,098, and 4,907,093.

The suit notes that the '216, '603, '098 and '093 patents each expired prior to Apple making the respective products available for sale. Starting on March 6, 2007, the company began referencing those patents in documentation with its products, after the patents had expired.

"Despite the fact that all of the '216, '603, '098 and '093 patents expired prior to the first sale in the United States of any Apple Product, Apple knowingly and intentionally marked the user manuals, user guides, or product information guides (or the equivalent) for these products at various times with the patent numbers of these patents," the suit reads. "Apple knows that the '216, '603, '098 and '093 patents do not and never covered any of the Apple Products."

The complaint was brought under the False Marking Statute, which the AFPU said was passed by Congress to allow consumers to easily and quickly discover patents associated with products.



The AFPU is based in Austin, Tex., and was established "to encourage the fair use of the patent system and deter abuse of the patent system, which harms the public welfare and stifles competition." It said that Apple's "false marking" is an example of "harmful conduct."

The organization has asked the court to fine Apple and the other parties $500 per falsely marked product. It asks that half of the fine be paid to the government, per the terms of the False Marking Statute, while the other half be paid to the AFPU.

The suit also requests that the court take steps to ensure that Apple, Verizon, Sprint and Samsung Telecommunications America cannot falsely market their products in the future. It also wishes to see all of the accused companies notify customers of their allegedly false patent markings.

In last year's Form 10-K filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Apple revealed that it was then defending itself in more than 47 patent-related cases. "Regardless of merit," the company said, "responding to such claims can consume significant time and expense."
post #2 of 69
Get a life - how were you harmed guys?
post #3 of 69
welcome to America... Sad....
post #4 of 69
these are all patents for technologies to protect video from copying through a dvd-recorder or vhs-recorder. Like Macrovision.

How do they know the iPods/iPhones video-out doesn't use these technologies if connected to an old VHS-recorder? Have they actually tried it or have they read the patents and "Wooo, this doesn't sound very appleishy"?

Does it really matter if the patent is expired, a patent is a patent and if they want to show which technologies they use in their products, why not reference to the patent in question? Expired or not.
post #5 of 69
So Apple included these reference numbers in some manuals (probably hidden in the jargon at the back or something) and this is considered MARKETING?!

Pretty loose definition if you ask me.

Next Facetime commercial will be a sentimental moment with a father and his daughters sister's mothers cousin, and will not end with an Apple logo, but instead Patent ID 467328 confirmed?
post #6 of 69
This is another example why lawyers are criminals.

They are suing for $500 fine? Of course not. These assholes will ask for fees in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. What a stupid legal system America has created! So ridiculous, it is shameful.
post #7 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by twistedarts View Post

welcome to America... Sad....

Indeed. Companies should be allowed to make false patent claims regarding their products without penalty.
post #8 of 69
This has got to be the most f'ed up patent suit yet.
How does this harm the consumer? I am quite certain that no consumer has ever bought ANY device because of the listed patents.

Do these guys actually believe that anybody was harmed by this?
If I lived in Texas, I'd be demanding some patent law reform to stop the embarrassment.
post #9 of 69
Here a site referencing the case.

you can read the 75 page complaint if you have time:

http://news.priorsmart.com/americans...nt-nextel-lW4/

Sorry, they don't have a complete copy of the Complaint--you have to pay for it. Will try to locate a copy.
無心 The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders., Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit__Edward Abbey
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無心 The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders., Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit__Edward Abbey
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post #10 of 69
Can anyone possibly explain to me what benefits such a case might bring - if it were to be proven?

I do not understand this incredible need to take everything legal. Did they ever even discuss it with Apple?

F%cking mindless if you ask me.

Not a good day - did you see that AAPL sell off?!?!
post #11 of 69
Is there a website for this group that calls themselves Americans for Fair Patent Use?

Sounds like their in it for the money.
post #12 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by OC4Theo View Post

This is another example why lawyers are criminals.

They are suing for $500 fine? Of course not. These assholes will ask for fees in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. What a stupid legal system America has created! So ridiculous, it is shameful.

Read the story again, it's $500 per falsely marked product. That is in the millions if not billions of dollars.
post #13 of 69
Different case, but some of the info here helps shed some light on the issue, at least from a legal perspective.

http://www.lexology.com/library/deta...3-9c45664c411a
post #14 of 69
35 U.S.C. 292 False marking.

