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Patent suit challenges motion-based input with Apple's iPhone 4

post #1 of 81
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A new lawsuit takes aim at the accelerometer- and gyroscope-powered abilities of Apple's iPhone 4, alleging that the interactive, three-dimensional input methods are in violation of a U.S. patent.

The lawsuit, filed this week by Triton Tech of Texas, names both Apple and Nintendo as defendants. Triton is the owner of U.S. Patent No. 5,181,181, entitled "Computer Apparatus Input Device for Three-Dimensional Information."

That patent describes a handheld device that includes multiple accelerometers and angular rate sensors for detecting positioning and motion. By interpreting acceleration, velocity and relative position of the device, it can allow users to interact with a computer or other device with six degrees of motion in a three-dimensional space.

Illustrations that accompany the patent show a mouse with three buttons, and the filing specifically mentions a "mouse" that senses motion in six axes.

Triton's lawsuit only specifically singles out the iPhone 4 from Apple as an infringing device, though it implies that other devices could be in violation. Apple's iPod touch and iPad also include accelerometers that are used for input.



The iPhone 4 also includes a new gyroscope that is not yet found in other iOS-based mobile devices. The gyroscope allows for even more precise motion-based controls, particularly in games available on the App Store.

The suit asserts that the iPhone 4 is in violation because the hardware is "using acceleration sensors and rotational rate sensors for detecting motion about a particular axis for communication with a computing device." It notes that Apple's handset accomplishes this task without approval or licensing from Triton.



Also named in the lawsuit is the Nintendo Wii Motion Plus gaming accessory, which allows users to experience even more precise input via an attachment to the Wii remote control.

The complaint was filed Monday in a U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas. Patent lawsuits are often filed there in hopes of a favorable outcome.
post #2 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by theAppleMan912 View Post

Wow. Has anyone noticed apple have layed off the suing, and are now becoming the sued???

If you cant beat them, sue them.
post #3 of 81
More and more I wish I became a lawyer.
post #4 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by theAppleMan912 View Post

Wow. Has anyone noticed apple have layed off the suing, and are now becoming the sued???

Only over around the last ten years.

Psystar and HTC are the only suits I can think of off hand that were instigated by Apple, the rest are mainly as a result of Apple countersuing.
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post #5 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

The lawsuit, filed this week by Triton Tech of Texas, names both Apple and Nintendo as defendants. Triton is the owner of U.S. Patent No. 5,181,181, entitled "Computer Apparatus Input Device for Three-Dimensional Information."



Looks to me like Triton is sick of being treated badly in negotiations by these big companies. They now have a big stick. Maybe now Nintendo and Apple will start to take them seriously?

Good for them!
post #6 of 81
At least this company filing in Marshall Texas is from Texas.
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post #7 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

A new lawsuit takes aim at the accelerometer- and gyroscope-powered abilities of Apple's iPhone 4, alleging that the interactive, three-dimensional input methods are in violation of a U.S. patent...

Seems like weak sauce to me.

It only really applies to what Apple is doing in the most tangential fashion, it was never implemented, and hasn't been defended even though many many devices have used this technique before the iPhone.
post #8 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by Newtron View Post

Looks to me like Triton is sick of being treated badly in negotiations by these big companies. They now have a big stick. Maybe now Nintendo and Apple will start to take them seriously?

Good for them!

I dont understand this argument. Do you mean licensing their IP when you say negotiations? If they are actively licensing their product to these companies then how can they be suing them for patent violations?
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post #9 of 81
So where is the market ready device from these guys? Where is the working prototype?

People keep patenting concepts that they lack the wherewithal to bring to market, and then sue others when they are beaten to market - it's crazy.

I don't think a patent should be accepted unless the applicant can demonstrate a working prototype.

Maybe I'll patent the concept of teleportation (diagrams and all) and sue the first manufacturer who makes a mint selling them.

