Immersion files lawsuit, ITC complaint against Apple's haptic technology

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2016
Haptic feedback technology developer Immersion on Thursday announced a two-pronged legal attack against Apple for allegedly infringing on its patents with haptic systems embedded in Apple Watch and iPhone.




In both its U.S. International Trade Commission complaint and a lawsuit filed in a Delaware district court, Immersion alleges Apple's iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and Apple Watch product lines infringe on three asserted patents covering various haptic feedback technologies. AT&T is also named as a defendant in both cases.

Specifically, Apple's iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus and Apple Watch allegedly infringe on Immersion's U.S. Patent Nos. 8,619,051 for "Haptic Feedback System with Stored Effects" and 8,773,356 for "Method and Apparatus for Providing Tactile Sensations." The iPhone 6s series is being singled out for infringing upon U.S. Patent No. 8,659,571 covering "Interactivity Model for Shared Feedback on Mobile Devices."

"While we are pleased to see others in the industry recognize the value of haptics and adopt it in their products, it is important for us to protect our business against infringement of our intellectual property in order to preserve the ecosystem we have built and the investments that we have made in continuing to advance haptic experiences," said Immersion CEO Victor Viegas. "We will vigorously defend the intellectual property we have developed when it is infringed."

While Apple's portable devices have long featured vibration functions for phone call and message alerts, the company announced a more advanced haptic feedback system with Apple Watch in 2014. Dubbed the "Taptic Engine," Apple's solution incorporates a refined linear actuator driven and sophisticated software capable of reproducing taps, bumps and other tactile events to deliver an immersive sensory experience.

Following Apple Watch, Apple introduced similar technology, called "Force Touch," in its MacBook lineup and later the Magic Trackpad 2 peripheral. In this case the haptic feedback engine is used to simulate the click of a trackpad, not necessarily tactile feedback triggered by an API.

Apple debuted its most comprehensive haptic experience in 3D Touch on iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. The solution combines a force-sensitive display, deeply integrated iOS 9 control software and a linear vibratory motor (Taptic Engine) to create what is in effect an entirely new GUI layer. 3D Touch enables new z-axis gestures that trigger features like Peek and Pop, Quick Actions and cross-app content previews, all with contextual vibratory feedback.

Immersion seeks compensatory damages in its lawsuit while adding further pressure to settle with the simultaneous ITC complaint, which seeks a U.S. sales injunction on infringing products.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 29
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 2,927moderator
    Here's the problem. Just saying the term haptic feedback brings to mind the obviousness of any invention in the field.  It implies that a user is in some manner in contact with an interface of some sort and that taking an action results in simulated physical feedback from the device.  So it's pretty obvious what Apple is doing, as well as every other haptic feedback mechanism we've ever seen (see the world of game controllers).  Starting from here, we have three patents, which I've scanned, that show no invention that isn't obvious or that imply some novel mechanism to either detect the user's input or provide the feedback.  

    Where I think invention might exist in this field would be in the algorithms and specific hardware configuration used to determine the timing of the haptic feedback trigger, and provide the strength, duration and proximity of the haptic response, all of which combine to create the illusion of the physical feedback being simulated.  I suspect Apple went pretty far to tune those aspects, and now here comes someone with three vague patents to claim it was their invention all along.  
    edited February 2016 teejay2012moreckbestkeptsecretjbdragonicoco3cogitodexter
  • Reply 2 of 29
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,386member
    Here's the problem. Just saying the term haptic feedback brings to mind the obviousness of any invention in the field.  It implies that a user is in some manner in contact with an interface of some sort and that taking an action results in simulated physical feedback from the device.  So it's pretty obvious what Apple is doing, as well as every other haptic feedback mechanism we've ever seen (see the world of game controllers).  Starting from here, we have three patents, which I've scanned, that show no invention that isn't obvious or that imply some novel mechanism to either detect the user's input or provide the feedback.  

