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Videophone patent owner accuses Apple of infringement with iPhone, iTunes

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
Apple is the target of a new patent infringement lawsuit that accuses the iPhone of offering e-commerce services without the proper licensing agreements.

Patent-holder Visual Interactive Phone Concepts Inc. filed lawsuits against Apple, AT&T and U.S. Cellular in U.S. District Court in Michigan this week. The complaints, first discovered by Florian Mueller of Foss Patents, are based on U.S. Patent Nos. 5,606,361 and 5,724,092, both entitled "Videophone interactive mailbox facility system and method of processing information."

VIPC's suit notes that Apple offers "an application service for users to view, download and use applications on their videophones" through a central data center. Specifically cited in the complaint are the iTunes Store and the iBookstore.

Through these digital storefronts, VIPC argues that Apple "has knowingly, intentionally and willfully infringed" on the '361 and '092 patent. The plaintiff asserts that Apple infringed on these patents without proper license or authorization necessary from VIPC.

VIPC has asked the court to award damages, as well as a "reasonable royalty" in exchange for the alleged patent infringement. The patents included in the suit were granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 1997 and 1998.



"While they are relatively old, those patents aren't the kind of long-dormant patents asserted by many other trolls," Mueller wrote in his personal assessment of the lawsuit. "Visual Interactive Phone Systems already sued two companies back in 1999 (Big Planet. Inc. and Infogear Technology Corp.), and also sued Leap Wireless, Inc. in 2007.

"Those lawsuits were settled, most likely with the net effect of Visual Interactive Phone Systems receiving significant payments."

The lawsuit also includes AT&T, which is accused of infringing on the '361 and '092 patents with "a mobile TV and video service" that allows users to purchase and view content on their "videophones." U.S. Cellular is also accused of offering a service similar to AT&T.
post #2 of 22
The accessing of data on a centralized server is the very definition of the internet. You shouldn't be able to patent a "good idea." Actually, not even a good idea, just the-way-shit-happens-to-work.
post #3 of 22
Right, because they "invented" the idea of the video phone

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

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post #4 of 22
Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Apple one of the top tech companies that every Joe out there sues in litigations?

Is there a correlation between all these court cases that Apple is sued mainly because of it's high profits that it reaps?
post #5 of 22
I need a job in apple legal. I am sure they are always busy and pay well. I'll be there damn gopher.
post #6 of 22
Aargh.

It's getting to the point where people are just going to throw up their hands and not invest/innovate/invent in these types of businesses, thus vitiating the very logic for the existence of such patent systems.

When, how, where will this madness stop!?
post #7 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

Right, because they "invented" the idea of the video phone

No they were just the first to patent it, big difference. Every patent is a good "idea". Some are quickly implemented while others not. Regardless, one has to get a license to use said idea.
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"I got the answer by talking in my brain and I agreed of the answer my brain got" a 7 yr old explaining his math HW
"Just because something is deemed the law doesn't make it just" - SolipsismX
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post #8 of 22
Can we PLEASE stop with the incessant updates on these patent lawsuits? We get it. Apple gets sued a lot. We rarely ever hear about how these suits end up (usually tossed or settled for peanuts). It's annoying. Sheesh.
post #9 of 22
Love all the patent trolls cashing in on apple's success

Don't buy a company's stock, buy up patents they're likely to use and then sue them. Way more profitable.

Is "videophone" even a word? What is that like a 1960s term for a cell phone?
post #10 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by SongEmu View Post

The accessing of data on a centralized server is the very definition of the internet. You shouldn't be able to patent a "good idea." Actually, not even a good idea, just the-way-shit-happens-to-work.

Not only that, but Apple has a ton of prior art they patented that they can claim the iphone 4 came from. Probably blow this out of the water. Especially if it is just an idea patent.

As much as I stand by the need for patents I do see two major flaws.

1. Ideas with out tech. They should be banned from being applied for if they haven't already and everything that has been granted should be reviewed for specificity. All broad ideas should be retroactively dropped. Specific ideas can be allowed to play out or be dropped on a case by case basis dependent on the level of specificity (if it is detailed enough to imply the appropriate tech let it ride. if not, goodbye)

2. Letting patent holders wait for ions to file claims. They should do like they do with trademarks. With a trademark if you don't cry foul from the first even possible violation you are deemed as not caring about your mark and you could lose it. It should be the same with patents. No more waiting for someone to turn a huge profit and then you can sue for a ton of money.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Adrianus View Post

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Apple one of the top tech companies that every Joe out there sues in litigations?

