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Lawsuit targets Apple over patented software licensing restrictions

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 
A new lawsuit accuses Apple's iOS mobile operating system of infringing on a patent related to restricting the operation of software through licensing.

The complaint from Ancora Technologies was filed in a U.S. District Court in the Central District of California. The company, based in Sherman Oaks, Calif., claims ownership of U.S. Patent No 6,411,941, entitled "Method of Restricting Software Operation Within a License Limitation."

The invention awarded on June 25, 2002, notes that illegal copying of software costs billions of dollars in lost profits. Ancora's solution is to restrict software operation with a license limitation.

Apple is accused of violating the '941 patent with devices that run the iOS operating system, including the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch -- all of which are specifically named in the complaint. Ancora is arguing that it has suffered damages as a result of Apple's alleged infringement of the patent.

"Apple had knowledge of the '941 patent at least as early as December 11, 2002 and has not fulfilled its duty of care," the complaint reads. "Thus, Apple's infringement is willful, wanton, and deliberate."



Ancora has asked the court to prevent Apple from further alleged infringement of the '941 patent with its products and services. The company also seeks damages three times more than the federal government's recommended patent infringement damages law.

The '941 patent was first applied for in 1998 by Beeble, Inc., of Newport Beach, Calif. The credited inventors are Miki Mullor and Julian Valiko.
post #2 of 32
What else is new? Someone suing apple for software. Yay.
post #3 of 32
Someone should make a list of all the lawsuits against Apple since 2007.
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post #4 of 32
What a second. Am I reading this right. Someone got a patent on using serial numbers??????

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post #5 of 32
I wonder if you can patent the patenting process?
post #6 of 32
Shouldn't this have been filed in East Texas?
post #7 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

What a second. Am I reading this right. Someone got a patent on using serial numbers??????

Not exactly. They have a patent on using the host ID as a verification of the software license. This was the way UNIX software was licensed back in the 80s and early 90s - not so much anymore. For example if you purchased a copy of some piece of expensive software like a CAD or 3D modeling application, before you could use it you would have to call up the publisher of the software and tell them your Host ID of the machine that it was going to be running on. They would run that number through an encryption algorithm and give you a serial number which you would enter into the application registration setup. That way the application could only run on a specific host.

Anyway, as far as I know Apple has never used the Host ID for registering software, at least not any that I have used.

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post #8 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by rbonner View Post

I wonder if you can patent the patenting process?

Somebody already tried something similar.

The writer of this blog entry didn't realize that Haliburton was attempting to make a point rather than to defraud the American taxpayer:

http://www.patentlyo.com/patent/2008...k-patents.html

I don't know if the patent was accepted or not. I suspect strongly that it would have been rejected as being obvious to anyone skilled in the art. Still, their point is a valid one. There needs to be intellectual property law reform to decriminalize the act of operating an innovative and successful company in the United States.
post #9 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by rbonner View Post

I wonder if you can patent the patenting process?

IBM did that a couple of days ago.
No, really, see for yourself.
post #10 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

Not exactly. They have a patent on using the host ID as a verification of the software license. This was the way UNIX software was licensed back in the 80s and early 90s - not so much anymore.

This would (if I'm reading this right) mean Prior Art, which in turns means it gets thrown out.
post #11 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by kirkgray View Post

Shouldn't this have been filed in East Texas?

Yes, my thoughts too... filed in CA not Texas, maybe this could be for real!
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Enjoying the new Mac Pro ... it's smokin'
Been using Apple since Apple ][ - Long on AAPL so biased
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post #12 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Random Walk View Post

This would (if I'm reading this right) mean Prior Art, which in turns means it gets thrown out.

Well that is the beauty of vague language when comes to patents. They have a patent on the means of verifying the license of software running on a computer. The way they do is not really as important. To cover all possible future methods they patent the desired result not the actual steps involved with achieving that result. In their non-restrictive example, however, they do it the same way the UNIX guys were doing it for ages.

Edit: Their patent relates primarily to PCs of the time with BIOS and Eproms- Something that Apple does not use.

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post #13 of 32
how can you patent something that has been in use by others for decades before you file for the patent?
post #14 of 32
Apple's response will be to ask the court to invalidate this patent..
post #15 of 32
^ As they should.
post #16 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

Not exactly. They have a patent on using the host ID as a verification of the software license. This was the way UNIX software was licensed back in the 80s and early 90s - not so much anymore.