"(a) Whoever, without the consent of the patentee, marks upon, or affixes to, or uses in advertising in connection with anything made, used, offered for sale, or sold by such person within the United States, or imported by the person into the United States, the name or any imitation of the name of the patentee, the patent number, or the words "patent," "patentee," or the like, with the intent of counterfeiting or imitating the mark of the patentee, or of deceiving the public and inducing them to believe that the thing was made, offered for sale, sold, or imported into the United States by or with the consent of the patentee; or Whoever marks upon, or affixes to, or uses in advertising in connection with any unpatented article the word "patent" or any word or number importing the same is patented, for the purpose of deceiving the public; or Whoever marks upon, or affixes to, or uses in advertising in connection with any article the words "patent applied for," "patent pending," or any word importing that an application for patent has been made, when no application for patent has been made, or if made, is not pending, for the purpose of deceiving the public - Shall be fined not more than $500 for every such offense.

(b) Any person may sue for the penalty, in which event one-half shall go to the person suing and the other to the use of the United States.

(Subsection (a) amended Dec. 8, 1994, Public Law 103-465, sec. 533(b)(6), 108 Stat. 4990.)"
無心 The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders., Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit__Edward Abbey
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無心 The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders., Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit__Edward Abbey
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post #15 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by Leonard View Post

Read the story again, it's $500 per falsely marked product. That is in the millions if not billions of dollars.

It is not for each product sold, just for each type of device.
post #16 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon T View Post

Can anyone possibly explain to me what benefits such a case might bring - if it were to be proven?

The statute involved is to help prevent companies/persons from claiming false or expired patents. Seems a laudable goal, right? Whether it has merit here is another story.
post #17 of 69
This has got to be a new low. It's bad enough the companies are formed around a portfolio of patents with the intention of suing to defend those patents. But these guys don't even have any patents or any vested interest in the patents or technology in question. They are vigilantes. This is like me video taping people running red lights and then asking the police to write tickets for the traffic violatiion and giving me half the fine! (Ok, I know that's a different set of laws.)

Also, if they mark an item with a patent number and the patent has expired, where is the harm? Anyone who was interested in making a similar product had better do more due diligence to determine patent protections than to simply see if there is a patent number printed in the manual! At a minimum, having the patent number on the producdt makes it easier to determine if there are any relevant patents. You can look it up directly and see if/when the patent expires. And what if a patent expires after you started making the product? Do you have to stop printing the number on the product then?

It's too bad we can't file a class-action lawsuit against these idiots for wasting our tax dollars and tying up the courts with cases like these.
post #18 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by FineTunes View Post

35 U.S.C. 292 False marking.

"(a) Whoever, without the consent of the patentee, marks upon, or affixes to, or uses in advertising in connection with anything made, used, offered for sale, or sold by such person within the United States, or imported by the person into the United States, the name or any imitation of the name of the patentee, the patent number, or the words "patent," "patentee," or the like, with the intent of counterfeiting or imitating the mark of the patentee, or of deceiving the public and inducing them to believe that the thing was made, offered for sale, sold, or imported into the United States by or with the consent of the patentee; or Whoever marks upon, or affixes to, or uses in advertising in connection with any unpatented article the word "patent" or any word or number importing the same is patented, for the purpose of deceiving the public; or Whoever marks upon, or affixes to, or uses in advertising in connection with any article the words "patent applied for," "patent pending," or any word importing that an application for patent has been made, when no application for patent has been made, or if made, is not pending, for the purpose of deceiving the public - Shall be fined not more than $500 for every such offense.

(b) Any person may sue for the penalty, in which event one-half shall go to the person suing and the other to the use of the United States.

(Subsection (a) amended Dec. 8, 1994, Public Law 103-465, sec. 533(b)(6), 108 Stat. 4990.)"