Is there a correlation between all these court cases that Apple is sued mainly because of it's high profits that it reaps?

A friend of mine says "yes Macs do get malware. They're called Patent suits."
post #11 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleStud View Post

Can we PLEASE stop with the incessant updates on these patent lawsuits? We get it. Apple gets sued a lot. We rarely ever hear about how these suits end up (usually tossed or settled for peanuts). It's annoying. Sheesh.

+1 - Agree
post #12 of 22
[QUOTE=AppleStud;1870426]Can we PLEASE stop with the incessant updates on these patent lawsuits? We get it. Apple gets sued a lot. We rarely ever hear about how these suits end up (usually tossed or settled for peanuts). It's annoying. Sheesh.[/QUOTEDittos]
post #13 of 22
Apple is also in clear violation of my patent for, Thing that does stuff.
I am suing!
post #14 of 22
Why won't the courts start making the trolls pay all the costs, court and accused, if they lose the case. Better yet, make them post a bond for such costs, when they file, so they can't plead bankruptcy after they lose.

In the meantime, we the customers have to pay the vendors extra money to cover the costs of phoney extortion cases.
post #15 of 22
I am a patent holder and I understand the need - Remember Apple itself protects from others by means of patents. But, this is getting ridiculous! It is amazing how people out there searching through all the patents to find needle in the haystack. At this rate, use of word "Apple" should be sued - Wait a second - I think that was already done by Beatles's enterprise. Maybe Scotland should file a suit against Apple for using the word "Mac" - "Mac" being the part of surname for majority of Scottish people! Maybe a Scottish gentleman by name "Steve MacDonald" should file a suit against Steve Jobs!
post #16 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple Insider

VIPC's suit notes that Apple offers "an application service for users to view, download and use applications on their videophones" through a central data center. Specifically cited in the complaint are the iTunes Store and the iBookstore.

Accessing data from a centralised server? Possibly buying things from a centralised server? Oh my! Maybe someone should tell VIPC about this little Invention called "Client Server Networking".

Also, Android Market and Windows Marketplace seem to have been missed out of their lawsuit, I guess they don't have the same social status and bragging rights when sued.

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post #17 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by iLoveStuff View Post

Apple is also in clear violation of my patent for, Thing that does stuff.
I am suing!

Your patent seems in breach of my 'stuff that does things' patent, please cease and desist.
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post #18 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by magicj View Post

I'm not claiming the suit has merit. It may, it may not. But the description of the patents provided in the article is poor. The patents are rather detailed in the operations they describe.


Highlights mine. The abstract for patent 5,724,092 is identical to this one.

That really doesn't change anything. It's still a ludicrously broad and obvious patent.

I'm wondering if there even could be a way to fix the horrifically broken patent system. Abolishing it would only create another set of problems.
post #19 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post

No they were just the first to patent it, big difference. Every patent is a good "idea". Some are quickly implemented while others not. Regardless, one has to get a license to use said idea.

WRONG! You can't patent an idea (although the copyright office seems to often forget that). You're supposed to be able to only patent the implementation of an idea. And while every patent is a good idea, not every good idea is patentable.

So I can't patent the IDEA of a flying car. Or a holographic computer display. On the idea of a solar operated car. And I can't copyright a genre, like a science-fiction novel. But I can patent specific technology that makes a flying car, a holographic computer display or a solar operated car possible.

If Apple steals such technology they deserve the lawsuit. But if all Apple did was take the idea of presenting information over the web and permitting someone to order using a smartphone or "video phone", no foul as far as I'm concerned. And I still think Apple NEVER should have licensed "one-click" from Amazon. That should not have been a patentable idea seeing as it's a standard business practice to store someone's account information. Amazon didn't invent relational databases, so how did they win a patent for a button that retrieves that information?

Like laws that haven't been tested in the courts, patents today mean nothing until they're contested. The patent laws need to be radically updated, but it will never happen because there's no political will to do it.
post #20 of 22
Let's stop and recognize some basics about patent litigation exposure. In businesses like Apple, patent conflicts come with the territory. We can't assume that patent violations are deliberate or willful. They often occur in the course of rapidly evolving technologies where innovation is vigorous. Apple recognizes this as a risk factor in its financial reporting. The following language appears in its most recent 10-K filing, and it's similar to 10-K filings in recent years. Elsewhere in the 10-K, there's a description and status of current significant patent disputes as of the time of filing.