There are many software packages that are still licensed in this way.

CPU IDs are often used for keying licenses on systems where they are available. It's been done that way for a very long time on mainframes, going back at least into the 70s; that alone would seem to blow up their patent.

For the last couple of decades using the ethernet address was often the technique (I think this might have been what you meant by "host ID"), it's a pretty good unique host identifier. I worked on software that used this scheme, too, back in the late 80s and early 90s. I've seen a bunch of other kinds of things used for unique IDs too.

Virtualization has made unique hardware identifiers a heck of a lot harder to determine, alas. Licensing schemes that use such mechanisms have largely fallen by the wayside for this and a few other reasons.

Anyway, like so many other software patents, this patent should not have been granted. There is far too much prior art that, so far as I can tell in a quick reading, is a perfect match. The Patent Office is in serious need of having its bell rung, it is ridiculous to be handing out boatloads of obviously bad patents (to an average practitioner of the art) and forcing the invalidation of those patents into the courts.

There are some signs that it will improve, that the PO might start taking public input regarding prior art during the patent approval process and making it easier to challenge patents outside of court. It remains to be seen if such things will become real practice, though.
post #17 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

They would run that number through an encryption algorithm and give you a serial number which you would enter into the application registration setup. That way the application could only run on a specific host. .

So it is for serial numbers, but just ones linked to a particular machine. Not just a general number in the box (that you could use over and over)

Seems to me that this is more similar to Microsoft than Apple. curious there was nothing about that

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post #18 of 32
A couple of things...they say that Apple has known about this since late 2002. How exactly did they know? Second, assuming they did know and tell you to go to Hell, why didn't you sue in 2003-2004? Or when App store appeared in 2008? Why wait 8 years?

Let's assume for a second the patent is legitimate (a huge stretch). There is legal precident for "You snooze, you lose". Xerox sued Apple over the UI to the Mac in 1990 and was thrown out for basically waiting too long.
post #19 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by jimafrost View Post

For the last couple of decades using the ethernet address was often the technique (I think this might have been what you meant by "host ID"), it's a pretty good unique host identifier.

Host ID in the old Solaris days was based on the network MAC address of eth0 but slightly modified using the first two digits and then hexing the remaining ones.

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post #20 of 32
Let's face it, this lawsuit has much more to do with Apple's recently announced market cap (http://www.appleinsider.com/articles...0_billion.html) than anything else. When you're sitting on a big pile of gold, the thieves will be out to try to steal some!
post #21 of 32
Being the most sued company in the world means you're doing something very right.
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post #22 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Random Walk View Post

IBM did that a couple of days ago.
No, really, see for yourself.

Wrong. IBM applied for a patent solution on a very specific end-to-end solution.
post #23 of 32
getting tired of all these articles on who is sueing apple... time to just forget about it and and move on to better stories.... there are too many of these lawsuits.
post #24 of 32
Both independent claims 1. and 18. appear to require BIOS, which is a firmware implementation following a particular standard. Apple historically used Open Firmware and it's derivative EFI. Should it not use the BIOS standard it isn't likely Apple would be held infringing, something that can be found during discovery.

Ancora Technolgies attempts to hold a broader definition of BIOS than limited to IBM PC Compatible computers.

Should Ancora preserver in the expanded definition, it's likely there is prior art as has been pointed out. Sun Microsystems for instance included such support in Open Boot (Open Firmware) for providing a HostID, which was used prior to the '941 filing date for tying license manager licenses to particular workstations.

Ancora Technologies is founded by a previous employee of Microsoft and settled in November 2009 with Microsoft over infringement of the '941 patent.
post #25 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

Not exactly. They have a patent on using the host ID as a verification of the software license. This was the way UNIX software was licensed back in the 80s and early 90s - not so much anymore. For example if you purchased a copy of some piece of expensive software like a CAD or 3D modeling application, before you could use it you would have to call up the publisher of the software and tell them your Host ID of the machine that it was going to be running on. They would run that number through an encryption algorithm and give you a serial number which you would enter into the application registration setup. That way the application could only run on a specific host.

Anyway, as far as I know Apple has never used the Host ID for registering software, at least not any that I have used.

