Apple sued by ex-engineer over Find My iPhone patent credit, stock revocation after being ...

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A former Apple engineer is suing the iPhone producer for failing to include his name as an inventor of five patent applications filed by the company, including the ideas behind the "Find My iPhone" and Apple's Passbook technology.




Darren Eastman wants to be acknowledged as an inventor for five Apple patent applications, according to filings with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Filed on Thursday, the complaint alleges how Eastman's ideas were accepted and then employed by Apple in its products and filings, but without his crediting.

A patent application for electronic ticketing is claimed to have been taken from technology developed by Eastman before joining Apple in 2006, and was declared in an Intellectual Property Agreement he signed with the company the previous year. In February 2006, Eastman told former CEO Steve Jobs about the ticketing concept, with Jobs replying it was "insanely great" and potentially able to break a monopoly held by Ticketmaster.

For the patent application relating to Find My iPhone, Eastman claims he lost his original iPhone in 2008, inspiring him to come up with a device location system. Documenting it in Apple's Radar internal bug-tracking system in October 2008, Eastman reportedly started to tell others in the company about his idea.

An initial attempt to gain support from the director of iTunes at the time failed, with the suggestion customers "would hate such a feature and feel Apple was spying on them." In 2009 he approached then-VP of iCloud Eddy Cue about the concept, realizing the need to use Apple's infrastructure for it to work, then after receiving favorable feedback, approached then-VP for iOS Scott Forstall.

Find My iPhone debuted in June 2010.

Concerned about patent protection for the technology, Eastman asked Forstall if it should be sought, then queried Apple patent counsel Richard von Wohld, but did not receive a satisfactory response. In 2012 and 2013, Apple had filed four utility patents relating to the feature, with Eastman's name not included in the list of inventors.

The lawsuit was filed "pro se," indicating Eastman is representing himself. "I'm reopening myself because my attorney had a stroke and has been in assisted living for some time," Eastman told the report. "I don't know if he'll recover to his former ability level and I ran out of money after not working since 2014."

Eastman is seeking recognition in each of the five patent applications, $326,400 in damages, $32,640 in interest, $5,000 in attorney's fees, and 735 Apple shares he believes were taken from him unfairly.

After joining in 2006, Eastman was fired on September 26, 2014, under claims of unprofessional and inappropriate communications. The issue is said to be due to attempts to solicit his manager to "do his job" to integrate a crucial fix to Disk Utility in Yosemite before its release.

It is claimed that Apple commonly fires employees in September ahead of the new fiscal year, to prevent compensation due for the current year's work from being granted, including the vesting of stock. It is alleged Eastman was supposed to receive 735 shares after taxes, which were deposited to a brokerage account on October 15, 2014, but were then retracted.

The filing also takes time to complain about changes in management style since the passing of Jobs and the shift to current CEO Tim Cook, with Eastman asserting Apple's quality standards has declined.

"Many talented employees who've given part of their life for Apple were now regularly being disciplined and terminated for reporting issues they were expected to during Mr. Jobs tenure," the complaint reads. "Cronyism and a dedicated effort to ignore quality issues in current and future products became the most important projects to perpetuate the goal of ignoring the law and minimizing tax."

Eastman continues, insisting "The executive team's main focus is eliminating tax liability and bad PR being disseminated about Apple. No corporate responsibility exists at Apple since Mr Jobs' death. There's no accountability, with attempts at doing the right thing met with swift retaliation."

In Eastman's case, he witnessed the firing of his former manager in 2014 for criticizing a project the company had failed to get going on two occasions, with the manager's daughter fired shortly after for reporting toxic mold in one Apple building.

Eastman also claims he was denied a request to manage a team he had worked with for four years in 2009, with the manager hired to lead allegedly not having a college degree or experience in management or programming. A 2013 attempt to move under a different manager was denied, with further confrontations between the two leading to a final written warning against Eastman for discourteous behavior, despite the apparent lack of first or second warnings.

After developing several disabilities while at Apple, Eastman went on leave from the company in 2013 to recover from neurosurgery. Eastman returned to work eight months later, four months earlier than anticipated, and claims to have experienced retaliation, discrimination, and unlawful termination from the company.

A statement provided by Eastman to The Register adds the most important lesson learned from Jobs was that Apple's "greatest strength has always been its employees, - many of whom make great sacrifices for Apple and deserve the same ethical treatment as if they were working for any other company."