    Where I think invention might exist in this field would be in the algorithms and specific hardware configuration used to determine the timing of the haptic feedback trigger, and provide the strength, duration and proximity of the haptic response, all of which combine to create the illusion of the physical feedback being simulated.  I suspect Apple went pretty far to tune those aspects, and now here comes someone with three vague patents to claim it was their invention all along.  

    So why haven't they filed lawsuits to companies that manufacture vibrators?  /s
    jbishop1039radarthekatRayz2016[Deleted User]cornchipmaxiticoco3cogitodexter
  • Reply 3 of 29
    These lawsuits are getting a bit ridiculous. I'm sure eventually Apple will get sued for making the  Car with 4 wheels and a motor. 
    moreckmaxitmagman1979jbdragon
  • Reply 4 of 29
    sflocal said:
    So why haven't they filed lawsuits to companies that manufacture vibrators?  /s
    Because the real thing has no such feedback.

    Unless there’s a toggle somewhere I wasn’t told about. 
    Aieeeeeee!radarthekatmoreck
  • Reply 5 of 29
    They might as well sue any device which makes sound.
    moreckchia
  • Reply 6 of 29
    Apple should tell these haptic guys to 'buzz pause buzz' off.
    jbishop1039gtrmoreckcornchipmagman1979
  • Reply 7 of 29
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 2,927moderator
    Apple is getting a taste of its own medicine. Remember back in 2011 apple was suing everyone for their multitouch and the famous "rectangle screen with rounded edges" patent? 
    Since the Apple vs Samsung trial there has been much written about the merit of design patents.  I've been posting this occasionally since to provide a bit of insight here for those who might not be conversant in the topic.

    Among Apple's assertions in its lawsuit was that Samsung copied elements of the iPhone and iPad for which Apple holds several patents.  These particular patents are known as design patents.  It seems a lot of folks don't take these patents seriously and go as far as to suggest that they should not exist.  There is a good reason why they do exist, but to explain this we have to begin with a bit of a side trip and requires that we speak about trademark law.  Bear with me on this and hopefully I'll be able to clarify the purpose of design patents and provide some insights into the Apple versus Samsung trial.

    Most people are familiar with the idea of a trademark.  By way of example, Kellogg, the cereal maker, has a trademark on Tony the Tiger and fought a battle with Exxon over Kellogs' claim that the use of an unnamed tiger in Exxon's advertising violates Kellogg's trademark for Tony the Tiger.  Why?  For 30 years, Exxon used its tiger character exclusively to promote its gasoline blend, but then, in the 1990's began using it to sell food. Kellogg said consumers are confused by the similarity between the cartoon tigers and may conclude that Kellogg is somehow behind soda, coffee and other items for sale at Exxon's TigerMart stores.  The case went back and forth for several years, with Exxon initially winning the case, but ultimately losing on appeal.  This case would not seem extraordinary to most people as most folks understand the concept of protecting a unique trademark like Kellogg's Tony the Tiger character.

    Now let's look at another case, one that comes closer to the Apple vs Samsung case, but still an application of trademark law.  This case is Ferrari vs Robert's Replicas.  Back in the 1980's Robert's Replica's was in the business of manufacturing fiberglass kits that replicated the exterior features of Ferrari's Daytona Spyder and Testarossa automobiles. Roberts' copies were called the Miami Spyder and the Miami Coupe, respectively.  Ferrari brought suit against Roberts in March 1988 alleging trademark infringement. 

    Here's what this case was about:  After Ferrari vehicles have been on the market for a number of years, the design of those vehicles acquires what's called "secondary meaning", a concept at the heart of trademark law.  Secondary meaning refers to an association of a design, like the design of a Ferrari vehicle, with quality and craftsmanship or other positive attributes one might associate with the Ferrari brand.  After a design has acquired secondary meaning, trademark law can be applied to protect the company from those who would copy its designs and use them to promote their own products.  Robert's copying of Ferrari's iconic designs could confuse the public and dilute the strength of Ferrari's brand.  Just the presence of large numbers of replicas would dilute Ferrari's image of exclusivity, causing financial harm to Ferrari.  Trademark law, under the concept of secondary meaning, protected Ferrari.  The courts ruled in favor of Ferrari in this case and enjoined Roberts from producing the Miami Spyder and the Miami Coupe.

