Apple Watch latest target in Uniloc's quickly growing legal barrage against Apple

Posted:
in General Discussion edited June 2017
Notorious non-practicing entity Uniloc continued its legal attack against Apple on Friday with a new filing claiming infringement of three related patents covering motion tracking, or more specifically technology applicable to fitness devices like Apple Watch.




Filed in the patent holder friendly Eastern Texas District Court, Uniloc's latest lawsuit leverages three reassigned patents originally attached to notable tech inventor Philippe Kahn.

Each of the patents-in-suit detail methods of monitoring human activity using inertial sensors, or accelerometers, to track movements over time. Background provided as part of the IP filings note the technology can be used to discern steps from "motion noise," or non-step movements generated throughout a user's day, that might impact the accuracy of step counter software.

The patents, each entitled "Human activity monitoring device," stem from U.S. Patent No. 7,653,508, first filed for in 2006 and granted in 2010. Specifically, claims in U.S. Patent Nos. 8,712,723 and 7,881,902 contain only minor modifications to the original filing that allow for additional functionality. For example, the '902 patent contains contingencies for putting a device to sleep during periods in which no motion signals are detected.

Following its usual fast-to-file strategy, Uniloc just recently took control of the patent batch in May. Prior suits against Apple were filed within two months of patent reassignment.

Uniloc takes issue not only with Apple Watch, but with any device Apple that incorporates motion tracking hardware. Both iPhone and iPad are in the mix as they feature accelerometers, gyroscopes and other specialized sensors.

In addition, the "patent troll" argues Apple is at fault for selling and distributing third-party apps that take advantage of onboard motion tracking features. Named apps include popular titles like Runtastic, Nike+ Run Club and Strava Running.

The lawsuit comes at a precarious time for Apple, which with Apple Watch Series 2 has placed heavy emphasis on the device's fitness tracking capabilities. Uniloc earlier this month leveled two lawsuits against Apple relating to similar motion monitoring technologies. Those actions, also leveraging IP developed by Kahn, leveled claims against wake-from-sleep technology powered by Apple's M9 and M10 motion coprocessors, as well as step counter accounting for inclines.

The trio of suits this month add to a rapidly growing list of Uniloc complaints against basic Apple technology. In May, the NPE alleged infringement of three separate patents developed by HP and 3Com relating to AirPlay, autodialing phone numbers from Contacts and device batteries. A month before that, Uniloc took issue with three patents dealing with services like Maps, Apple ID and remote software updates.

Uniloc's barrage began in 2016 with a lawsuit claiming Messages encroaches on four owned patents.

Like its prior complaints, Uniloc in today's lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, reimbursement of legal fees and other relief deemed fit by the court.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 35
    missiongreymissiongrey Posts: 204member
    I am not going to claim I understand the current patent system. However, when I read something like "the '902 patent contains contingencies for putting a device to sleep during periods in which no motion signals are detected.", it makes me feel the whole system is so broken with patents that really should not be allowed to be a patent. Also, is it normal for a patent to take 4 years to be granted?
    longpathAppleUfmyIStrangeDaysbshankrandominternetperson
  • Reply 2 of 35
    longpathlongpath Posts: 216member
    Assuming that Apple and other fitness tracking device manufacturers are not using the same algorithm of Philippe Kahn, or that no such algorithm is described in the patents in question, then I fail to see how these can be said to infringe on Mr. Kahn's inventions. If his invention is merely the idea of have an algorithm to determine steps from movement noise, that would be so obvious as to not qualify as meeting the criteria of invention.
    AppleUfmyIStrangeDaysradarthekatTomE
  • Reply 3 of 35
    macseekermacseeker Posts: 402member
    Got to keep that gin bottle away from me. Just got to keep control. This is getting way too funny.
  • Reply 4 of 35
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,387member

    The lawsuit comes at a precarious time for Apple,..
    No it doesn't.  I doubt anyone at Apple is losing any sleep over this.  Just a punk little ant about to get stepped on.
    StrangeDaysRayz2016lkrupppscooter63uraharawlym
  • Reply 5 of 35
    hexclockhexclock Posts: 484member
    The real Unilock should sue them for stealing their name. 

    https://unilock.com/
  • Reply 6 of 35
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,763member
    Once apple defeat this idiot in court system, Apple must sue back not for lawyer's fee but billions $ for "distractions" damages.
    watto_cobraAppleUfmyImagman1979
  • Reply 7 of 35
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 6,510member
    I’m a software dev but i’m still not a big fan of software patents even being a thing. Code is written speech and is already protected by copyright – so if someone still your code it’s protected. Non-code ideas but expressed through software are too abstract to patent in my opinion, since patents aren’t for abstract ideas but rather detailed implementations. And unless you lift somebody else’s code, your implementation is going to be different than mine. Thus software patents don’t protect implementations (since copyright does) and end up just being weapons. Lame. 
    longpathGrimzahngatorguypscooter63waverboystevenozurahararandominternetperson
  • Reply 8 of 35
    I thought the SC ruled against this kind of venue targeting like ED of Texas.
  • Reply 9 of 35
    JohnDeeJohnDee Posts: 26member
    Patent chasers, like ambulance chasers, give me the urge to vomit.
    GeorgeBMacmagman1979
  • Reply 10 of 35
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 18,879member
    America's legal system is a damn sorry mess. Almost as bad as its politics...
    lerxt
  • Reply 11 of 35
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,608member
    sflocal said:

    The lawsuit comes at a precarious time for Apple,..
    No it doesn't.  I doubt anyone at Apple is losing any sleep over this.  Just a punk little ant about to get stepped on.
    I heartily agree. The author of the piece is ignorant to say the least. This won’t affect Apple in any way, even if the patent troll eventually wins something. This will be in the courts for years or, more likely, be settled out of court for a couple of million. The only reason we hear about these things is because of Apple focused websites who scour the Internet for snippets of Apple related data. Every major corporation, tech or not, deal with these piss ants on a daily basis. There’s always some gnat flying around their asses hoping to get a free meal.
    gatorguyrandominternetperson
  • Reply 12 of 35
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 3,575member
    Patents seem to morph based on what your ideas of a patent is:
    Traditionally patents were on physical products and how they worked (like an air-brake on a train).  But then the concept was broadened:
    -- U.S. pharmaceutical patents are mostly based on the invention of the active ingredient and its delivery system.   While patents in India are based on how that active ingredient is produced.  That enabled India to produce a number of clone medications that have resolved many diseases throughout the world.  (Well everywhere but the U.S. where we pay tens time more for the same medication.)

    -- Jobs gave patents a new meaning when he patented his UI's.   His patent on the slide bar was not on a product but on a way of doing something...

    I think today, the meaning of a patent has been lost and is spinning out of control...

    p.s. Perhaps patents on UI's should be copyrights rather than patents?
    edited July 2017 longpath
  • Reply 13 of 35
    cjcampbellcjcampbell Posts: 107member
    The Supreme Court just ruled unanimously (https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/16-341_8n59.pdf) that filing this suit anywhere but where the company is incorporated is illegal. Patent trolls can't use East Texas any more. 45% of all patent suits were being filed in plaintiff-friendly East Texas and it got to the point where frequent defendants like Samsung were building parks and permanent offices there just to handle the load.

    It is very likely that this case will get stomped on, big time.
    GeorgeBMacloquiturMacsplosionlerxtwaverboy
  • Reply 14 of 35
    loquiturloquitur Posts: 104member
    Also, software patents that implement abstract ideas are generally frowned upon by the Alice ruling (http://www.ipwatchdog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Alice-Corp-v-CLS-Bank.pdf).  Further, the parallel administrative law system of issuing (and re-analyzing) patents according to the "broadest reasonable interpretation" (BRI) standard makes for interesting conflict with juries using a different standard.
    Since (non-expert) jury verdicts tend toward randomness, large practicing entities want to stay away from such bombshells, like the never-ending VirnetX v. Apple dustup.   Lastly, owners of a few specialized patents greatly overvalue their worth, since they constitute a tiny portion of a typical product containing thousands of other ideas.
  • Reply 15 of 35
    carnegiecarnegie Posts: 576member
    The Supreme Court just ruled unanimously (https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/16-341_8n59.pdf) that filing this suit anywhere but where the company is incorporated is illegal. Patent trolls can't use East Texas any more. 45% of all patent suits were being filed in plaintiff-friendly East Texas and it got to the point where frequent defendants like Samsung were building parks and permanent offices there just to handle the load.

    It is very likely that this case will get stomped on, big time.
    That is not what the Supreme Court decided in TC Heartland v Kraft Foods.

    It decided that the portion of 28 USC §1400(b) which refers to "where the defendant resides" means, for corporations, where they are incorporated. Under 28 USC §1400(b) a plaintiff can also bring an action "where the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business." So civil actions for infringement can still be brought against Apple in the Eastern District of Texas.
    gatorguyrandominternetperson
  • Reply 16 of 35
    bshankbshank Posts: 147member
    The silver lining is at least Apple will have their day in court to argue. In Europe if the EC felt the Watch was an excellent enough product it should be given out for free as a public service and fine Apple for being a monopoly if they didn't bend to the EC's will (like Google search)
  • Reply 17 of 35
    tommikeletommikele Posts: 254member
    Theater of the absurd and a federal court district out of control. Why isn't our deeply concerned, business and freedom oriented Congress taking action to fix this? They talk a good lineI guess they are too busy giving tax breaks to the under rich and taking affordable medical insurance away from the sickest Americans At least they have their priorities in order.
  • Reply 18 of 35
    jswitte01jswitte01 Posts: 17member
    hexclock said:
    The real Unilock should sue them for stealing their name. 

    https://unilock.com/
    Hmm - maybe Apple could fund that with their enormous hoard of cash.  Then produce a "signature Tim Cook" shirt or something that said, "stick it to the patent trolls!"
    longpath
  • Reply 19 of 35
    fracfrac Posts: 480member
    bshank said:
    The silver lining is at least Apple will have their day in court to argue. In Europe if the EC felt the Watch was an excellent enough product it should be given out for free as a public service and fine Apple for being a monopoly if they didn't bend to the EC's will (like Google search)
    Oh please...the EU is many things, good and bad, but it's not wilfully authoritarian. 
    Solirevenant
  • Reply 20 of 35
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,805member
    I am not going to claim I understand the current patent system. However... is it normal for a patent to take 4 years to be granted?
    Yes it would be considered normal, and in fact it's all that unusual to take much longer than that to finally settle on patent claims acceptable to the patent examiner. I've seen Apple patents mentioned here that took longer than 4 years.
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