Thanks for the reference! As I read this, Apple is NOT in violation. It makes no reference to use of expired patents and only requires that the device be covered by the patent referenced and that the reference be made only with the consent of the of the patentee. The patent still covers the technology in the product, even if the patent is expired. That just means Apple can't sue someone for using the technology.
post #19 of 69
The U.S. patent system has become so corrupt and abused that it is little more than a cartelized-mercantilist old-boys club. It is about time someone started to act to put a stop to such abuse and to initiate reform. The entire system should probably just be rolled back to exactly what it was at the time of the founding. That system initiated the largest burst of creative, scientific and commercial energy in the history of mankind and it compounded exponentially because of the limited protection periods the patent and copy write systems offered. Certainly the 20th century was not without its own progress, but that progress is slowing, in no small part because the entrenched interests are using government power over the patent system to change the rules, to lock out that creative energy, to shut down new competition -- and the country, our standard of living, even our health is suffering for it. We need more groups like this, and a lot more action like this. A lot more.
post #20 of 69
This kind of provocation is healthy. What must also be fixed is the endless patents that are issued on a range of general/common knowledge ideas and concepts that often appear to already be in the public domain in full or in part and are sought to lock out progress amongst competitors to grow and build upon anything.

The higher the overall volume of ideas that freely circulate the higher the rate of innovation and that is exactly what the US and other countries need right now.
post #21 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Apple, along with wireless carriers Sprint and Verizon, is targeted in a new lawsuit filed by the organization Americans for Fair Patent Use, alleging false patent markings in product documentation....

This suit was filed in Marshall texas, the lawsuit capital of the world (if you really do not have a case but want sympathetic juries :-) )

Nuff said.

en
post #22 of 69
The world must be doomed, if creepy organisations like AFPU are walking above ground. 8-(
post #23 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by StLBluesFan View Post

The statute involved is to help prevent companies/persons from claiming false or expired patents. Seems a laudable goal, right? Whether it has merit here is another story.

Idunno, the quote FineTunes made doesn't say anything about expired patents. Just claims made on other entities' patents or pat pending claims where the application was never filed.

It also makes lots of specific use of the words "for purposes of deceiving the public". Awfully hard to say that listing an expired, valid patent number is deceiving. It was valid and can be looked up and verified, nothing deceptive there. Maybe a little sloppy if you are going to get pedantic over things like that, but hardly fraudulent by any stretch of the imagination.
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post #24 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wonder View Post

It is not for each product sold, just for each type of device.


That's not what this says:

Quote:
Originally Posted by StLBluesFan

Different case, but some of the info here helps shed some light on the issue, at least from a legal perspective.

http://www.lexology.com/library/deta...3-9c45664c411a

That seems to imply it's on each item sold.
post #25 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheSnarkmeister View Post

The U.S. patent system has become so corrupt and abused that it is little more than a cartelized-mercantilist old-boys club. It is about time someone started to act to put a stop to such abuse and to initiate reform.

And just which bought off politicians do you think are going to do this?

And make no mistake with campaigns costing upwards of millions of dollars to run now, a "real" person doesn't stand a chance of actually making it very far. Especially when the media (who incidentally is owned by the same people who benefit from exactly what you are proposing NOT happening) get to control just who and what is seen and not seen by the majority of Americans.

The only difference between the Republican and Democratic parties is which private interest group controls them. Obama ran and won on a message of change. Well, we got change alright. Now the Democrats are screwing the public over instead of the Republicans.

I wouldn't expect any meaningful reform in American any time soon.
post #26 of 69
I'm not exactly sure why everybody is upset about this. Companies (all companies) have been abusing software patents for the longest time. It stifles innovation. It is so bad that New Zealand is pretty much trying to do away with them completely (for software). This (the lawsuit) is suppose to be a good thing. This is something people should be happy about, not angry. I'm guessing everybody saw the world "lawsuit" and assumed it was nothing but some bottom-feeding lawyers trying to make a quick buck by suing Apple. While you'd be right to assume that 99% of the time, this is the 1% where that isn't so. I mean, I'm sure this will result in lawyers making tons of money (lol), but it isn't JUST for that reason.
post #27 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hiro View Post

Idunno, the quote FineTunes made doesn't say anything about expired patents. Just claims made on other entities' patents or pat pending claims where the application was never filed.

It also makes lots of specific use of the words "for purposes of deceiving the public". Awfully hard to say that listing an expired, valid patent number is deceiving. It was valid and can be looked up and verified, nothing deceptive there. Maybe a little sloppy if you are going to get pedantic over things like that, but hardly fraudulent by any stretch of the imagination.