    But how does this relate to design patent law? 

    The problem with using trademark law to protect a company's designs (under trademark law a product design or package design is referred to as "trade dress") is that a product has to be on the market for a long time before its design acquires secondary meaning (i.e. before the design becomes iconic and is seen by consumers as representative of the company behind the product). When competitors come in immediately after a new product design is introduced and copy it, as is the assertion in the Apple vs Samsung case, the originator of the design doesn't have the luxury of time needed for its product design to acquire secondary meaning in the eyes of consumers.  Consumers immediately see the same design from multiple companies and so don't grow to associate the design with the company that originated that design.

    This is where design patents come in. Where trademark protection of an iconic product design has no expiration, it takes time for a new product to acquire that protection (as stated above). A design patent offers immediate protection of a new and novel design and for a period of 14 years thereafter, giving a company protection of its original designs until they acquire secondary meaning in the market and therefore protection under trademark law. So the design patent serves a valuable function for companies like Ferrari, and Apple.
    flaneurkhanzainmoreckbestkeptsecretfotoformatchialarryamike1pscooter63cornchip
  • Reply 8 of 29
    ksecksec Posts: 1,543member
    In US Law system, do the side who loses the court had to pay for all the legal fees including defendant's lawyer's fees.
  • Reply 9 of 29
    Another "lets see if we can milk Apple" effort... Will go nowhere.....unless apple is directly copying their mechanism or code. Which i seriously doubt . Hec i had toys from 60s that had heptic feedback.
    moreckcornchipjbdragon
  • Reply 10 of 29
    gtrgtr Posts: 3,231member
    Apple is running out of ideas. Their originality is shrinking along with their market value. Copying everyone left and right. Embarrassing for the "richest company on the planet". 

    Your 'God' has had to rearrange itself recently in order to hide how much money it's losing because it's not been able to come up with a decent idea since improving search in 1998.

    How's that for running out of ideas?

    (And did you just mention the words 'embarrassing' and 'richest company on the planet' in the same sentence?)
    edited February 2016 tallest skilpscooter63magman1979jbdragonicoco3
  • Reply 11 of 29
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,555member
    ksec said:
    In US Law system, do the side who loses the court had to pay for all the legal fees including defendant's lawyer's fees.
    No they don't, which is part of the problem. Thedr folk are hoping that Apple will settle rather than spend money on a court case. Of course they won't. 

    In the UK, if you lose such a case then you have to pay the winner's legal fees. This is why we don't have a problem with frivolous lawsuits. 
  • Reply 12 of 29
    These lawsuits are getting a bit ridiculous. I'm sure eventually Apple will get sued for making the  Car with 4 wheels and a motor. 

    Apple themselves is very guilty of this: For example, rounded corners, Click to call, the infamous 'realtime API' debacle, suing someone because they sued them... and of course, stealing the swipe-to-unlock feature then suing people who use it. 

    Apple's a huge patent troll. I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if Apple tries to sue google over driverless cars.
    singularity
  • Reply 13 of 29
    gtrgtr Posts: 3,231member
    gtr said:

    Your 'God' has had to rearrange itself recently in order to hide how much money it's losing because it's not been able to come up with a decent idea since improving search in 1998.

    How's that for running out of ideas?

    (And did you just mention the words 'embarrassing' and 'richest company on the planet' in the same sentence?)
    Google rearranged itself because they don't have cash like that idiot Cook. They are losing it in new ideas and technologies, unlike apple.
    Fixed that for you.

