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Apple accused of stealing noise cancellation technology

post #1 of 80
Thread Starter 
Noise Free Wireless has filed suit against Apple with allegations that the iPhone maker used proprietary information from joint meetings to develop its own noise reduction technology with a different company.

The complaint was filed last week by Noise Free and discovered by IDG News Service. The plaintiff is accusing Apple and its partner Audience of patent infringement, misappropriation of secrets, breach of contract and violation of a California statute on unfair competition.

Noise Free filed for a patent (US Patent No. 7742790) on a noise reduction and cancellation invention in 2007. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted the patent in June 2010.

According to the company's court filing, which was posted by MacNN, Noise Free approached Apple with a presentation detailing its new technology in September 2007. It proposed that its noise reduction system be implemented in the then-fledgeling iPhone. The two companies agreed to hold shared information confidential and continued meeting throughout 2008.

Noise Free claims that it provided Apple with highly confidential items, including a user guide, fully operational circuit board, fully operational phone mockup and documentation for the technology in late 2008.

Noise Free patent
Drawing of Noise Free noise cancellation patent. Source: Google Patents



"At one point, Apple's head of mobile phones and tablets was called into the meeting to learn about Noise Free's technology," the filing read.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company went on to allege that Apple "performed a series of unauthorized tests on Noise Free's hardware, improperly extracted Noise Free's proprietary and confidential object code" and then replicated the technology on its own.

The complaint also claimed that Apple failed to return documentation and a user guide for the Noise Free hardware when it was requested "in or around early 2009."

Apple reportedly "ceased communication" with Noise Free in 2009, before resuming discussions in 2010, according to the filing. In June 2010, a month after a meeting between Noise Free and Apple, Apple filed a patent application for "User-specific noise suppression for voice quality improvements." The listed inventors of the patent were allegedly "involved in and/or present at Noise Free's presentations" to Apple.

Noise Free and Apple were said to have continued meeting through the summer of 2010 until Noise Free learned that Apple had chosen rival Audience to supply noise cancellation chipsets and software.

"On further information and belief, Apple provided Audience with Noise Free's confidential trade secret information to assist Audience in delivering a noise cancellation solution that was similar and/or identical to the solution that Noise Free designed," the suit alleged.

The complaint claims that Apple's iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, the three generations of iPad and other products infringe the '790 patent. Noise Free also seeks "exemplary or punitive damages" against Apple and Audience for the alleged misappropriation of its trade secrets. The company also asks the court to grant it any patents that would come from Apple's own patent application for noise cancellation technology.
post #2 of 80

If this is true then it's just like the movie about Ford stealing the intermittent windshield wiper from an inventor. It was blatant and evil. How long do such suits take to get through a court to a conclusion? Will this take more than a year to get to trial? What would happen if Apple just bought the company? Could the inventors continue to sue even if Apple owned them?
 

post #3 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smallwheels View Post

If this is true then it's just like the movie about Ford stealing the intermittent windshield wiper from an inventor. It was blatant and evil. How long do such suits take to get through a court to a conclusion? Will this take more than a year to get to trial? What would happen if Apple just bought the company? Could the inventors continue to sue even if Apple owned them?

I don't mean to jack but the story here is interesting...

In 1963, the first modern intermittent wipers were invented by Robert Kearns, an engineering professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. The road to intermittent wipers began earlier, on his wedding night in 1953, when an errant champagne cork shot into Kearn's left eye, which eventually went almost completely blind. Nearly a decade later, Kearns was driving his Ford Galaxie through a light rain, and the constant movement of the wiper blades irritated his already troubled vision. He got to thinking about the human eye, which has its own kind of wiper, the eyelid, that automatically closes and opens every few seconds. Finally in 1963, Kearns put his idea into action, building the first intermittent wiper system using off-the-shelf electronic components. Kearns showed it to the Ford Motor Company, and proposed manufacturing the design.

