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Patent holder sues Apple over video compression technology

post #1 of 67
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A new lawsuit takes aim at nearly all of Apple's entire product line, alleging that products ranging from QuickTime to the Mac Pro violate patents related to video file compression.

The lawsuit was filed Monday by a patent holder named Multimedia Patent Trust in a U.S. District Court in the Southern District of California. Also named in the suit are Canon, LG, and TiVo.

The complaint cites four U.S. patents granted to a number of different inventors between 1990 and 1996. All four inventions granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office are related to digital video compression techniques. The patents are:
U.S. Patent No. 4,958,226: "Conditional Motion Compensated Interpolation of Digital Motion Video"
U.S. Patent No. 5,136,377: "Adaptive Non-Linear Quantizer"
U.S. Patent No. 5,227,878: "Adaptive Coding and Decoding of Frames and Fields of Video"
U.S. Patent No. 5,500,678: "Optimized Scanning of Transform Coefficients in Video Coding"
Apple is specifically accused of violating the first three (the '226, '377 and '878 patents) with hardware it makes that plays video. In addition to hardware, the suit also names a number of Apple's software products, including Final Cut Studio, iTunes and iLife.

"These Apple products can encode and decode video in compliance with a variety of standards promulgated by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), including MPEG-2, MPEG-4, Part 2, and H.264," the complaint reads.

"The ability to encode and/or decode video images in these formats are included, via Apple's built-in QuickTime system, in Apple's laptop computers, desktop computers and other computing devices."

Multimedia Patent Trust states that it informed Apple of its alleged violations on March 15, 2007. It said that the Cupertino, Calif., company "refused to take a license and continues to infringe" on the patents.

Multimedia Patent Trust is attempting to convince the court that Apple should be entitled to pay a "reasonable royalty on all video-capable products sold by Apple that embody an apparatus claimed by those patents." It asserted that the company and its existing licensees have suffered "irreparable injury," for which the company is entitled to injunctive relief and damages.
post #2 of 67
I wonder if anyone else licenses this tech from them or if they are just patent trolls.

Seems as though apple had enough time to come to an agreement with them... apprenlty they didn't think it was legitimate or it was cheaper to get sued
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post #3 of 67
It would be nice if there were a shorter term on these patents, to make it harder for something like this to become common place and then sue. No way they didn't treat this as an investment and wait until Apple got big.

Or at least say you can't get damages for the past 10 years.

My 2 cents.
post #4 of 67
Who is Cannon and what do they make? I know who Canon is, but not Cannon.
post #5 of 67
I assume that this is the Alcatel-Lucent spinoff, in which case they aren't precisely patent trolls of the ordinary sort. That said, I wonder about such old patents, and such a long wait between "informing" Apple and filing suit.
post #6 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by fizzmaster View Post

Who is Cannon and what do they make? I know who Canon is, but not Cannon.

Balls?
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post #7 of 67
So how exactly does not getting paid for video compression patent cause "irreparable injury"?
post #8 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by artificialintel View Post

I assume that this is the Alcatel-Lucent spinoff, in which case they aren't precisely patent trolls of the ordinary sort. That said, I wonder about such old patents, and such a long wait between "informing" Apple and filing suit.

The only reason to take this long from notice to lawsuit is that they were waiting for the suit to be worth while. This is a business and back then there probably was not much money in suing.
post #9 of 67
Just look at the company┬┤s name! I wonder if they even have a physical establishment with real people working there, creating stuff that is.
post #10 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by fizzmaster View Post

Who is Cannon and what do they make? I know who Canon is, but not Cannon.

post #11 of 67
And here we GO ... again /sigh
post #12 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by fizzmaster View Post

Who is Cannon and what do they make? I know who Canon is, but not Cannon.

Cannon Equipment makes dairy automation equipment. I don't really think they're infringing.
post #13 of 67
Sometimes it's hedge funds behind these degraded, irrelevant patent pools / distressed real estate bonds. They buy the patents cheap on the possibility that they can sue innovators and siphon money from the viable people who are creating things.
post #14 of 67
I don't understand why Apple, and other companies don't have small teams to find these patents and buy them before these other companies do. It would be much cheaper in the long run.
post #15 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

I don't understand why Apple, and other companies don't have small teams to find these patents and buy them before these other companies do. It would be much cheaper in the long run.