Crazy.
post #10 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by nkhm View Post


Maybe I'll patent the concept of teleportation (diagrams and all) and sue the first manufacturer who makes a mint selling them.

Crazy.

And you seriously think you'll be the first one to do so? Somehow I think the patent system has more than it's fair share of embodiments of molecular translocation systems as well as embodiments of vertically tethered space platforms ... Space elevators .. As well as replicators and mater recombinators etc etc etc. Seems to be the best way to hit the jackpot .. Just think something up that might be remotely possible within the next 15ish years and cross your fingers. Anything over 15 and your gonna run the risk of the patent expiring.
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post #11 of 81
It took them almost 5 years to figure out that the Wii was using their patent, yet only a couple months for the iPhone 4? Or did Nintendo recently change the way the remote works, putting it in "violation" of the patent?
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post #12 of 81
Or even make an algorithm that generates patent applications, perhaps using existing ones as seeds.

Then overwhelm the system with it's own madness.
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post #13 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveGee View Post

And you seriously think you'll be the first one to do so? Somehow I think the patent system has more than it's fair share of embodiments of molecular translocation systems as well as embodiments of vertically tethered space platforms ... Space elevators .. As well as replicators and mater recombinators etc etc etc. Seems to be the best way to hit the jackpot .. Just think something up that might be remotely possible within the next 15ish years and cross your fingers. Anything over 15 and your gonna run the risk of the patent expiring.

But you understand my point...
post #14 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by theAppleMan912 View Post

Wow. Has anyone noticed apple have layed off the suing, and are now becoming the sued???

No good deed goes unpunished.
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post #15 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by Newtron View Post

Looks to me like Triton is sick of being treated badly in negotiations by these big companies. They now have a big stick. Maybe now Nintendo and Apple will start to take them seriously?

Good for them!

Nice to hear from you Mr. Triton! Welcome to the forum.
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post #16 of 81
If I understand patents correctly this is an 11th hour suit. Here is the patent info.

Patent number: 5181181
Filing date: Sep 27, 1990
Issue date: Jan 19, 1993

The patent is good for 20 years from the filing date. They are filing with less than a month left on their patent, but by the time they go to trial it will be expired. Not sure what can be done then other than back pay for that period at best.
post #17 of 81
I forgot to add that if Triton Tech forgets to remove any information about their expired patent from public view they could get sued by a troll claiming harm from the company claiming an expired patent.
post #18 of 81
Sad...
Those that can...do.

Those that can't.. sue.

I have had a million 'great' ideas float through my head... the fact that I could patent them and do nothing with them to better man kind is disgusting IMHO.
post #19 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

At least this company filing in Marshall Texas is from Texas.

It states in the filig that this Triton Tech is an LLC based in Marshall, Texas. It sounds to me like a shell company for patent trolling.

BTW, this is by no means a comment on the merit of this suit. Even trolls get one right now and then. I don't know that this is the case, though.
post #20 of 81
I suggest AI refrain from publishing these lawsuit stories for the following reasons:

1) There are so damned many of them.
2) We rarely get a followup, which gives the impression that Apple is being buried under an ever-growing pile of lawsuits
3) They are very similar in quality and scope, only the specific challenged technology changes


I suggest we see them only if:

1) The suit is dropped, settled, won or lost. Then tell us about it so we get both ends of the story at once.
2) The suit is particularly novel or important--use editorial restraint.

To keep posting every one makes them become background noise. I tune it out. Also, we all get weary of reading the same four or five predictable categories of response: lawyers suck, Texas sucks, patent law sucks, "I am going to patent breathing," etc. Or maybe save them up for a year end summary: "Apple's 2010 Lawsuits in Review." Anything but this death by a thousand cuts journalism.
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post #21 of 81
I'm no patent attorney, but another absurd lawsuit, in my opinion. The IDEA of including multiple accelerometers and angular rate sensors for detecting position and motion should not be patentable. To me, it's sort of like saying, "a wire will be used to conduct electricity" or "a metering device will be used to measure the amount of current in the circuit." Only the specific implementation should be patentable and what a three or six button mouse has to do with Apple's iPhone is beyond me.