Listing a patent that has expired as if it still applies is a false patent claim, no? Take a look at recent cases. An expired patent ISN'T a valid patent anymore, btw. Used to be, sure, but now that thing/process/whatever is no longer protected and others can use freely without compensating or crediting the last patentholder.

As to deceiving, I suppose it would have to be shown that the company wasn't performing due diligence to purge expired patent claims from its labeling/marketing processes. Having old product on the shelf, labled with the patents when the were valid, doesn't seem to be deceiving.
post #28 of 69
Are you F*CKING kidding me? Seriously? Do these patent trolls have nothing better to do? GET A F*CKING LIFE!
post #29 of 69
I can't believe it, but I registered just to share this link:

http://www.ipfrontline.com/printtemplate.asp?id=24329

Update:

According to this site - Federal Circuit Court of Appeals holds that each article marked constitutes a separate offense.

The upside is that the false marking must carry an "intent to deceive the public" something that might be very difficult for this group to do in Apple's case.

I haven't looked to see what their claims are against the other defendants, but it sounds like this is a "Shotgun Blast" approach to see what "sticks". The payout of this is potentially huge.
post #30 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by MatLu View Post

I'm not exactly sure why everybody is upset about this. Companies (all companies) have been abusing software patents for the longest time. It stifles innovation. It is so bad that New Zealand is pretty much trying to do away with them completely (for software). This (the lawsuit) is suppose to be a good thing. This is something people should be happy about, not angry. I'm guessing everybody saw the world "lawsuit" and assumed it was nothing but some bottom-feeding lawyers trying to make a quick buck by suing Apple. While you'd be right to assume that 99% of the time, this is the 1% where that isn't so. I mean, I'm sure this will result in lawyers making tons of money (lol), but it isn't JUST for that reason.

You're right for the most part, though not everybody here is upset about it. Given how broken the patent system is, I'm starting to think that almost anything that puts it into the news and could help make people see that it needs to be fixed is a positive.
post #31 of 69
Well not a patent labeling experts, however, it use to be common practice for companies to list all the patent which a product was covered by even ones which were long past the expired date, especially if current patents were based off older pattens, or derivative patents. It was just a way to show how many patent covered a product or protect it.

It appears base on the face there were other similar case companies can only list the valid patents. I am not sure what the harm is if you list something that is not valid anymore, but obviously someone made case out of it and the courts are allowing it.

Even if apple is in violation of this rule they would have to pay the fine to the federal government, it would not go to the law firm, but the law firm would at least have their costs covered and they includes billable hours for each lawyer.
post #32 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by Leonard View Post

That's not what this says:

That seems to imply it's on each item sold.

This should settle the argument.

http://www.kenyon.com/newspublicatio...2010/6-21.aspx
無心 The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders., Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit__Edward Abbey
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無心 The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders., Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit__Edward Abbey
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post #33 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post

Even if apple is in violation of this rule they would have to pay the fine to the federal government, it would not go to the law firm, but the law firm would at least have their costs covered and they includes billable hours for each lawyer.

You misunderstand the "payment method" for this statute. Half would go to the gov, half to the paintiffs. The plaintiffs would then pay their lawyer(s) based upon whatever rate/fee they had agreed to.
post #34 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by tlevier View Post

I can't believe it, but I registered just to share this link:

http://www.ipfrontline.com/printtemplate.asp?id=24329

Update:

According to this site - Federal Circuit Court of Appeals holds that each article marked constitutes a separate offense.

The upside is that the false marking must carry an "intent to deceive the public" something that might be very difficult for this group to do in Apple's case.

I haven't looked to see what their claims are against the other defendants, but it sounds like this is a "Shotgun Blast" approach to see what "sticks". The payout of this is potentially huge.

"On June 10, 2010, the Federal Circuit affirmed the Eastern District of Virginia’s grant of summary judgment of no liability for false patent marking in favor of defendant Solo Cup Company in Pequignot v. Solo Cup Co., No. 2009-1547 (Fed. Cir. 2010). The decision should help to limit exposure of patent owners to the flood of qui tam false marking lawsuits filed since last year’s decision in Forest Group, Inc. v. Bon Tool Co., 590 F.3d 1295 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 28, 2009)."