AppleInsider has contacted Apple for commentary on the lawsuit.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,782member
    Hell hath no fury like an engineer scorned. Stuff like this happens in every company with disgruntled employees attempting to get revenge. This guy claims he was fired for no reason other than to deny him his just rewards for his hard work. There are three sides to every story, his side, Apple’s side, and the truth, much like the she-said, he-said carnival we just witnessed in Washington. I guess we just wait and see if he can prove anything to a jury.
    edited September 2018 racerhomie3olsmacawesome88watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 27
    Every stick has two ends. Get over it. If they did not include you and not acknowledge that you have knwoledge how it works then go to another company use your knowledge and develope better solution. Apple may regret that they did not include you. I have done similar thing to someone who played arrogant and killed my idea. It worked for another company quite well. The previous employer hit themsleves with stick. The same happened with PC, Windows invention, mouse and other stuff. Credit comes with money for work and promotion - not with name on some paper.
    olsmacawesome88
  • Reply 3 of 27
    Every stick has two ends. Get over it. If they did not include you and not acknowledge that you have knwoledge how it works then go to another company use your knowledge and develope better solution. Apple may regret that they did not include you. I have done similar thing to someone who played arrogant and killed my idea. It worked for another company quite well. The previous employer hit themsleves with stick. The same happened with PC, Windows invention, mouse and other stuff. Credit comes with money for work and promotion - not with name on some paper.
    Maybe you didn't understand this right. If what he claims is true, it's not just about "some name on some paper". Apple earns money from these patents. Also, he simply cannot do what you say, as he then would certainly be sued by Apple for patent infringement.
    edited September 2018 ronnanton zuykovhodaraylkmuthuk_vanalingamhammeroftruthasdasd
  • Reply 4 of 27
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,846member
    So, is this a patent lawsuit or a wrongful termination suit?

    Having the idea for the feature does not get you on a patent, unless you also had some role in actually developing the invention for which a patent is being sought.

    I'm sure there's more to the story but me thinks the grapes taste a little sour.
    llamakingofsomewherehotmacawesome88
  • Reply 5 of 27
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,846member
    lplohmann said:
    Every stick has two ends. Get over it. If they did not include you and not acknowledge that you have knwoledge how it works then go to another company use your knowledge and develope better solution. Apple may regret that they did not include you. I have done similar thing to someone who played arrogant and killed my idea. It worked for another company quite well. The previous employer hit themsleves with stick. The same happened with PC, Windows invention, mouse and other stuff. Credit comes with money for work and promotion - not with name on some paper.
    Maybe you didn't understand this right. If what he claims is true, it's not just about "some name on some paper". Apple earns money from these patents. Also, he simply cannot do what you say, as he then would certainly be sued by Apple for patent infringement.
    And an individual has no claim on any patent issued for work done at his employer. Unless Apple has a formal plan to offer bonuses or other compensation for granted patents, his name on the patent only serves to give him professional credibility.
    tycho_macuserlukeimacawesome88icoco3
  • Reply 6 of 27
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,556member
    mike1 said:
    lplohmann said:
    Every stick has two ends. Get over it. If they did not include you and not acknowledge that you have knwoledge how it works then go to another company use your knowledge and develope better solution. Apple may regret that they did not include you. I have done similar thing to someone who played arrogant and killed my idea. It worked for another company quite well. The previous employer hit themsleves with stick. The same happened with PC, Windows invention, mouse and other stuff. Credit comes with money for work and promotion - not with name on some paper.
    Maybe you didn't understand this right. If what he claims is true, it's not just about "some name on some paper". Apple earns money from these patents. Also, he simply cannot do what you say, as he then would certainly be sued by Apple for patent infringement.
    And an individual has no claim on any patent issued for work done at his employer. Unless Apple has a formal plan to offer bonuses or other compensation for granted patents, his name on the patent only serves to give him professional credibility.
    Indeed.