But I don't think Amazon should have gotten a patent on "one-click" purchasing either, which Apple had to license from them. The idea that a single virtual on-screen button performs multiple tasks, one of which might be to look up information in a database for the current user, should not be patentable. If any unique techniques were used to store or access the information, perhaps that should be patentable.
post #22 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ysean View Post

It states in the filig that this Triton Tech is an LLC based in Marshall, Texas. It sounds to me like a shell company for patent trolling.

I thought they were based in Houston, actually.
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post #23 of 81
When they file, is it just drawings, or do they actually have to produce a working model??

If all you have to do is think of something and draw a picture, I could make a living coming up with stuff no one is using right now and patent it to ensure my family is taking care of when someone finally gets around to actually creating something that works.
post #24 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post

Seems like weak sauce to me.

It only really applies to what Apple is doing in the most tangential fashion, it was never implemented, and hasn't been defended even though many many devices have used this technique before the iPhone.


Are the second and third factors even relevant?
post #25 of 81
Okay, since there are so few of us left...is there ANYONE here who has NOT sued Apple yet?

Anyone?

Anyone?

Bueller?

OMG...I'm all alone!!!!
post #26 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

At least this company filing in Marshall Texas is from Texas.

Solipsism...
Not sure how I rate being in your signature, but I totally agree with your statement.
post #27 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

I dont understand this argument. Do you mean licensing their IP when you say negotiations? If they are actively licensing their product to these companies then how can they be suing them for patent violations?

I mean negotiations to license the IP. Do you think that they would sue without first trying to make a reasonable deal?

I presume they are small. I know for a fact that Apple is a giant who can crush other companies with teams of lawyers on a whim.

I assume that they didn't try a dangerous, expensive, speculative method (litigation) before trying a near-costless and potentially profitable method (a deal).

I could be wrong. But the alternative makes little sense, unless there are many, many facts left out of the reporting.
post #28 of 81
As will no doubt be mentioned by dozens of others, this is something whose specific implementation should have been patentable, but the simple concept of using motion for control should not have been
post #29 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post

I suggest AI refrain from publishing these lawsuit stories for the following reasons:

1) There are so damned many of them.
2) We rarely get a followup, which gives the impression that Apple is being buried under an ever-growing pile of lawsuits
3) They are very similar in quality and scope, only the specific challenged technology changes


I suggest we see them only if:

1) The suit is dropped, settled, won or lost. Then tell us about it so we get both ends of the story at once.
2) The suit is particularly novel or important--use editorial restraint.

To keep posting every one makes them become background noise. I tune it out. Also, we all get weary of reading the same four or five predictable categories of response: lawyers suck, Texas sucks, patent law sucks, "I am going to patent breathing," etc. Or maybe save them up for a year end summary: "Apple's 2010 Lawsuits in Review." Anything but this death by a thousand cuts journalism.

Excellent points. As I mentioned yesterday (commenting on another story about a patent suit against Apple), a vast majority of these -- over 75% -- go nowhere.

I'd rather hear about the ones that succeed for the plaintiffs, why/how, and then see how the appeals process works.

A similar argument applies to the seemingly endless stories about antitrust complaints and investigations in the tech sector.
post #30 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by Newtron View Post

I mean negotiations to license the IP. Do you think that they would sue without first trying to make a reasonable deal?

I presume they are small. I know for a fact that Apple is a giant who can crush other companies with teams of lawyers on a whim.

I assume that they didn't try a dangerous, expensive, speculative method (litigation) before trying a near-costless and potentially profitable method (a deal).

I could be wrong. But the alternative makes little sense, unless there are many, many facts left out of the reporting.

Okay, I get what you're saying.

