Apple sued by patent troll over 'Do Not Disturb While Driving' tech

Posted:
in iOS edited July 11
Apple has become the subject of a new lawsuit from a patent troll, with SMTM Technology claiming Apple's Do Not Disturb While Driving feature for iOS 11 infringes on a similar patent concerning driving-detection and automated responses bought by the company.




The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Tuesday, claims Apple's feature borrows aspects from the patent "Mobile Device Inactive Mode and Inactive Mode Verification," granted to inventor Nick Bovis in February 2015 following a 2014 application. SMTM later acquired the patent from Bovis, which is now being used against Apple.

The Bovis patent describes how a mobile device can be set to an inactive mode while in a moving vehicle. When a message is received, the patent explains either the user will be notified that there is a message or the contact will be sent an away message in response, depending on if the user is driving or not.

Bovis created an "Off Mode" application for Android in 2013, said to be the root of the patent's concept. On being connected to a vehicle's Bluetooth system, the app would temporarily block calls, text messages, and notifications that could distract a driver, with the added option of sending automated replies advising the user was unavailable.

Do Not Disturb While Driving also activates once the iPhone is aware it is connected to a car by Bluetooth and USB, though it can also detect if the user is in a vehicle and enable the feature even if it isn't connected to the car at all. Messages and notifications are not displayed to the driver while active, but it does still allow CarPlay functionality, navigation, and music playback to work normally.

"Apple's Do Not Disturb While Driving features for iOS 11 mirror the patented elements comprising the Bovis Patent," the lawsuit claims. It is also suggested that Apple "gambled that SMTM and Mr Bovis would not have the business acumen or the capital to vindicate their claims" of patent infringement, instead of licensing the patent.

As expected of similar patent infringement suits, SMTM asks for a jury trial, damages including lost profits and a "reasonable royalty," a permanent injunction against Apple stopping it from infringing on the patent for the rest of the patent's lifespan, and legal costs.

Since its introduction, Do Not Disturb While Driving has made some effect on the number of people using smartphones while behind the wheel. One insurance website's report in April found 80 percent of iPhones had the feature enabled after its introduction, subsequently reducing phone usage while driving by an average of 8 percent.

Before Apple added the feature to iOS, it faced pressure from campaigners to add a form of lock-out facility to its devices, including a class-action lawsuit in 2017 claiming the company put profit before customer safety by not having the function.

A 2016 lawsuit accused Apple of failing to install a "lock-out" facility into FaceTime, one that was claimed could have prevented an accident from late 2014 that led to the death of a five-year-old girl. Another suit in August 2017 concerning a student killed by a texting driver in 2013 was thrown out of court with prejudice, with the judge reasoning the blame stemmed from the driver's neglect of duty, and that it was unreasonable to say Apple was ultimately responsible for the incident.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 29
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,296member
    oh geez...
    So Apple was sued for not including the feature, then when they do they get sued for using it. 
    DAalsethfotoformatmuthuk_vanalingamracerhomie3lostkiwiols
  • Reply 2 of 29
    gatorguy said:
    oh geez...
    So Apple was sued for not including the feature, then when they do they get sued for using it. 
    That's America in 2018 for you.

    muthuk_vanalingamlamboaudi4watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 29
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,163member
    Coming soon to a USPTO near you: a method patent for obtaining payment to NPEs by requiring large corporations to pay for alleged patent infringement.
    StrangeDaysanton zuykovwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 29
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 275member
    On being connected to a vehicle's Bluetooth system, the app would temporarily block calls, text messages, and notifications that could distract a driver, with the added option of sending automated replies advising the user was unavailable.
    I don't believe this is how the Apple system works. It doesn't use Bluetooth to sense when it's in a vehicle, which would be useless if the device wasn't paired with the vehicle. Doesn't Apple's system sense when GPS tells it that the vehicle is moving?
    edited July 11
  • Reply 5 of 29
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 29,915member
    “Non-Practicing Entity” is a more fair and unbiased term. Unless the author is personally involved in this lawsuit as a defendant, there’s no reason to use the “troll” slur.
    muthuk_vanalingamjfanningairnerd
  • Reply 6 of 29
    nunzynunzy Posts: 662member
    Tjese trolls will stop at nothing to extort money out of Apple. If this stuff was so great they would make it themselves. Instead, they go after Apple because everybody else does.
    racerhomie3
  • Reply 7 of 29
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,695member
    I'm shocked that a patent could be issued on such a thing in the first place.

    In Apple's defense I will say that the "Do Not Disturb While Driving" (DNDWD) feature is not necessarily limited to blocking requests while driving. On multiple occasions I've pulled into parking lots, gas stations, etc., and even after nearly a minute of being stopped it will ask me to confirm that I am not driving before allowing me to unlock my phone. So in practice Apple's DNDWD is more like a "Do Not Disturb While Driving or When I've Been Sitting in a Parking Lot or Gas Station for Only a Short Period of Time or When I'm Riding as a Passenger in a Car and Forgot to Turn Off The Do Not Disturb While Driving Setting."

    Now let's see some slimy little patent troll challenge Apple's feature based on its actual behavior rather than its name.  
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 29
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,345administrator
    dewme said:
    I'm shocked that a patent could be issued on such a thing in the first place.

    In Apple's defense I will say that the "Do Not Disturb While Driving" (DNDWD) feature is not necessarily limited to blocking requests while driving. On multiple occasions I've pulled into parking lots, gas stations, etc., and even after nearly a minute of being stopped it will ask me to confirm that I am not driving before allowing me to unlock my phone. So in practice Apple's DNDWD is more like a "Do Not Disturb While Driving or When I've Been Sitting in a Parking Lot or Gas Station for Only a Short Period of Time or When I'm Riding as a Passenger in a Car and Forgot to Turn Off The Do Not Disturb While Driving Setting."