In the case of Apple their lawyers are forbidden to use Google Patent Search and the uspto site is impossible to navigate.

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post #16 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

In the case of Apple their lawyers are forbidden to use Google Patent Search and the uspto site is impossible to navigate.

Ok, that's funny, but it was a serious question.
post #17 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by artificialintel View Post

I assume that this is the Alcatel-Lucent spinoff, in which case they aren't precisely patent trolls of the ordinary sort. That said, I wonder about such old patents, and such a long wait between "informing" Apple and filing suit.

Yes, this is the spin-off group. A quick search reveals no physical home web address for the company, no actual trades or transactions in the last year, no executives listed, etc...

This is a troll company with no intent to actually produce anything for the betterment of consumers or society. Instead, it sues other companies to get pay-offs. Another word that comes to mind is leech. I hope judges start seeing companies like this for what they are and stop these frivolous lawsuits from continuing.
post #18 of 67
OK, I'm confused and maybe I don't understand what they are actually suing over, but....

I always thought that the MPEGLA handled the licensing for all of these video technologies, and according to their site Apple is both a "Licensee" for all of these formats as well as a "Licensor" for a few of them.

If the MPEGLA handles the Licensing of these compression technologies and Apple is listed as a licensee then what's going on?
post #19 of 67
Everybody is trying to get a piece of that $50 billion in cash Steve has squirreled away.
post #20 of 67
not sure if this applies here - but seems like this and many are cases where an idea should not be patented but the implementation of that idea.

it is one thing if Apple came knocking and said may we use your code please and the patent holder said sure here ya go - that'll be $x per shipping unit (or whatever) and Apple said thanks for the tech but we are not paying - and something else entirely if Apple developed independently code that happened to perform a very similar without any knowledge of the other company's work or patent.
post #21 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by JBracy View Post

OK, I'm confused and maybe I don't understand what they are actually suing over, but....

I always thought that the MPEGLA handled the licensing for all of these video technologies, and according to their site Apple is both a "Licensee" for all of these formats as well as a "Licensor" for a few of them.

If the MPEGLA handles the Licensing of these compression technologies and Apple is listed as a licensee then what's going on?

Just because one company sues another doesn't mean that they're right. I imagine over the next few days we'll know more about the patents involved. It's also interesting that at least one of these patents is already no longer in effect.
post #22 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by fizzmaster View Post

who is cannon and what do they make? I know who canon is, but not cannon.

boom!
post #23 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by lilgto64 View Post

not sure if this applies here - but seems like this and many are cases where an idea should not be patented but the implementation of that idea.

it is one thing if Apple came knocking and said may we use your code please and the patent holder said sure here ya go - that'll be $x per shipping unit (or whatever) and Apple said thanks for the tech but we are not paying - and something else entirely if Apple developed independently code that happened to perform a very similar without any knowledge of the other company's work or patent.

The way it works is that if you develop work that infringes, it infringes. That's all that matters. That's the point to patents. Knowledge of a patent doesn't matter. It's considered to be up to the person or company working on new products to do a patent search. It's then up to the patent holder to check out whatever seems to be infringing, and inform them.

no, you can't patent ideas, but if your product is close enough, then it infringes.
post #24 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Multimedia Patent Trust ... asserted that the company and its existing licensees have suffered "irreparable injury,"...

That's nothing compared to what you are going to suffer when Steve's black helicopter full of ninjas comes for your a$$.
post #25 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by O and A View Post

I wonder if anyone else licenses this tech from them or if they are just patent trolls.

Patent Trolls!!
Great wording there! Very useful and adequate phrase nowadays.
Hehe.
post #26 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mac.World View Post

Yes, this is the spin-off group. A quick search reveals no physical home web address for the company, no actual trades or transactions in the last year, no executives listed, etc...

