Apple sued over FaceTime, auto-expiring voice Messages technology

Posted:
in General Discussion
Stalwart patent troll Uniloc filed a pair of lawsuits over the weekend claiming technology used in flagship Apple communications products, namely FaceTime and iMessage, infringe on property initially developed by HP and Philips.




Uniloc's latest legal overture, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas on Saturday, leverages patents dating back to the early 2000s.

The first suit targets Apple's FaceTime video conferencing service with a U.S. Patent No. 8,539,552 for a "System and method for network based policy enforcement of intelligent-client features."

Filed with the USPTO in 2003 and crediting former 3Com engineers, the '552 patent details methods of enabling and enforcing network policies between a communications service and client devices. Specifically, the IP's claims protect techniques of intercepting and intelligently filtering signaling messages that trigger communications services including caller ID, call waiting, multi-way calling, multi-line service, and codec specification.

FaceTime works in a similar manner by first binding a supporting device to a phone number or Apple ID, information that is used server-side for caller identification. When a user starts a FaceTime conversation, a signaling message is sent to FaceTime's servers, which determines whether the target device is authorized to accept a call, the suit reads.

If the target device is authenticated, a connection is established and the sender's information -- caller ID credentials -- are divulged to the recipient.

Filed with the USPTO in 2003 by Hewlett-Packard, the '552 patent was signed over to 3Com that same year. HP regained control of the IP, and more than 1,500 other assets, as part of its acquisition of 3Com in 2010.

Uniloc's main Luxembourg arm took control of the IP in 2017 before signing it over to Uniloc 2017 LLC in May of this year.

Uniloc claims Apple's iPhone 4 and later, iPad 2 and later, iPad Mini, fourth-generation iPod Touch and later versions and MacBooks running OS X and later infringe on multiple claims of the '552 patent.

In its second suit, Uniloc takes aim at iMessage audio features with U.S. Patent No. 7,020,252 for a "Group audio message board."

The patent, granted to Philips in 2006, details a "communal audio message recordal apparatus" that enables multiple users to record and access audio messages. Each message carries a "qualifying parameter," such as a timestamp or geographic location, which is used to grant or deny access to recordings.

The '252 patent presents an alternative to sifting through irrelevant messages, or gating access to messages, posted to a community style board. For example, users who visited a nightclub might be granted access to recordings from other users who also visited the venue within a specified time frame.

Uniloc construes the IP more narrowly, saying Apple's service allows users to record voice messages that expire after a set period, specifically two minutes after it has been played by a recipient device.

The '252 patent was filed for in 2001, then reassigned to IPG Electronics 503 in 2009, Pendragon Electronics in 2012 and finally Uniloc Luxembourg in February of 2018. Uniloc 2017 took control of the IP in July.

Uniloc's suit targets iOS devices running iOS 5 or later and Mac products running OS X or later.

Both suits seek unspecified damages, reimbursement of legal fees and other relief deemed fit by the court.

Saturday's lawsuits were filed a month after Uniloc's last play at Apple, which perhaps not coincidentally involved an HP patent and FaceTime.

In 2017 alone, Uniloc sued over Maps, Apple ID, remote software updates, AirPlay, autodialing, battery technology, device wake-up, step tracking, AirPlay, the Home app, the Apple TV Remote app and Apple Watch GPS capabilities.

Uniloc is one of the most active patent trolls in the U.S., leveraging reassigned patents or vaguely worded original IP against a number of tech firms including Activision Blizzard, Aspyr, Electronic Arts, McAfee, Microsoft, Rackspace, Sega, Sony, Symantec and others.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 11
    Unsurprisingly, the gov entertains the existence of these false entities wasting time and energy in a pay to play judicial system. How about restricting patent trolling to only those entities (and respective subsidiaries) that actually have a successful product which they can whine about?
    magman1979dedgeckowilliamlondonmacseeker
  • Reply 2 of 11
    evn616 said:
    Unsurprisingly, the gov entertains the existence of these false entities wasting time and energy in a pay to play judicial system. How about restricting patent trolling to only those entities (and respective subsidiaries) that actually have a successful product which they can whine about?
    Then, if a person wants to come up with an idea, he wont be able to get it patented due to a rule you have just proposed, and assumg he had no money for setting up the production. 
    williamlondon
  • Reply 3 of 11

    It's like the boy who cried wolf. Even if there is a lawsuit with some merit, it is all obscured by the barrage of other lawsuits Uniloc files.