In the Kearns design, the interval between wipes was determined by the rate of current flow into a capacitor. When the charge in the capacitor reached a certain voltage, the capacitor was discharged, activating the wiper motor for one cycle. After extensive testing, Ford executives decided to offer a design similar to Kearns’ intermittent wipers as an option on the company's Mercury line, beginning with the 1969 models. Kearns and Ford became involved in a multi-year patent dispute that eventually had to be resolved in court. A fictionalized version of the Kearns invention and patent lawsuit was used for the 2009 film Flash of Genius, which is billed as "based on the true story", but does not claim to be historically accurate in all respects.

Kearns may not, in fact, have been the original inventor of the intermittent wiper concept. John Amos, an engineer for the UK automative engineering company Lucas Industries, was the first to file a patent for an intermittent wiper (US Patent #3,262,042, issued 1966), two years before Kearns applied (US Patent #3,351,836, issued 1967). One notable difference is that the Amos patent describes an electromechanical device, whereas Kearns proposed a solid-state electronic circuit.

In March 1970, Citroën introduced rain-sensitive intermittent windscreen wipers on their SM model. When the intermittent function was selected, the wiper would make one swipe. If the windscreen was relatively dry, the wiper motor drew high current, which set the control circuit timer to delay the next wipe longest. If the motor drew little current, it indicated that the glass was wet, setting the timer to minimize the delay.

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post #4 of 80

Apple chose Audience chip over theirs. Seems like sore losers.

post #5 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by bighype View Post

Apple chose Audience chip over theirs. Seems like sore losers.

 

Did you read the entire story ?

 

Anyway, this is just the thing which patents should prevent.....

post #6 of 80

Noise canceling headphones have been around for decades now. I'm surprised that somebody doesn't already have a patent on the technology. Those decades old products seem to work on a similar principle as the patent diagram in the OP, with an extra mic picking up ambient noise.

post #7 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

Noise canceling headphones have been around for decades now. I'm surprised that somebody doesn't already have a patent on the technology. Those decades old products seem to work on a similar principle as the patent diagram in the OP, with an extra mic picking up ambient noise.


I agree, but then again I did not expect you to even consider Apple could have done something even remotely wrong.

Social Capitalist, dreamer and wise enough to know I'm never going to grow up anyway... so not trying anymore.

 

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Social Capitalist, dreamer and wise enough to know I'm never going to grow up anyway... so not trying anymore.

 

http://m.ign.com/articles/2014/07/16/7-high-school-girls-are-kickstarting-their-awa...

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post #8 of 80

Why would Apple even bother doing this, wouldn't it have been easier to just buy their tech? Clearly, Audience had better tech and Apple choose them instead. I wonder what proof there is that Apple 'stole' anything.

post #9 of 80
Here you have one side of a story. They have no idea if Apple had also been testing technology from Audience or others during this period. Until that is made clear then you can't side with either party unless noise free can prove that their exact algorithm was used on the iPhone.
post #10 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by mausz View Post

 

Did you read the entire story ?

 

Anyway, this is just the thing which patents should prevent.....

If Apple really did what they say.

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post #11 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by alienzed View Post

Why would Apple even bother doing this, wouldn't it have been easier to just buy their tech? Clearly, Audience had better tech and Apple choose them instead. I wonder what proof there is that Apple 'stole' anything.

Guess you are wright as so many companies, my impression is, that noise free wireless just didn't meet Apple's standards and were dissmissed. And what Audience had to offer was just superior. Now whiny NFW goes for revenche.
Edited by Rabbit_Coach - 7/10/12 at 4:49am
post #12 of 80
Best post ever and true...
post #13 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

Noise canceling headphones have been around for decades now. I'm surprised that somebody doesn't already have a patent on the technology. Those decades old products seem to work on a similar principle as the patent diagram in the OP, with an extra mic picking up ambient noise.


I suspect this bit from the article may hold the key:

 

 

Quote:
extracted Noise Free's proprietary and confidential object code" and then replicated the technology on its own.

 

It implies that Noise Free believe Apple's subsequent patent filing, and the tech used by Audience,  is based on their code obtained through reverse-engineering a device lent to them under confidentiality.

 

If true, expect an out-of-court settlement and Apple sailing on serenely.

post #14 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by cnocbui View Post


I suspect this bit from the article may hold the key:

 

It implies that Noise Free believe Apple's subsequent patent filing, and the tech used by Audience,  is based on their code obtained through reverse-engineering a device lent to them under confidentiality.

