Apple accused of false patent marking in new lawsuit

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Apple, along with wireless carriers Sprint and Verizon, is targeted in a new lawsuit filed by the organization Americans for Fair Patent Use, alleging false patent markings in product documentation.



Filed last week in a U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas, the suit names Apple, Sprint Nextel Corp., Verizon Wireless and Samsung Telecommunications America as the defendants. The plaintiff, Americans for Fair Patent Use, asserts that the companies have falsely marked products with expired patents, or patents that do not cover the marked products, "with the intent to deceive the public about the patent coverage for their products."



Apple products targeted in the suit are the iPhone, iPod touch, fifth- and sixth-generation iPod classic, the third- and fourth-generation iPod nano. It noted that the fifth-generation iPod was marked with manuals, user guides or product information guides with references to U.S. Patent Nos. 4,577,216, 4,631,603, 4,819,098, and 4,907,093. The remaining products included references to U.S. Patent Nos. 4,577,216, 4,631,603, 4,819,098, and 4,907,093.



The suit notes that the '216, '603, '098 and '093 patents each expired prior to Apple making the respective products available for sale. Starting on March 6, 2007, the company began referencing those patents in documentation with its products, after the patents had expired.



"Despite the fact that all of the '216, '603, '098 and '093 patents expired prior to the first sale in the United States of any Apple Product, Apple knowingly and intentionally marked the user manuals, user guides, or product information guides (or the equivalent) for these products at various times with the patent numbers of these patents," the suit reads. "Apple knows that the '216, '603, '098 and '093 patents do not and never covered any of the Apple Products."



The complaint was brought under the False Marking Statute, which the AFPU said was passed by Congress to allow consumers to easily and quickly discover patents associated with products.







The AFPU is based in Austin, Tex., and was established "to encourage the fair use of the patent system and deter abuse of the patent system, which harms the public welfare and stifles competition." It said that Apple's "false marking" is an example of "harmful conduct."



The organization has asked the court to fine Apple and the other parties $500 per falsely marked product. It asks that half of the fine be paid to the government, per the terms of the False Marking Statute, while the other half be paid to the AFPU.



The suit also requests that the court take steps to ensure that Apple, Verizon, Sprint and Samsung Telecommunications America cannot falsely market their products in the future. It also wishes to see all of the accused companies notify customers of their allegedly false patent markings.



In last year's Form 10-K filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Apple revealed that it was then defending itself in more than 47 patent-related cases. "Regardless of merit," the company said, "responding to such claims can consume significant time and expense."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 68
    damn_its_hotdamn_its_hot Posts: 1,193member
    Get a life - how were you harmed guys?
  • Reply 2 of 68
    welcome to America... Sad....
  • Reply 3 of 68
    boggbogg Posts: 10member
    these are all patents for technologies to protect video from copying through a dvd-recorder or vhs-recorder. Like Macrovision.



    How do they know the iPods/iPhones video-out doesn't use these technologies if connected to an old VHS-recorder? Have they actually tried it or have they read the patents and "Wooo, this doesn't sound very appleishy"?



    Does it really matter if the patent is expired, a patent is a patent and if they want to show which technologies they use in their products, why not reference to the patent in question? Expired or not.
  • Reply 4 of 68
    jhende7jhende7 Posts: 62member
    So Apple included these reference numbers in some manuals (probably hidden in the jargon at the back or something) and this is considered MARKETING?!



    Pretty loose definition if you ask me.



    Next Facetime commercial will be a sentimental moment with a father and his daughters sister's mothers cousin, and will not end with an Apple logo, but instead Patent ID 467328 confirmed?
  • Reply 5 of 68
    oc4theooc4theo Posts: 294member
    This is another example why lawyers are criminals.



    They are suing for $500 fine? Of course not. These assholes will ask for fees in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. What a stupid legal system America has created! So ridiculous, it is shameful.
  • Reply 6 of 68
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by twistedarts View Post


    welcome to America... Sad....