This is a troll company with no intent to actually produce anything for the betterment of consumers or society. Instead, it sues other companies to get pay-offs. Another word that comes to mind is leech. I hope judges start seeing companies like this for what they are and stop these frivolous lawsuits from continuing.

The news of the joint Apple Microsoft el at patent (anti-tolling) acquistion confirm that big companies with a lot at stake are taking a more pre active stance against this type of thing.
post #27 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

The way it works is that if you develop work that infringes, it infringes. That's all that matters. That's the point to patents. Knowledge of a patent doesn't matter. It's considered to be up to the person or company working on new products to do a patent search. It's then up to the patent holder to check out whatever seems to be infringing, and inform them.

no, you can't patent ideas, but if your product is close enough, then it infringes.

It seems logical that if you have a software patent, you should have some code that proves your invention. Sure there are various forms of filings that are integrated hardware/software/user interface in nature but video compression is pure software. I wonder if they actually have any working code or is it just some ideas.

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post #28 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

I don't understand why Apple, and other companies don't have small teams to find these patents and buy them before these other companies do. It would be much cheaper in the long run.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

In the case of Apple their lawyers are forbidden to use Google Patent Search and the uspto site is impossible to navigate.

Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

Ok, that's funny, but it was a serious question.

It is odd...

Considering that Jack Purcher does an excellent job of discovering Apple Patents:

http://www.patentlyapple.com/

Jack's wife is an attorney and Jack is a techie with an unique capability to locate, read, understand and present the information found in patents -- so that mortals can understand them.

In the case of patent searches, someone like jack would need to be told what Apple is developing (at least general areas of interest). Then perform exhaustive patent searches. These can take months or years.

What might be interesting is for Apple to contract someone like Jack on a "bounty" system where his fees are based on hits for potential patent conflicts.

... I think I'll ask Jack!
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post #29 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

It seems logical that if you have a software patent, you should have some code that proves your invention. Sure there are various forms of filings that are integrated hardware/software/user interface in nature but video compression is pure software. I wonder if they actually have any working code or is it just some ideas.

Of course, the code is the product. If they have no code, then they have no product.

I assume they have the code, or they wouldn't be suing. Whether that code is relevant is something else. The problem is that all of these big companies have worked on products like this, and so they all have some product that uses their own code, which may be patented.

While I feel that it is important to allow software patents, after all, a product is a product, the time is too long. The software industry moves too quickly for 20 year patents. I've felt that it should be between 7 and 10 years. This would fix many of the problems we have with software patents.

In addition, it should also be that the time the lawsuit is filed is the time the recovery period should be started from, if the suite is won. I think it's a bad idea to allow suites just before a patent expires to recover income from the very beginning. In the beginning, most patents are worth less, as it may not look as though the product will do well. so license terms would be less. But as the product becomes more popular, if it does, then the license is renegotiated.This would also help to ensure more timely lawsuits.

One of my companies had 43 patents. We didn't license them out, as we used them for our own products. We only had one company infringe, where they settled, and discontinued their product that used it. It seems that more companies are willing to step on another's IP these days then in the past. Maybe because most products are so complex they need a dozen, or more, patented technologies to work. Sometimes they need dozens.

Patent searches are also much more difficult today, with so many technologies so complex, and yet so similar to others, that it's tough for even qualified patent attorneys, who are also experts in the various fields they work in, to understand how one patent differs from another.

I feel certain that a lot of infringement is unintentional, and when a company gets contacted by another, their response, is; "What? No way!"
post #30 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

The way it works is that if you develop work that infringes, it infringes. That's all that matters. That's the point to patents. Knowledge of a patent doesn't matter. It's considered to be up to the person or company working on new products to do a patent search. It's then up to the patent holder to check out whatever seems to be infringing, and inform them.

no, you can't patent ideas, but if your product is close enough, then it infringes.

I think what I am saying is more along the lines of if there are multiple ways to achieve the same effect then perhaps the overall description is too vague to be patented.