 

If true, expect an out-of-court settlement and Apple sailing on serenely.

 

Sounds like you already know what happened.


Edited by GTR - 7/10/12 at 4:14am
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post #15 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by alienzed View Post

Why would Apple even bother doing this, wouldn't it have been easier to just buy their tech? Clearly, Audience had better tech and Apple choose them instead. I wonder what proof there is that Apple 'stole' anything.

That was my thought. One has to assume Apple were having meetings with Audience and listening to their proposals during the same period and chose who they thought were best. It most likely means the two companies had very similar technologies rather than Apple went out of their way to steal anything. Some of the knee jerk reactions in this thread assuming Apple is guilty are somewhat premature based on the story of the loser only so far.
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post #16 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by Povilas View Post

If Apple really did what they say.

precisely.

post #17 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by Povilas View Post

If Apple really did what they say.

AND, if the patent is actually valid.


If Apple did, indeed, steal patented technology from someone, then they should be forced to pay. The trolls' claim that people here would condone Apple stealing someone's technology is false.

However, as in every case, one should hear both sides of the story before reaching a conclusion.
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post #18 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

However, as in every case, one should hear both sides of the story before reaching a conclusion.

 

Would you be willing to give Google the same benefit of the doubt? Or Samsung?

post #19 of 80
If accusations were outcomes, there'd be no need for a legal system. We could just let the mullahs handle it.
post #20 of 80
Of all patent lawsuits Apple is involved in..this is a pretty serious accusation.
post #21 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichL View Post

Would you be willing to give Google the same benefit of the doubt? Or Samsung?

Of course not 1smile.gif The "Any company but Apple" hate is strong around here.
post #22 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by alienzed View Post

Why would Apple even bother doing this, wouldn't it have been easier to just buy their tech? Clearly, Audience had better tech and Apple choose them instead. I wonder what proof there is that Apple 'stole' anything.


Why  buy when you can steal, then kill it in courts with deep pockets.

post #23 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by GTR View Post

 

Sounds like you already know what happened.


No, he just knows how to read.

post #24 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by JerrySwitched26 View Post


I expect this to drag on in a very expensive manner, with apple filing many, many motions and getting bitched out by the judge, frivolous counterclaims up the wazoo, many, many false starts and ratholes of distraction.

Then Apple will settle.  Their total cost will be less than it would have been to simply license the tech in the first place, yielding a big win for Apple.

Do you write fiction for a living?

They murdered women in Salem based on more evidence than we have so far heard!
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post #25 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

Do you write fiction for a living?
They murdered women in Salem based on more evidence than we have so far heard!

I doubt it could be for a living.
post #26 of 80

Based on Apple's dangerous precedent, Noise Free Wireless should ask for an injunction against the sale of the iPhone 4s in the US.

 

and whilst we're at it, Tim Cook can stop being arrogant and pretending Apple are the inventors for the world, when everyone knows they copy as much if not more from everyone else.

post #27 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by shao View Post

Based on Apple's dangerous precedent, Noise Free Wireless should ask for an injunction against the sale of the iPhone 4s in the US.

and whilst we're at it, Tim Cook can stop being arrogant and pretending Apple are the inventors for the world, when everyone knows they copy as much if not more from everyone else.

Haha excellent sarcasm. Too funny.
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post #28 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by shao View Post

Based on Apple's dangerous precedent, Noise Free Wireless should ask for an injunction against the sale of the iPhone 4s in the US.

 

and whilst we're at it, Tim Cook can stop being arrogant and pretending Apple are the inventors for the world, when everyone knows they copy as much if not more from everyone else.

 

It warms my heart to see that Tim Cook is a lot like Steve Jobs when it comes to Apple's pride in their products. And it also warms my heart to see that drive certain folks bat-shit crazy. 

 

Apple, LONG AGO, decided to use the patent system to go about patenting things, with the natural expectation that they will work to enforce their patents. 

 

This opportunity was open to EVERYONE. There are many, as we're seeing, who didn't take it. Too bad. 

post #29 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichL View Post

Would you be willing to give Google the same benefit of the doubt? Or Samsung?