    Indeed. Companies should be allowed to make false patent claims regarding their products without penalty.
  • Reply 7 of 68
    ltmpltmp Posts: 204member
    This has got to be the most f'ed up patent suit yet.

    How does this harm the consumer? I am quite certain that no consumer has ever bought ANY device because of the listed patents.



    Do these guys actually believe that anybody was harmed by this?

    If I lived in Texas, I'd be demanding some patent law reform to stop the embarrassment.
  • Reply 8 of 68
    finetunesfinetunes Posts: 2,065member
    Here a site referencing the case.



    you can read the 75 page complaint if you have time:



    http://news.priorsmart.com/americans...nt-nextel-lW4/



    Sorry, they don't have a complete copy of the Complaint--you have to pay for it. Will try to locate a copy.
  • Reply 9 of 68
    jon tjon t Posts: 131member
    Can anyone possibly explain to me what benefits such a case might bring - if it were to be proven?



    I do not understand this incredible need to take everything legal. Did they ever even discuss it with Apple?



    F%cking mindless if you ask me.



    Not a good day - did you see that AAPL sell off?!?!
  • Reply 10 of 68
    leonardleonard Posts: 528member
    Is there a website for this group that calls themselves Americans for Fair Patent Use?



    Sounds like their in it for the money.
  • Reply 11 of 68
    leonardleonard Posts: 528member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by OC4Theo View Post


    This is another example why lawyers are criminals.



    They are suing for $500 fine? Of course not. These assholes will ask for fees in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. What a stupid legal system America has created! So ridiculous, it is shameful.



    Read the story again, it's $500 per falsely marked product. That is in the millions if not billions of dollars.
  • Reply 12 of 68
    Different case, but some of the info here helps shed some light on the issue, at least from a legal perspective.



    http://www.lexology.com/library/deta...3-9c45664c411a
  • Reply 13 of 68
    finetunesfinetunes Posts: 2,065member
    35 U.S.C. 292 False marking.



    "(a) Whoever, without the consent of the patentee, marks upon, or affixes to, or uses in advertising in connection with anything made, used, offered for sale, or sold by such person within the United States, or imported by the person into the United States, the name or any imitation of the name of the patentee, the patent number, or the words "patent," "patentee," or the like, with the intent of counterfeiting or imitating the mark of the patentee, or of deceiving the public and inducing them to believe that the thing was made, offered for sale, sold, or imported into the United States by or with the consent of the patentee; or Whoever marks upon, or affixes to, or uses in advertising in connection with any unpatented article the word "patent" or any word or number importing the same is patented, for the purpose of deceiving the public; or Whoever marks upon, or affixes to, or uses in advertising in connection with any article the words "patent applied for," "patent pending," or any word importing that an application for patent has been made, when no application for patent has been made, or if made, is not pending, for the purpose of deceiving the public - Shall be fined not more than $500 for every such offense.



    (b) Any person may sue for the penalty, in which event one-half shall go to the person suing and the other to the use of the United States.



    (Subsection (a) amended Dec. 8, 1994, Public Law 103-465, sec. 533(b)(6), 108 Stat. 4990.)"
  • Reply 14 of 68
    wonderwonder Posts: 229member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Leonard View Post


    Read the story again, it's $500 per falsely marked product. That is in the millions if not billions of dollars.



    It is not for each product sold, just for each type of device.
  • Reply 15 of 68
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Jon T View Post


    Can anyone possibly explain to me what benefits such a case might bring - if it were to be proven?



    The statute involved is to help prevent companies/persons from claiming false or expired patents. Seems a laudable goal, right? Whether it has merit here is another story.
  • Reply 16 of 68
    wigginwiggin Posts: 2,265member
    This has got to be a new low. It's bad enough the companies are formed around a portfolio of patents with the intention of suing to defend those patents. But these guys don't even have any patents or any vested interest in the patents or technology in question. They are vigilantes. This is like me video taping people running red lights and then asking the police to write tickets for the traffic violatiion and giving me half the fine! (Ok, I know that's a different set of laws.)