    At what point does bias set it for a judge? Granted that each Uniloc lawsuit is probably presided over by a different judge, but the pool of judges that can preside over technological cases must be relatively small and at some point a judge will probably snap and tell Uniloc to fuck off.

    Wishful thinking...

    edited November 2018 mwhite
  • Reply 4 of 11
    evn616 said:
    Unsurprisingly, the gov entertains the existence of these false entities wasting time and energy in a pay to play judicial system. How about restricting patent trolling to only those entities (and respective subsidiaries) that actually have a successful product which they can whine about?
    Then, if a person wants to come up with an idea, he wont be able to get it patented due to a rule you have just proposed, and assumg he had no money for setting up the production. 
    You can’t patent “ideas”. An invention may start with an idea but needs to be described sufficiently that someone skilled in computer science could implement it. It’s also supposed to be novel - but that seems sadly lacking most of the time. However, evn616 was talking about patent enforcement not acquisition and the idea has a lot of merit and has been widely debated.
    StrangeDayswilliamlondon
  • Reply 5 of 11
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 2,926moderator
    evn616 said:
    Unsurprisingly, the gov entertains the existence of these false entities wasting time and energy in a pay to play judicial system. How about restricting patent trolling to only those entities (and respective subsidiaries) that actually have a successful product which they can whine about?
    Then, if a person wants to come up with an idea, he wont be able to get it patented due to a rule you have just proposed, and assumg he had no money for setting up the production. 
    The point should be that you shouldn’t be able to just sit on an invention, waiting for others to commercialize it before pouncing to claim benefit from their added value.  Maybe the law should read that only the inventors may sue without practicing and only for a limited time.  If a patent is acquired, it should be acquired for the purpose of implementation, and therefore an acquired patent should perhaps not be able to be enforced by a non-practicing entity. 

    Or maybe there should simply be a relatively short period of time after a patent is issued that it can be enforced by a non-practicing entity, and not thereafter.  That would prevent a lot of lawsuits that are focused on patents issued 12-18 years ago.  Someone is obviously given the task of reviewing old patents, no doubt purchased on the cheap and in bulk, to see if any can be litigated against deep-pocketed corporations that are adding tons of value through their own efforts.  It’s a sad state of affairs.
    edited November 2018 christophb
  • Reply 6 of 11
    In my opinion, this lawsuit rests on several unanswered questions.  The first is whether the general and broad claims of the HP and Phillips patents were legitimate even in 2003 when the patents were issued.  For example, the notion of establishing the identity of the person receiving a message before sending it is not new and quite obvious to any practictioneer of the art in 2003.  That concept and practice of confirming identify before delivery long predates the patent.  The HO and Phillips patents clearly are based on prior art and use of such prior art should not be penalized.  The second is whether this lawsuit is timely.  Why has nobody tried to challenge Apple’s implementation of FaceTime or Messages before.  If infringement was not obvious to the many owners of these patents from 2003 to 2017, it should not be obvious now.  The third is why this lawsuit is directed only at Apple.  Clearly, everybody who uses any kind of messaging system would be infringing on these patents.  This is clearly not so.
  • Reply 7 of 11
    It’s exactly why software shouldn’t be patentable and should instead rely on copyright protection to prevent theft. Ideas are separate from implementation. Parenting “a flying car” (idea) isn’t legit, but patenting exactly how *your* car flies (schematics of the anti-grav motor) is. Should be the same with software...the idea is easy and vague, but the coded implementation is the hard part, and, as written speech, is already protected by copyright.

     We don’t need software patents when copyright already protects code. If it’s not the same code, it’s not the same implementation. If it’s not the same implementation it doesn’t merit patent protection.
  • Reply 8 of 11
    croprcropr Posts: 882member
    The point should be that you shouldn’t be able to just sit on an invention, waiting for others to commercialize it before pouncing to claim benefit from their added value.  Maybe the law should read that only the inventors may sue without practicing and only for a limited time.  If a patent is acquired, it should be acquired for the purpose of implementation, and therefore an acquired patent should perhaps not be able to be enforced by a non-practicing entity. 