Of course. I was entirely in favor of Koh asking Samsung's attorneys if they could tell the difference between an iPad and a Tab.

No one has denied Google or Samsung or anyone else due process. Why should Apple be denied due process, as well?
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post #30 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

Noise canceling headphones have been around for decades now. I'm surprised that somebody doesn't already have a patent on the technology. Those decades old products seem to work on a similar principle as the patent diagram in the OP, with an extra mic picking up ambient noise.

 

I believe the major difference in noise cancelling headphones and noise cancelling Mics  is that it's easier to cancel out the former because all you want to hear is what is coming through the wire. ( forgive my terminology here, I'm not an engineer )  You have a pure signal as your "primary" and a random signal as your ambient noise you want cancelled.

 

With a Microphone, you have what you want to process ( the person's voice ) as part of the Primary signal coming from the mic, but the noise comes with it. You have to use your secondary source with even greater ambient noise which includes the  tertiary source of the speaker noise to filter against. That would seem to be far more complex to me. ( but again I'm not an engineer so take this with a grain of salt )

post #31 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by shao View Post

Based on Apple's dangerous precedent, Noise Free Wireless should ask for an injunction against the sale of the iPhone 4s in the US.

 

 

 

 

 

They are indeed asking for that.  Many other products too, including the various iPads and the iPhone 4.

post #32 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post



They murdered women in Salem based on more evidence than we have so far heard!

 

 

Did you read the complaint?  If not, you should.

 

Unless this company is defrauding the court, Apple's got some 'splaining to do.

post #33 of 80

EDIT - forgot quote.

post #34 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichL View Post

 

Would you be willing to give Google the same benefit of the doubt? Or Samsung?

 

BROVO!!!!

 

speaking of samsung - someone actually cloned them - lol - http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=UAGXqKyWfac#!

post #35 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by JerrySwitched26 View Post


Did you read the complaint?  If not, you should.

Unless this company is defrauding the court, Apple's got some 'splaining to do.

Have you ever read a legal complaint that didn't make a good sounding case? It wouldn't be a very good complaint if it didn't. Does that make it true? By your apparent logic we don't need trials, just believe a complaint on face value and move on.
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post #36 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by mausz View Post

 

Did you read the entire story ?

 

 

A lot of 'claims' but no proof. They haven't even proven that Apple used anything close to their tech much less took it from them. 

A non tech's thoughts on Apple stuff 

(She's family so I'm a little biased)

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post #37 of 80

Why doesn't Noise Free sue it's rival?  Sounds like a fishing expedition.  

post #38 of 80

I'm as big an Apple fan as anyone, and I expect my reaction is fairly typical:

1. I have confidence/faith in Apple as a company and therefore I doubt that this story is true as characterized by the complainant.  I'm sure there were meeting, etc., but I doubt that Apple used illegal and inappropriate means to steal the ideas.

2. Having said that, it's possible that it's true, in which case I will be disappointed in Apple.

3. Especially if they don't handle it appropriately.  For example, there are bad apples (no pun intended) in any organization, and it's possible that some individuals did some illegal/immoral things based on the meetings and samples.  If that's the case (and it wasn't some top-down decision--assuming anything happened at all) then I would hope that Apple, on learning this would fire some people and make some apologies and restitution.

 

But, I don't believe Apple's success is based on lying and thievery (some people do), so my guess is that this is just all sour grapes because Apple decided to go with another vendor's solution.

 

It's also possible that everything was aboveboard and Apple is still "guilty" of patent infringement because Noise Free got to the patent office first even though Audience and/or Apple independently invented something very similar.  That would be very different that Apple stealing the technology as alleged.
 

post #39 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

 

A lot of 'claims' but no proof. They haven't even proven that Apple used anything close to their tech much less took it from them. 

Of course not. That would require the case being tried wouldn't it?

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post #40 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by JerrySwitched26 View Post

Did you read the complaint?  If not, you should.

 

Unless this company is defrauding the court, Apple's got some 'splaining to do.

 

Oh, a false dichotomy. We all love a false dichotomy even more than a bad analogy.

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