1) Does Triton think it has a patent that could warrant licensing from these companies or do they think there only recourse for making a profit is from sueing in Marshall.

2) If they did seek licensing fees why didn't they get them from either company? Did they ask for too much thus making a lawsuit and potential payout a more lucrative solution, did these cpmpanies feel Triton's patents wouldn't hold up in court, or some other reason?
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post #31 of 81
Here's a possible interesting item of interest concerning patent laws in the US: By law, any member of the public can demand that the Patent and Trademark Office reexamine an issued patent, and the PTO is (usually) bound to do so.

If there are knowledgeable folks on technologies such as these in forums such as AI, it is time to take a stand, and confront this type of junk head-on.
post #32 of 81
I'm filing a patent for "Thing that does stuff"
See you all in court.
post #33 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by nkhm View Post


I don't think a patent should be accepted unless the applicant can demonstrate a working prototype.



Crazy.


That would invalidate patents based not upon any existing criteria, but instead, based in large part on the wealth of the inventor. It would be counterproductive.

Here's some basic patent stuff from Wikipedia that covers the current enablement criteria, which seems to be the aspect of patent law that you seek to overturn:

The patent law in the United States further requires, among other things, that the patent specification "contain a written description of the invention, and of the manner and process of making and using it, in such full, clear, concise, and exact terms as to enable any person skilled in the art to which it pertains, or with which it is most nearly connected, to make and use the same." 35 U.S.C. 112(1). The requirement "to enable" a person of ordinary skill in the art to make and use the invention is colloquially referred to as the "enablement" requirement. A patent that does not meet the enablement requirement may be declared invalid by a court.
post #34 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by Newtron View Post

Are the second and third factors even relevant?

I am not a lawyer, but my understanding is that, if a patent holder seriously delays in bringing a lawsuit, the court can bar past damages. Two things are perhaps worthy of note here: one, as someone pointed out above, these guys waited until a month before patent expiry (and 239 months into the patent) to file a lawsuit; two, Wii has been around for a number of years now, so the question is why Triton filed nothing before this.
post #35 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by Motlee View Post

It took them almost 5 years to figure out that the Wii was using their patent, yet only a couple months for the iPhone 4? Or did Nintendo recently change the way the remote works, putting it in "violation" of the patent?

Likely none of your potential explanations are accurate.
post #36 of 81
Has anybody found a home page of this company, or is patent suing the only activity of this so called triton tech inc.?
post #37 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by zoetmb View Post

I'm no patent attorney, but another absurd lawsuit, in my opinion. The IDEA of including multiple accelerometers and angular rate sensors for detecting position and motion should not be patentable.




The idea is not patentable. And at any rate, none of their claims were for that idea.
post #38 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by svesan03 View Post

If all you have to do is think of something and draw a picture, I could make a living coming up with stuff no one is using right now and patent it to ensure my family is taking care of when someone finally gets around to actually creating something that works.


Wow. Maybe that is why there are more requirements than "think of something and draw a picture".

You can rest easy now.
post #39 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronbo View Post

As will no doubt be mentioned by dozens of others, this is something whose specific implementation should have been patentable, but the simple concept of using motion for control should not have been

I'm not sure that they claim a patent on "the simple concept of using motion for control".

Which of their claims says that they do?

I think you may be mistaken about the basis of their patent.
post #40 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Okay, I get what you're saying.

1) Does Triton think it has a patent that could warrant licensing from these companies or do they think there only recourse for making a profit is from sueing in Marshall.

2) If they did seek licensing fees why didn't they get them from either company? Did they ask for too much thus making a lawsuit and potential payout a more lucrative solution, did these cpmpanies feel Triton's patents wouldn't hold up in court, or some other reason?



Your guesses are as good as mine.

But it is very common for a huge merciless company to string along a tiny one who is trying to sell them something. Another poster said that Triton is running out of time.

Your guesses are as good as mine.
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