...." The possibility of obscenely high damages combined with the fact that a false patent marking action is a qui tam action that can be brought by any person in the United States led to a flood of false marking lawsuits. Through the first four months of 2010, over 130 new false marking cases were filed; only 10 false marking cases were filed in all of 2009."
http://www.kenyon.com/newspublicatio...2010/6-21.aspx

Title: Court found in favor of Sols Cup---$500/Cup would be excessive
無心 The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders., Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit__Edward Abbey
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無心 The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders., Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit__Edward Abbey
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post #35 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by tlevier View Post

I can't believe it, but I registered just to share this link:

http://www.ipfrontline.com/printtemplate.asp?id=24329

Update:

According to this site - Federal Circuit Court of Appeals holds that each article marked constitutes a separate offense.

The upside is that the false marking must carry an "intent to deceive the public" something that might be very difficult for this group to do in Apple's case.

I haven't looked to see what their claims are against the other defendants, but it sounds like this is a "Shotgun Blast" approach to see what "sticks". The payout of this is potentially huge.

Nice fine, it does explain what this case could be about, it sounds like what they call a drive by lawsuit. Law firms found ways to go after someone or companies based on so federal law that most people have no clue they are in violation of, and the sue them in hopes they will be paid to go away.

So Law Firms like this all they do is is spend their day finding every example they can where someone might be in violation of this law and drag them in court in hope they companies pays them off to go away or at least get their legal fees covered.
post #36 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by StLBluesFan View Post

You misunderstand the "payment method" for this statute. Half would go to the gov, half to the paintiffs. The plaintiffs would then pay their lawyer(s) based upon whatever rate/fee they had agreed to.

And we know how much that will be.
無心 The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders., Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit__Edward Abbey
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無心 The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders., Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit__Edward Abbey
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post #37 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by FineTunes View Post

And we know how much that will be.

The word "plenty" comes to mind for some reason.
post #38 of 69
無心 The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders., Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit__Edward Abbey
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無心 The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders., Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit__Edward Abbey
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post #39 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by StLBluesFan View Post

You misunderstand the "payment method" for this statute. Half would go to the gov, half to the paintiffs. The plaintiffs would then pay their lawyer(s) based upon whatever rate/fee they had agreed to.

Okay, did not read the entire section, but that is a first to see the government share the fine, Usually the government get to keep it all for themselves, no wonder the lawyers are all over this one. It is pay day for them.

However, like the do not call lists companies can be fined $500 for each incident or call they place to you and I, however, you and I are not eligible for any of the at money. I made a number of claims to my state about being continuously call by a couple companies and asked the state to fine them and I would like to be reimbursed. They first laugh and explained I do not get a thing other than a thank you for bring it to their attention and they would collect and keep the money.
post #40 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by MatLu View Post

I'm not exactly sure why everybody is upset about this. Companies (all companies) have been abusing software patents for the longest time. It stifles innovation. It is so bad that New Zealand is pretty much trying to do away with them completely (for software). This (the lawsuit) is suppose to be a good thing. This is something people should be happy about, not angry. I'm guessing everybody saw the world "lawsuit" and assumed it was nothing but some bottom-feeding lawyers trying to make a quick buck by suing Apple. While you'd be right to assume that 99% of the time, this is the 1% where that isn't so. I mean, I'm sure this will result in lawyers making tons of money (lol), but it isn't JUST for that reason.

This is different from the software patent issue, which also is messed up here in the US.

This is clearly a case of the fact that anyone can search products and their associated patents, see if any of those patents expired, check to see if the products, manuals or other marketing material listed those patents and then go to court. If successful, you'd (in theory) get $250 per each item the company ever sold with the expired patent markings.

This is a new door that's opened recently for these trolls, which explains why in the past year we've seen an increase in new cases by an order of magnitude.

What really sucks about this is that it *is* pure trolling, and it's set up to be pure trolling. You don't have to prove damages or that you're a victim in order to bring the suit. Just do the searching and file the papers. There are probably tons of others who you could find. Pro-tip: look for those who place the patents on the products themselves and have been selling the products for really long time periods.

The other part of this is that in order to actually *win* and not just settle, you have to prove intent to deceive. That's the kicker. Can you really imagine Apple, or any of the others actually meant to deceive here? To what end?
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