    Chances are that his contract states that whatever he invents on Apple's dollar belongs to Apple. So I imagine his beef is recognition rather than money.
    tycho_macusericoco3
  • Reply 7 of 27
    65026502 Posts: 236member
    Every stick has two ends. Get over it. If they did not include you and not acknowledge that you have knwoledge how it works then go to another company use your knowledge and develope better solution. Apple may regret that they did not include you. I have done similar thing to someone who played arrogant and killed my idea. It worked for another company quite well. The previous employer hit themsleves with stick. The same happened with PC, Windows invention, mouse and other stuff. Credit comes with money for work and promotion - not with name on some paper.
    You're wrong on this. Inventorship on a patent is not just to show appreciation to the inventors. It has a strict legal meaning. Many patents have been invalidated after being challenged in court where it was shown a listed inventor did not contribute to the invention (the claims), and vice verse. My company takes inventorship very seriously and, if it is not obvious, you have to demonstrate with notebook entries how you contributed to the claims of the invention.
    dewmeaylkktappehammeroftruth
  • Reply 8 of 27
    65026502 Posts: 236member
    mike1 said:
    So, is this a patent lawsuit or a wrongful termination suit?

    Having the idea for the feature does not get you on a patent, unless you also had some role in actually developing the invention for which a patent is being sought.

    I'm sure there's more to the story but me thinks the grapes taste a little sour.
    Having the idea for an invention is exactly what gets you on the patent as an inventor, even more so than doing the development (the development often uses standard non-inventive techniques). I've seen many times where a coworker comes up with an idea, quickly writes it down and has a colleague sign it to witness it. If that is later submitted for a patent they are for sure listed as an inventor, often the first in the list.
    dewmeaylkcornchipasdasd
  • Reply 9 of 27
    65026502 Posts: 236member
    mike1 said:
    lplohmann said:
    Every stick has two ends. Get over it. If they did not include you and not acknowledge that you have knwoledge how it works then go to another company use your knowledge and develope better solution. Apple may regret that they did not include you. I have done similar thing to someone who played arrogant and killed my idea. It worked for another company quite well. The previous employer hit themsleves with stick. The same happened with PC, Windows invention, mouse and other stuff. Credit comes with money for work and promotion - not with name on some paper.
    Maybe you didn't understand this right. If what he claims is true, it's not just about "some name on some paper". Apple earns money from these patents. Also, he simply cannot do what you say, as he then would certainly be sued by Apple for patent infringement.
    And an individual has no claim on any patent issued for work done at his employer. Unless Apple has a formal plan to offer bonuses or other compensation for granted patents, his name on the patent only serves to give him professional credibility.
    Most employment agreements stipulate that you have no ownership to any patents you are listed as an inventor on and therefore you are not subject to royalties or other compensation. But, that does not mean you can be excluded as an inventor if indeed you led to the inventive concepts in the patent.
    dewmeaylk
  • Reply 10 of 27
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,988member
    mike1 said:
    So, is this a patent lawsuit or a wrongful termination suit?

    Having the idea for the feature does not get you on a patent, unless you also had some role in actually developing the invention for which a patent is being sought.

    I'm sure there's more to the story but me thinks the grapes taste a little sour.
    My thoughts exactly. The narrative presented in this article muddies the water between the patent inventor assignment claim and a litany of other claimed offenses that occurred in conjunction with his employment at Apple. It would be wise to keep them separate to keep the one that has the most likelihood of providing financial compensation, the patent related one, in clearer focus. The patent inventor assignment claim could easily be resolved through some sort of paper, electronic records, or even personnel appraisal related trail perhaps supplemented with additional information acquired from interviews with other employees and representatives of the company. Things like meeting minutes, WebEx/Skype recordings, weekly status reports to managers, IP capture meeting notes, engineering notebooks, etc., are all potential sources of information that may be used to reconstruct who the principals to the creation of IP are and the associated timeline.

    As far as the other stuff is concerned, I have no doubt that there were probably some incidents that occurred between the employee and the company that involved shared blame, bad management, poor employee decisions, somewhat cruel corporate realities (like dumping employees at the end of the fiscal year - absolutely happens in every company I've ever worked for), and so on. Those things should have been addressed on-the-spot and not allowed to fester into larger and deeper wounds. The problem here is that having an ex-employee or disgruntled current employee extrapolating unresolved personal slights into declarations of systemic corporate level failings like tax avoidance, lack of concern for quality, lack of corporate responsibility, or other broad brush inflammatory statements that play to contemporary biases never plays out well, especially for the employee. Overstepping one's boundaries of personally attributable knowledge, experience, understanding, insight, clarity, and sphere of influence at best sounds like disgruntled whining and at worst comes across as ignorant blathering. Opinions are like assholes, everyone's got one and they all smell the same. 