For example - Thomas Edison did not patent "the light bulb" he patented a specific design with a screw in base etc - if someone else develops "a device which shall produce a visible light emission through the application of electricity" that is entirely different in materials and construction and design etc - then it should qualify for a separate patent - and a patent troll that uses the description I just gave vs the specifics of a given product should not be allowed.

How many patents are there for Mouse Traps? Isn't that the example used of innovation? so where is the patent troll who has a patent on "a device which stops a rodent" ? or perhaps a better question what is so very different about that case and a case of software code that achieves the same result but which may do so in an entirely different way.
post #31 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by lilgto64 View Post

I think what I am saying is more along the lines of if there are multiple ways to achieve the same effect then perhaps the overall description is too vague to be patented.

For example - Thomas Edison did not patent "the light bulb" he patented a specific design with a screw in base etc - if someone else develops "a device which shall produce a visible light emission through the application of electricity" that is entirely different in materials and construction and design etc - then it should qualify for a separate patent - and a patent troll that uses the description I just gave vs the specifics of a given product should not be allowed.

How many patents are there for Mouse Traps? Isn't that the example used of innovation? so where is the patent troll who has a patent on "a device which stops a rodent" ? or perhaps a better question what is so very different about that case and a case of software code that achieves the same result but which may do so in an entirely different way.

That's why I said "if your product is close enough, then it infringes". There may be many ways to do the same thing, and possibly all are valid. Your product can't be a simple derivation of another's patented product. It must show a unique way of accomplishing the same task, or giving the same result.

But, there is something interesting in patent law that goes all the way back. This is also where a lot of these lawsuits get confused.

Company "A" has two patents, and two products use them, one in each.

Company "B" takes those two patents, and builds a product that combines them. Is this allowed? Take a quick guess without looking it up.
post #32 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

Patent searches are also much more difficult today, with so many technologies so complex, and yet so similar to others, that it's tough for even qualified patent attorneys, who are also experts in the various fields they work in, to understand how one patent differs from another.

I feel certain that a lot of infringement is unintentional, and when a company gets contacted by another, their response, is; "What? No way!"

I wonder if some of the infringements are intentional -- to test the validity of the patent, or as an alternative to long, drawn-out negotiations.

Pure anecdote:

I worked for IBM in the 1960s (Las Vegas, NV sub-office of Riverside, CA Branch) when Xerox dominated the copier market. IBM released a direct competitor -- high quality, lower price, larger marketing and support organization.

Xerox sued for infringement of various patents.

Because IBM was continuously involved in litigation, IBM personnel (especially those with customer contact) were routinely briefed on current suits -- what was involved, and what we could say (usually nothing) about them.

I remember the particular meeting where the Xerox litigation was discussed. Apart from being told we could not comment on the suit -- we were told that the copier had some new (IBM patented) features and was designed to break/test the validity of key Xerox patents.

The line that resonates is when the presenter said: "IBM has a lot of attorneys -- they might as well earn their salaries."
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post #33 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

Of course, the code is the product. If they have no code, then they have no product.

I assume they have the code, or they wouldn't be suing. Whether that code is relevant is something else. The problem is that all of these big companies have worked on products like this, and so they all have some product that uses their own code, which may be patented.

The code from 1990 and 1996 cannot possibly be relevant. If they look at the source code, libraries, compilers, and functions of those days, they would have little resemblance to today's OOP programming style. Assuming that there is no borrowing of code, they would have to argue that the patent is on achieving an end goal or a general theory and method. Something as vague as:

Evaluate the pixels of a frame > find redundant color values between that frame and the next frame > load the data into a buffer > only read the changed pixels. Of course that describes every compression scheme ever used in the history of computing.

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post #34 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

That's why I said "if your product is close enough, then it infringes". There may be many ways to do the same thing, and possibly all are valid. Your product can't be a simple derivation of another's patented product. It must show a unique way of accomplishing the same task, or giving the same result.

But, there is something interesting in patent law that goes all the way back. This is also where a lot of these lawsuits get confused.

Company "A" has two patents, and two products use them, one in each.