***

The Company relies on access to third-party patents and intellectual property, and the Companys future results could be materially adversely affected if it is alleged or found to have infringed intellectual property rights.

Many of the Companys products are designed to include third-party intellectual property, and in the future the Company may need to seek or renew licenses relating to various aspects of its products and business methods. Although the Company believes that, based on past experience and industry practice, such licenses generally could be obtained on reasonable terms, there is no assurance that the necessary licenses would be available on acceptable terms or at all.

Because of technological changes in the industries in which the Company competes, current extensive patent coverage, and the rapid issuance of new patents, it is possible that certain components of the Companys products and business methods may unknowingly infringe the patents or other intellectual property rights of third parties. From time to time, the Company has been notified that it may be infringing such rights. Regardless of merit, responding to such claims can consume significant time and expense. At present, the Company is vigorously defending a number of patent infringement cases, and several pending claims are in various stages of evaluation. In certain cases, the Company may consider the desirability of entering into licensing agreements, although no ssurance can be given that such licenses can be obtained on acceptable terms or that litigation will not occur. If the Company is found to be infringing such rights, it may be required to pay substantial damages. If there is a temporary or permanent injunction prohibiting the Company from marketing or selling certain products or a successful claim of infringement against the Company requires it to pay royalties to a third party, the Companys financial condition and operating results could be materially adversely affected, regardless of whether it can develop non-infringing technology. While in managements opinion the Company does not have a potential liability for damages or royalties from any known current legal proceedings or claims related to the infringement of patent or other intellectual property rights that would individually or in the aggregate materially adversely affect its financial condition and operating results, the results of such legal proceedings cannot be predicted with certainty. Should the Company fail to prevail in any of the matters related to infringement of patent or other intellectual property rights of others or should several of these matters be resolved against the Company in the same reporting period, the Companys financial condition and operating results could be materially adversely affected.

With the introduction of iPhones and 3G enabled iPads, the Company has begun to compete with mobile communication and media devices companies that hold significant patent portfolios. Regardless of the scope or validity of such patents or the merits of any potential patent claims by competitors, the Company may have to engage in protracted litigation, enter into expensive agreements or settlements and/or modify its products. Any of these events could have a material adverse impact on the Companys financial condition and operating results.

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post #21 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post

No they were just the first to patent it, big difference. Every patent is a good "idea". Some are quickly implemented while others not. Regardless, one has to get a license to use said idea.

I disagree. An idea is very general and vague. The method in which an idea is implemented is much more specific. The method is what should be patented. This leaves others to create and innovate to implement and build upon other people's ideas, without using their specific methods, to create competition. If a general idea was allowed to be patented, there would be an instant monopoly by the patent holder unless they licensed it to others. That's not how the system is supposed to work.
post #22 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post

No they were just the first to patent it, big difference. Every patent is a good "idea". Some are quickly implemented while others not. Regardless, one has to get a license to use said idea.

Quote:
Originally Posted by zoetmb View Post

WRONG! You can't patent an idea (although the copyright office seems to often forget that). You're supposed to be able to only patent the implementation of an idea. And while every patent is a good idea, not every good idea is patentable.

So I can't patent the IDEA of a flying car. Or a holographic computer display. On the idea of a solar operated car. And I can't copyright a genre, like a science-fiction novel. But I can patent specific technology that makes a flying car, a holographic computer display or a solar operated car possible.

I completely agree with zoetmb. I haven't looked at the patents, but I'd be willing to bet that since this company makes no actual products that they are just ideas with no specifics as how to implement them with actual technology. A physical description of device (video phone with buttons) and a central service and its purpose don't qualify as a specific implementation idea.

Put it this way: Suppose someone had patented an idea of a self-powered transportation device and described it as having 4 wheels, a passenger cabin, and controls for one of the passengers to maneuver the device. Would this be a legitimate patent? You may ask about timing or the fact that there were already horse-drawn carriages prior to cars. But there was already servers, phones, and video devices prior to these patents.

My point? Ideas are not patentable. Even if they were, taken other people's ideas and putting them together wouldn't be right anyway. Only specific methods or processes should be patentable.
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