    Or maybe there should simply be a relatively short period of time after a patent is issued that it can be enforced by a non-practicing entity, and not thereafter.  That would prevent a lot of lawsuits that are focused on patents issued 12-18 years ago.  Someone is obviously given the task of reviewing old patents, no doubt purchased on the cheap and in bulk, to see if any can be litigated against deep-pocketed corporations that are adding tons of value through their own efforts.  It’s a sad state of affairs.
    When the patent system was invented, the purpose of the patent was to allow production of a product by 3rd parties.    If the inventor of the product did not have to means to manufacture his product on a global scale, the patent allowed that other companies could manufacture it for a reasonable fee.  This is the reason why a patent does not protect the idea itself but the way it is produced. The main advantage of a this patent setup, is that the economy has globally access to new technologies and can reuse/extend the technology, leading to an accelerated innovation. 

    The patent system has evolved in 2 ways, not to the benefit of the consumer:
    • Patent trolls are going to court, settling for a lot of money.  In most cases the content of patents are absurd, but sometimes there are really genuine ideas in their portfolio.
    • Large companies with a global reach refuse to grant other companies the right to reuse/extend their product
    Both have the same effect: they stifle innovation and the lead to higher prices for new technology.

    Limiting the patent to companies who have to means to commercialize a product is not a good idea.  This would make life hard  for small tech companies like ARM who have the knowledge and skill to invent a new product but who don't have the means to commercialize and manufacture the invention.  Changing the law that only inventors may sue without practicing might be a better way
  • Reply 9 of 11
    evn616 said:
    Unsurprisingly, the gov entertains the existence of these false entities wasting time and energy in a pay to play judicial system. How about restricting patent trolling to only those entities (and respective subsidiaries) that actually have a successful product which they can whine about?
    Then, if a person wants to come up with an idea, he wont be able to get it patented due to a rule you have just proposed, and assumg he had no money for setting up the production. 
    You can’t patent “ideas”. An invention may start with an idea but needs to be described sufficiently that someone skilled in computer science could implement it. It’s also supposed to be novel - but that seems sadly lacking most of the time. However, evn616 was talking about patent enforcement not acquisition and the idea has a lot of merit and has been widely debated.
    lol. You clearly can judging by the text of some very vague patents. Sending voice over internet is an idea. It is NOT an implementation. Using A compression is an idea. Using a server to send voice data over IS an idea. None of those words would make a workable system that you could use if you read one of those patents. 
    williamlondonjbdragon
  • Reply 10 of 11
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 1,964member
    So many of these patents shouldn't be passed. They're vague, the patent holder didn't create anything. No working prototype. It's just whatever idea, but no idea how to go about it until someone else comes along and does it for year and then claim copyright. I think it's complete B.S.
  • Reply 11 of 11
    GabyGaby Posts: 41member
    evn616 said:
    Unsurprisingly, the gov entertains the existence of these false entities wasting time and energy in a pay to play judicial system. How about restricting patent trolling to only those entities (and respective subsidiaries) that actually have a successful product which they can whine about?
    Then, if a person wants to come up with an idea, he wont be able to get it patented due to a rule you have just proposed, and assumg he had no money for setting up the production. 
    The point should be that you shouldn’t be able to just sit on an invention, waiting for others to commercialize it before pouncing to claim benefit from their added value.  Maybe the law should read that only the inventors may sue without practicing and only for a limited time.  If a patent is acquired, it should be acquired for the purpose of implementation, and therefore an acquired patent should perhaps not be able to be enforced by a non-practicing entity. 

    Or maybe there should simply be a relatively short period of time after a patent is issued that it can be enforced by a non-practicing entity, and not thereafter.  That would prevent a lot of lawsuits that are focused on patents issued 12-18 years ago.  Someone is obviously given the task of reviewing old patents, no doubt purchased on the cheap and in bulk, to see if any can be litigated against deep-pocketed corporations that are adding tons of value through their own efforts.  It’s a sad state of affairs.
    I think what really needs to happen is a change in the rules for acquisition of and enforcement of patents. 

    There is no real issue with the original patent holders, in that I have hardly ever heard of any of the original holders filing suit. So if Joe bloggs has an idea and expands on it sufficiently to patent it, but for example cannot fund its creation for whatever reason, and a couple of years down the line someone creates something that infringes, then fair enough if the holder files suit. But nobody should be able to purchase or have IP reassigned unless they can prove that they intend to make use of said IP within a reasonable time limit and have the funds and plans in place to create whatever product that may be. I would wager with such rule change it would put an end to all of this. And it would be fair to all the inventors that perhaps really want to create something but for whatever reason cannot. As I genuinely believe that 99.99% of these people have neither the inclination or resources or sheer greedy motives to make such a claim. 
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