    Now let's see some slimy little patent troll challenge Apple's feature based on its actual behavior rather than its name.  
    That doesn't seem that marketable.
  • Reply 9 of 29
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,345administrator
    “Non-Practicing Entity” is a more fair and unbiased term. Unless the author is personally involved in this lawsuit as a defendant, there’s no reason to use the “troll” slur.
    None of us are involved as a defendant.
  • Reply 10 of 29
    KuyangkohKuyangkoh Posts: 210member
    Just don’t answer the darn phone while driving, much like DUI.....dont drive while drunk, BUT some still does. Useless feature to me
  • Reply 11 of 29
    longpathlongpath Posts: 203member
    Does the suit in question seek to invalidate Apple's own patent for their own DNDWD feature? If not, wouldn't that be tacit admission by the NPE that their patent is not at work in Apple's DNDWD?
  • Reply 12 of 29
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,195member
    DAalseth said:
    On being connected to a vehicle's Bluetooth system, the app would temporarily block calls, text messages, and notifications that could distract a driver, with the added option of sending automated replies advising the user was unavailable.
    I don't believe this is how the Apple system works. It doesn't use Bluetooth to sense when it's in a vehicle, which would be useless if the device wasn't paired with the vehicle. Doesn't Apple's system sense when GPS tells it that the vehicle is moving?

    apple's does both
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 13 of 29
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,195member

    longpath said:
    Does the suit in question seek to invalidate Apple's own patent for their own DNDWD feature? If not, wouldn't that be tacit admission by the NPE that their patent is not at work in Apple's DNDWD?
    on the contrary, they will argue that Apple never should have received a patent because the idea wasn't actually new. but what this NPE may have forgotten is that part of the process in applying for a patent is to research any related or possibly related patents and answer how yours is unique or expands the patent to the point of deserving its own patent. so even if Apple knew about this Bovis patent, if it was just the idea, then they could have filed for a patent for their way of fulfilling the idea and gotten a patent for their advancement of the idea. and if the idea was vague enough they can argue that it wasn't actually worthy of a patent so they don't know Bovis etc anything. 

    patent law is weird and mind boggling and kind of fun (if you are a masochist)
    longpathwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 29
    djames4242djames4242 Posts: 492member
    Kuyangkoh said:
    Just don’t answer the darn phone while driving, much like DUI.....dont drive while drunk, BUT some still does. Useless feature to me
    ...except that this feature, when active, also sends a reply automatically letting the originator know that you cannot reply because you're driving. I agree that simply not responding to texts while driving is a great idea, but having my phone respond automatically makes this feature useful.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 29
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 275member
    DAalseth said:
    On being connected to a vehicle's Bluetooth system, the app would temporarily block calls, text messages, and notifications that could distract a driver, with the added option of sending automated replies advising the user was unavailable.
    I don't believe this is how the Apple system works. It doesn't use Bluetooth to sense when it's in a vehicle, which would be useless if the device wasn't paired with the vehicle. Doesn't Apple's system sense when GPS tells it that the vehicle is moving?

    apple's does both
    Oh I did not know that. 
  • Reply 16 of 29
    mac_dogmac_dog Posts: 582member
    Because it “…borrows aspects” of a patent? Good luck with this one.

    As many of you have already claimed, it is 2018—more specifically, it’s the US. Forget sports of any kind, litigation has become America’s favorite pastime. 
    StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 29
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,195member
    dewme said:
    I'm shocked that a patent could be issued on such a thing in the first place.

    In Apple's defense I will say that the "Do Not Disturb While Driving" (DNDWD) feature is not necessarily limited to blocking requests while driving.;
    actually against Apple I would say they don't block enough. no notifications does nothing to stop me from making a call, doing a text etc while driving. the driving mode should block everything but 'hey siri, call 911'.
  • Reply 18 of 29
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,289member
    I am sorry Nick Bovis, you were not first to do this. My Motorola Atrix phone back in 2009 had this as built in feature, and when I stopped using my Motorola Android phones this was one of the feature I missed the most moving to a iPhone. Even today, the iPhone does not do half of what the Atrix did on setting up the phone based on location and what was connected to the phone at the time.

    Good luck with your case, all apple has to do it put to the Motorola solution from many years ago as prior artwork.

  • Reply 19 of 29
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,296member
    maestro64 said:
    I am sorry Nick Bovis, you were not first to do this. My Motorola Atrix phone back in 2009 had this as built in feature, and when I stopped using my Motorola Android phones this was one of the feature I missed the most moving to a iPhone. Even today, the iPhone does not do half of what the Atrix did on setting up the phone based on location and what was connected to the phone at the time.

    Good luck with your case, all apple has to do it put to the Motorola solution from many years ago as prior artwork.

    That's not how patents work. It is perfectly acceptable to create an inventive way of accomplishing a task or building a product while citing and building on someone's previously patented work. If Bovis has unique and creative claims in his patent, asserting those specific claims, and can prove Apple is using those very specific protected elements in their own iteration they may be using his IP illegally despite the fact that other companies or individuals may have had features that offered similar benefits or even that Apple has their own patent.  Surely you're aware of companies citing prior art in applying for and being granted a patent protecting their own unique twist on it. 
    edited July 11 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 20 of 29
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 5,641member
    Another example of why software “patents” are a bad idea, while software “copyright” is the more appropriate way to protect software. Software is comprised of code. Code is the mplementation, and should be protected. Ideas are free and easy, and should not be protected. 

    And yep, I don’t like it when anybody gets these idea-patents (the most infamous being Amazon’s patent on the idea of a shopping cart in e-commerce), including Apple’s. Copyright protects against code theft and is the only reasonable protection necessary. 
    watto_cobra
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