So basically they patented using a unique identifier to uniquely identify something... Maybe I should patent the method of authorizing someone by the last four digits of their social security number? I could make a killing off suing the banking industry... When will this issue ever hit the mainstream so our politicians take patent reform seriously?
post #26 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by esummers View Post

When will this issue ever hit the mainstream so our politicians take patent reform seriously?

The U.S. Patent Office, like every other federal agency, has a budget. To improve the system means increasing the budget. In today's political climate, fugitaboudit!
post #27 of 32
I wonder how much cash Apple is spending on these lawsuits. It has to be significant amount.
post #28 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by esummers View Post

So basically they patented using a unique identifier to uniquely identify something... Maybe I should patent the method of authorizing someone by the last four digits of their social security number? I could make a killing off suing the banking industry... When will this issue ever hit the mainstream so our politicians take patent reform seriously?

Careful what you wish for. Politicians wouldn't be very well equipped to deal with technology patent issues anyway. It probably would end up worse than it is right now, if that is possible. It is way more cost effective for the US taxpayers to have the PO approve every patent, collect the fees, and let the courts work out the details later, at the litigators' expense, rather than to deny the patent outright and be sued immediately.

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post #29 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

The invention awarded on June 25, 2002, notes that illegal copying of software costs billions of dollars in lost profits. Ancora's solution is to restrict software operation with a license limitation.


Thats it I quit reading these.

That is an invention??? Really!?!?! This is aassinine.
post #30 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

Not exactly. They have a patent on using the host ID as a verification of the software license. This was the way UNIX software was licensed back in the 80s and early 90s - not so much anymore. For example if you purchased a copy of some piece of expensive software like a CAD or 3D modeling application, before you could use it you would have to call up the publisher of the software and tell them your Host ID of the machine that it was going to be running on. They would run that number through an encryption algorithm and give you a serial number which you would enter into the application registration setup. That way the application could only run on a specific host.

Anyway, as far as I know Apple has never used the Host ID for registering software, at least not any that I have used.

Take out the computer terms and this is exactly how Social Security numbers are generated, and how the system works from a basic standpoint. So what's next for them... sue the government? Oh, wait. There's a law that says you can't!
post #31 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dio Gratia View Post

Both independent claims 1. and 18. appear to require BIOS, which is a firmware implementation following a particular standard. Apple historically used Open Firmware and it's derivative EFI. Should it not use the BIOS standard it isn't likely Apple would be held infringing, something that can be found during discovery.

Ancora Technolgies attempts to hold a broader definition of BIOS than limited to IBM PC Compatible computers.

Should Ancora preserver in the expanded definition, it's likely there is prior art as has been pointed out. Sun Microsystems for instance included such support in Open Boot (Open Firmware) for providing a HostID, which was used prior to the '941 filing date for tying license manager licenses to particular workstations.

Ancora Technologies is founded by a previous employee of Microsoft and settled in November 2009 with Microsoft over infringement of the '941 patent.

I think in this context, it is perfectly reasonable to reinterpret the use of the word "BIOS", to refer to the generic piece of firmware that provides a "Basic Input and Output System" for a computer in the early stages of booting before it has loaded its full operating system. That would allow for the Old World ROM, Open Firmware, EFI, as well as the traditional IBM PC BIOS standard, to fit the bill.

By the way, I'm not entirely sure it's appropriate to label EFI as a "derivative" of Open Firmware. EFI was designed by IBM specifically as a classic IBM PC BIOS architecture replacement, for use in Itanium-based Windows servers, for which the classic IBM PC BIOS architecture was considered too limiting.
post #32 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

Well that is the beauty of vague language when comes to patents. They have a patent on the means of verifying the license of software running on a computer. The way they do is not really as important. To cover all possible future methods they patent the desired result not the actual steps involved with achieving that result. In their non-restrictive example, however, they do it the same way the UNIX guys were doing it for ages.

And the patent examiner, seeing that the end-result had already been achieved by various Unix vendors, should have recognized that the wording in the existing patent application was so vague that it also covered methods that have already been published; therefore the examiner should have told the applicant that they needed to re-file with more specific language which described a truly new process and which didn't attempt to claim ownership over existing prior art.

The patent should never have been granted in its current form.
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