Company "B" takes those two patents, and builds a product that combines them. Is this allowed? Take a quick guess without looking it up.

Yes... It is allowed!
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post #35 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post

I wonder if some of the infringements are intentional -- to test the validity of the patent, or as an alternative to long, drawn-out negotiations.

Pure anecdote:

I worked for IBM in the 1960s (Las Vegas, NV sub-office of Riverside, CA Branch) when Xerox dominated the copier market. IBM released a direct competitor -- high quality, lower price, larger marketing and support organization.

Xerox sued for infringement of various patents.

Because IBM was continuously involved in litigation, IBM personnel (especially those with customer contact) were routinely briefed on current suits -- what was involved, and what we could say (usually nothing) about them.

I remember the particular meeting where the Xerox litigation was discussed. Apart from being told we could not comment on the suit -- we were told that the copier had some new (IBM patented) features and was designed to break/test the validity of key Xerox patents.

The line that resonates is when the presenter said: "IBM has a lot of attorneys -- they might as well earn their salaries."

Where were all those lawyers in the IBM PC BIOS reverse engineering case? they lost that one, no?
post #36 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post

I wonder if some of the infringements are intentional -- to test the validity of the patent, or as an alternative to long, drawn-out negotiations.

Pure anecdote:

I worked for IBM in the 1960s (Las Vegas, NV sub-office of Riverside, CA Branch) when Xerox dominated the copier market. IBM released a direct competitor -- high quality, lower price, larger marketing and support organization.

Xerox sued for infringement of various patents.

Because IBM was continuously involved in litigation, IBM personnel (especially those with customer contact) were routinely briefed on current suits -- what was involved, and what we could say (usually nothing) about them.

I remember the particular meeting where the Xerox litigation was discussed. Apart from being told we could not comment on the suit -- we were told that the copier had some new (IBM patented) features and was designed to break/test the validity of key Xerox patents.

The line that resonates is when the presenter said: "IBM has a lot of attorneys -- they might as well earn their salaries."

That's why I wasn't absolute about it. I feel as though most infringement isn't intentional. i also feel that most of the rest is uncaring, that is, it's done with knowledge, but thought that it will slip by. The rest, a small amount, is intentional for the reasons you state.

i can see IBM doing that for a product that doesn't mean all that much to the company. It's an isolated product line. but with Apple, much of the patents cover vast swaths of their products, and are almost a make or break company situation. If they lose a wide ranging patent suit, product pricing could be affected, which could affect their competitive stance. It could also affect their ability to be independent. Sometimes that's more important than the dollar amount the patent is worth. With all of Apple's money in the bank, they should assign a chunk to buying out these companies, even at inflated prices.
post #37 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

The code from 1990 and 1996 cannot possibly be relevant. If they look at the source code, libraries, compilers, and functions of those days, they would have little resemblance to today's OOP programming style. Assuming that there is no borrowing of code, they would have to argue that the patent is on achieving an end goal or a general theory and method. Something as vague as:

Evaluate the pixels of a frame > find redundant color values between that frame and the next frame > load the data into a buffer > only read the changed pixels. Of course that describes every compression scheme ever used in the history of computing.

It's the borrowing of code that the problem. Remember that was the SCO issue over Linux. Of course, SCO couldn't actually prove that there was a code similarity, but that's an issue.
post #38 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post

Yes... It is allowed!

Only if the new product has unique properties that the two individual patents didn't have on their own, that the two patents are responsible for.

If all they do is to duplicate the functions of the individual patents in the new device, then they can't be used. That's even if the new device does have unique properties overall. The unique properties must be from the combination of those two patents.
post #39 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by lilgto64 View Post

Where were all those lawyers in the IBM PC BIOS reverse engineering case? they lost that one, no?

Found this:
http://startupgallery.org/gallery/story.php?ii=57

Looks like the lawyers did their job, but the geeks did an end run around.

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post #40 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by lilgto64 View Post

Where were all those lawyers in the IBM PC BIOS reverse engineering case? they lost that one, no?

Clean room implementations of how stuff works is legal.
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