    Also, if they mark an item with a patent number and the patent has expired, where is the harm? Anyone who was interested in making a similar product had better do more due diligence to determine patent protections than to simply see if there is a patent number printed in the manual! At a minimum, having the patent number on the producdt makes it easier to determine if there are any relevant patents. You can look it up directly and see if/when the patent expires. And what if a patent expires after you started making the product? Do you have to stop printing the number on the product then?



    It's too bad we can't file a class-action lawsuit against these idiots for wasting our tax dollars and tying up the courts with cases like these.
  • Reply 17 of 68
    wigginwiggin Posts: 2,265member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by FineTunes View Post


    35 U.S.C. 292 False marking.



    "(a) Whoever, without the consent of the patentee, marks upon, or affixes to, or uses in advertising in connection with anything made, used, offered for sale, or sold by such person within the United States, or imported by the person into the United States, the name or any imitation of the name of the patentee, the patent number, or the words "patent," "patentee," or the like, with the intent of counterfeiting or imitating the mark of the patentee, or of deceiving the public and inducing them to believe that the thing was made, offered for sale, sold, or imported into the United States by or with the consent of the patentee; or Whoever marks upon, or affixes to, or uses in advertising in connection with any unpatented article the word "patent" or any word or number importing the same is patented, for the purpose of deceiving the public; or Whoever marks upon, or affixes to, or uses in advertising in connection with any article the words "patent applied for," "patent pending," or any word importing that an application for patent has been made, when no application for patent has been made, or if made, is not pending, for the purpose of deceiving the public - Shall be fined not more than $500 for every such offense.



    (b) Any person may sue for the penalty, in which event one-half shall go to the person suing and the other to the use of the United States.



    (Subsection (a) amended Dec. 8, 1994, Public Law 103-465, sec. 533(b)(6), 108 Stat. 4990.)"



    Thanks for the reference! As I read this, Apple is NOT in violation. It makes no reference to use of expired patents and only requires that the device be covered by the patent referenced and that the reference be made only with the consent of the of the patentee. The patent still covers the technology in the product, even if the patent is expired. That just means Apple can't sue someone for using the technology.
  • Reply 18 of 68
    The U.S. patent system has become so corrupt and abused that it is little more than a cartelized-mercantilist old-boys club. It is about time someone started to act to put a stop to such abuse and to initiate reform. The entire system should probably just be rolled back to exactly what it was at the time of the founding. That system initiated the largest burst of creative, scientific and commercial energy in the history of mankind and it compounded exponentially because of the limited protection periods the patent and copy write systems offered. Certainly the 20th century was not without its own progress, but that progress is slowing, in no small part because the entrenched interests are using government power over the patent system to change the rules, to lock out that creative energy, to shut down new competition -- and the country, our standard of living, even our health is suffering for it. We need more groups like this, and a lot more action like this. A lot more.
  • Reply 19 of 68
    benicebenice Posts: 382member
    This kind of provocation is healthy. What must also be fixed is the endless patents that are issued on a range of general/common knowledge ideas and concepts that often appear to already be in the public domain in full or in part and are sought to lock out progress amongst competitors to grow and build upon anything.



    The higher the overall volume of ideas that freely circulate the higher the rate of innovation and that is exactly what the US and other countries need right now.
  • Reply 20 of 68
    eldernormeldernorm Posts: 232member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Apple, along with wireless carriers Sprint and Verizon, is targeted in a new lawsuit filed by the organization Americans for Fair Patent Use, alleging false patent markings in product documentation....



    This suit was filed in Marshall texas, the lawsuit capital of the world (if you really do not have a case but want sympathetic juries :-) )



    Nuff said.



    en
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