    If this guy sticks to the facts on his patent inventor assignment case he may very well prevail. All the other stuff, either just drop it or package it all up into a separate "issues" folder and talk to a good lawyer before considering any next steps. 
  • Reply 11 of 27
    hodarhodar Posts: 260member
    .... Credit comes with money for work and promotion - not with name on some paper.
    Not true at all.  Many Engineers list their patents, as evidence that they are both creative, and technically competent.  The fact that you have 'x' patents under your name, gives you a substantial edge both in finding a job, and negotiating your salary.
    canukstormcornchipicoco3asdasd
  • Reply 12 of 27
    Once the patent is granted, it is outside the jurisdiction of the USPTO except in a few respects. The Office may issue without charge a certificate correcting a clerical error it has made in the patent when the printed patent does not correspond to the record in the Office. These are mostly corrections of typographical errors made in printing. Some minor errors of a typographical nature made by the applicant may be corrected by a certificate of correction for which a fee is required. The patentee may disclaim one or more claims of his or her patent by filing in the Office a disclaimer as provided by the statute (35 U.S.C. 253).”

    https://www.uspto.gov/patents-getting-started/general-information-concerning-patents#heading-26
  • Reply 13 of 27
    Can’t speak to the patent issue that is in question, but everyone needs to understand that California is an “at will” state which means an employer doesn’t need to give you a reason to fire you. They would prefer you quit, so their hands are clean. 

    How they accomplish this is by implementing a tactic employers use called “ostracism in the workplace”. They stop giving you credit for your work, stop giving you the good projects (no matter how talented you are), and separate you from the herd. They make it so difficult for you to work, you eventually quit. Then your employcan claim that you quit if your of your own volition. I would call it a form of psychological warfare.

    One exception is that you cannot be fired if you concurrently have a lawsuit against your employer. However, it is very difficult to work while this is in play. 

    Generally, employers are reluctant to fire anyone “without reasonable cause “ only bcoz they don’t want to pay for unemployment. My observation. 
  • Reply 14 of 27
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,339administrator
    dewme said:
    mike1 said:
    So, is this a patent lawsuit or a wrongful termination suit?

    Having the idea for the feature does not get you on a patent, unless you also had some role in actually developing the invention for which a patent is being sought.

    I'm sure there's more to the story but me thinks the grapes taste a little sour.
    My thoughts exactly. The narrative presented in this article muddies the water between the patent inventor assignment claim and a litany of other claimed offenses that occurred in conjunction with his employment at Apple. It would be wise to keep them separate to keep the one that has the most likelihood of providing financial compensation, the patent related one, in clearer focus. The patent inventor assignment claim could easily be resolved through some sort of paper, electronic records, or even personnel appraisal related trail perhaps supplemented with additional information acquired from interviews with other employees and representatives of the company. Things like meeting minutes, WebEx/Skype recordings, weekly status reports to managers, IP capture meeting notes, engineering notebooks, etc., are all potential sources of information that may be used to reconstruct who the principals to the creation of IP are and the associated timeline.

    As far as the other stuff is concerned, I have no doubt that there were probably some incidents that occurred between the employee and the company that involved shared blame, bad management, poor employee decisions, somewhat cruel corporate realities (like dumping employees at the end of the fiscal year - absolutely happens in every company I've ever worked for), and so on. Those things should have been addressed on-the-spot and not allowed to fester into larger and deeper wounds. The problem here is that having an ex-employee or disgruntled current employee extrapolating unresolved personal slights into declarations of systemic corporate level failings like tax avoidance, lack of concern for quality, lack of corporate responsibility, or other broad brush inflammatory statements that play to contemporary biases never plays out well, especially for the employee. Overstepping one's boundaries of personally attributable knowledge, experience, understanding, insight, clarity, and sphere of influence at best sounds like disgruntled whining and at worst comes across as ignorant blathering. Opinions are like assholes, everyone's got one and they all smell the same. 