     ;) 
    Rayz2016cornchipjbdragon
  • Reply 14 of 29
    These lawsuits are getting a bit ridiculous. I'm sure eventually Apple will get sued for making the  Car with 4 wheels and a motor. 
    If there is an electric car with an Apple logo on it, there are literally thousands of patents which might be infringed upon unwittingly by Apple. It's a whole new minefield they'll be tiring to navigate.
    jbdragon
  • Reply 15 of 29
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 2,927moderator
    gtr said:
    Apple is running out of ideas. Their originality is shrinking along with their market value. Copying everyone left and right. Embarrassing for the "richest company on the planet". 

    Your 'God' has had to rearrange itself recently in order to hide how much money it's losing because it's not been able to come up with a decent idea since improving search in 1998.

    How's that for running out of ideas?

    (And did you just mention the words 'embarrassing' and 'richest company on the planet' in the same sentence?)
    Google rearranged itself because they are not sitting on their cash like that idiot Cook. They are branching out and investing it in new ideas and technologies, unlike apple, rehashing and milking the same product for years. iPhone home screen looks the same since 2010. Pathetic.
    All of Google's Other category, including the medical business, Nest, and every moonshot reported $445 million in revenue for the entire fiscal 2015 year.  On that revenue they reported a loss of $3.6 billion.  The much maligned Apple Watch, by the most conservative measure, booked more than twice the revenue in its first quarter of sales, which was also its lowest quarter as Cook has stated that the Watch grew in each quarter since.  And the Watch is certainly profitable for Apple, versus Google's mounting losses in everything outside of Search. 

    Hey, but thanks for playing.
    mdriftmeyerlarryacornchipmaxitjbdragonicoco3
  • Reply 16 of 29
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,555member
    gtr said:

    Your 'God' has had to rearrange itself recently in order to hide how much money it's losing because it's not been able to come up with a decent idea since improving search in 1998.

    How's that for running out of ideas?

    (And did you just mention the words 'embarrassing' and 'richest company on the planet' in the same sentence?)
    Google rearranged itself because they are not sitting on their cash like that idiot Cook. They are branching out and investing it in new ideas and technologies, unlike apple, rehashing and milking the same product for years. iPhone home screen looks the same since 2010. Pathetic.
    Yup, Google Glass. Money well spent. What we really worried me about that was that no one at Google could see what a really creepy idea that was. Makes me worry what the management gets up to in its spare time.
  • Reply 17 of 29
    Immersion has been around for a long while with this tech. This is nothing new:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immersion_v._Sony


    edited February 2016
  • Reply 18 of 29
    techlover said:
    Immersion has been around for a long while with this tech. This is nothing new:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immersion_v._Sony
    Oh, wow; they’re those guys? Guess they might have a claim. I imagine it’ll end in the same way with Apple–“exploring” possible cross-patent yada yada yada, they’re getting nothing.
  • Reply 19 of 29
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,497member
    Discovery might be very interesting in this case.
    immersion have been around for a long time and android manufacturers and MS pay royalties for haptic feedback to Immersion. And immersion have won court cases over it. Apple would know about immersion. So one of the below could be true:

    1. Apple's implementation is quite a different process and Apple decided the Immersion patents weren't relevant
    2. The implementation is similar and negotiations failed as immersion asked more than Apple regarded as fair, in which case this court procedure is just the next step in negotiations 
    3. Apple decided it would try to get away with it.

    or 4. Immersion are defending their patent to make sure none of the current haptic licensees get any ideas. In this scenario it is entirely possible that option one might still be correct.

    Given the massive publicity about anything Apple, 3 is unlikely. Discovery will doubtless find an internal email or other correspondence discussing Immersion's patents and how the author believes it applies or not to Apple's Taptic. If the corro says the immersion patent is relevant deciding to just bull it out would be beyond stupid. If it is anything like option 3, the punitive results would be very damaging.  So I suspect it is most likely option one, and the courts will decide who's view is right.

    /bush lawyer mode.
    muppetry
  • Reply 20 of 29
    Why did they name AT&T in the suit?
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