    If this guy sticks to the facts on his patent inventor assignment case he may very well prevail. All the other stuff, either just drop it or package it all up into a separate "issues" folder and talk to a good lawyer before considering any next steps. 
    The engineer in question, representing himself, made this an omnibus complaint. Take a gander at the embedded PDF.
    macawesome88
  • Reply 15 of 27
    Apple had a policy we brought over from NeXT that whatever you are working on outside of the office you must first bring your intentions to light and get them signed off. All other work is the sole ownership of the company. No exceptions. Several of my colleagues know this well and Tevanian on more than one occasion had to concede and respect the policy by signing off the work was original and outside the company. It cuts both ways. If you don't do this you have no claims.
  • Reply 16 of 27
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,988member
    dewme said:
    mike1 said:
    So, is this a patent lawsuit or a wrongful termination suit?

    Having the idea for the feature does not get you on a patent, unless you also had some role in actually developing the invention for which a patent is being sought.

    I'm sure there's more to the story but me thinks the grapes taste a little sour.
    My thoughts exactly. The narrative presented in this article muddies the water between the patent inventor assignment claim and a litany of other claimed offenses that occurred in conjunction with his employment at Apple. It would be wise to keep them separate to keep the one that has the most likelihood of providing financial compensation, the patent related one, in clearer focus. The patent inventor assignment claim could easily be resolved through some sort of paper, electronic records, or even personnel appraisal related trail perhaps supplemented with additional information acquired from interviews with other employees and representatives of the company. Things like meeting minutes, WebEx/Skype recordings, weekly status reports to managers, IP capture meeting notes, engineering notebooks, etc., are all potential sources of information that may be used to reconstruct who the principals to the creation of IP are and the associated timeline.

    As far as the other stuff is concerned, I have no doubt that there were probably some incidents that occurred between the employee and the company that involved shared blame, bad management, poor employee decisions, somewhat cruel corporate realities (like dumping employees at the end of the fiscal year - absolutely happens in every company I've ever worked for), and so on. Those things should have been addressed on-the-spot and not allowed to fester into larger and deeper wounds. The problem here is that having an ex-employee or disgruntled current employee extrapolating unresolved personal slights into declarations of systemic corporate level failings like tax avoidance, lack of concern for quality, lack of corporate responsibility, or other broad brush inflammatory statements that play to contemporary biases never plays out well, especially for the employee. Overstepping one's boundaries of personally attributable knowledge, experience, understanding, insight, clarity, and sphere of influence at best sounds like disgruntled whining and at worst comes across as ignorant blathering. Opinions are like assholes, everyone's got one and they all smell the same. 

    If this guy sticks to the facts on his patent inventor assignment case he may very well prevail. All the other stuff, either just drop it or package it all up into a separate "issues" folder and talk to a good lawyer before considering any next steps. 
    The engineer in question, representing himself, made this an omnibus complaint. Take a gander at the embedded PDF.
    I did. Thanks for pointing this out. Sorry, I should have written “the claim reflected in this article.” I did not intend to imply that this article was presenting anything other than the engineer’s claims in the PDF. The engineer in question is responsible for the confusion and muddying of concerns. He’s shooting himself in the foot and overreaching and may achieve nothing because of the excessive noise, at least in my opinion.
    SpamSandwich
  • Reply 17 of 27
    This is typical termination case, not patent infringement. When you go to work for Apple or any other tech company you sign a document agreeing that they own everything you invent, code you write, underlying idea, etc. This is just a beef because they fired him and he didn't get his bonus. There is a clear inference from his own filing that he whined and complained until it interfered with work getting done so he got fired. Firing him was what any company would do in this case.
  • Reply 18 of 27
    65026502 Posts: 236member
    tommikele said:
    This is typical termination case, not patent infringement. When you go to work for Apple or any other tech company you sign a document agreeing that they own everything you invent, code you write, underlying idea, etc. This is just a beef because they fired him and he didn't get his bonus. There is a clear inference from his own filing that he whined and complained until it interfered with work getting done so he got fired. Firing him was what any company would do in this case.
    Owning a patent and being listed as an inventor on a patent are two different things. Yes, Apple owns the patent but all inventors, by patent law, must be listed on the patent or it can be invalidated. Apple can't simply pick and choose who it wants to list as inventors as a reward or punishment.
    dewmemacawesome88asdasd
  • Reply 19 of 27
    Find My iPhone is to mobile phones as LoJack is to automobiles. Not really a new invention.
  • Reply 20 of 27
    fahlman said:
    Find My iPhone is to mobile phones as LoJack is to automobiles. Not really a new invention.
    That's not how patents work.
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