Apple sued over RIM-developed USB charging technology following preemptive action

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 11
Non-practicing entity Fundamental Innovation Systems International on Monday filed a lawsuit against Apple claiming the tech giant infringes on multiple patents covering USB charging and communication technologies.

USB Adapter


Filed with the patent holder friendly U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, FISI's complaint leverages five patents against a host of Apple hardware including iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, iPod, Mac, charging adapters and more.

Originating from Research in Motion, the patents-in-suit -- Nos. 6,936,936, 7,239,111, 7,834,586, 8,232,766 and 8,624,550 -- deal mainly with USB charging technologies that "represented a fundamental break" from traditional mobile device charging systems, according to the suit. The new technology, developed over the past two decades, is claimed to have laid the groundwork for increased performance and abundance of popular features seen in today's portable devices.

The patents detail charging subsystems that interface with the USB protocol to draw current from power adapters, host computers or other devices. In particular, the technology deals with identification signals received via the USB interface, which can be massaged to enable power throughput that goes beyond limitations set by the USB specification.

FISI acquired the patent cache from RIM, then operating under the BlackBerry banner, in 2015 and has leveraged the intellectual property in a series of lawsuits targeting major electronics corporations. In 2016, FISI filed suit against Huawei, LG and Samsung, ultimately prompting each company to license the technology in 2018.

Apple was informed of potential infringement in a letter sent to VP and chief IP counsel B.J. Watrous in December 2015. Subsequent letters detailing alleged infringement were sent to Apple's head of patent acquisitions Denise Kerstein and legal counsel of IP transactions Jeff Lasker in 2017.

Apple responded to FISI's pleas to license the RIM IP in a letter dated April 5, 2018, saying it believed the patents were invalid in light of multiple requests to the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board for inter partes review of the current patents-in-suit. The PTAB later denied all IPRs save one related to a claim in the '550 patent.

More recently, Apple met with FISI in August and November of 2018 to discuss a potential licensing deal. Negotiations were slated to continue this month, but Apple filed a declaratory judgment action with the Northern District of California two days prior to a Feb. 7 meeting.

A preemptive strike, the California suit seeks a declaration that Apple does not infringe on FISI's patents. As Apple points out in its defense, the devices and adapters at issue in the FISI case do not rely solely on USB standards, but also incorporate proprietary Lightning connector technology that apply modified communications signals to charging subsystems.

FISI in its case seeks compensation for infringement plus interest with a possibility to treble damages. FISI is ultimately looking to force a settlement that will see Apple license the USB charging technology for a slate of hugely popular products.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    claire1claire1 Posts: 503unconfirmed, member
    Apple should just buy these thirsty companies. Make things less of a headache and charge the knockoffs for using their patents. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 15
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,062member
    Patent to use industry standard interface as intended and within the limits set out by the standard controlling the interface.

    Am I missing where is is at all novel?
    olswatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 15
    claire1 said:
    Apple should just buy these thirsty companies. Make things less of a headache and charge the knockoffs for using their patents. 
    Even Apple would go broke doing that. There's always one more leech.
    racerhomie3olswatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 15
    claire1claire1 Posts: 503unconfirmed, member
    DAalseth said:
    claire1 said:
    Apple should just buy these thirsty companies. Make things less of a headache and charge the knockoffs for using their patents. 
    Even Apple would go broke doing that. There's always one more leech.
    True but picking the best would be nice. But then again another troll would claim it's their patent.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 15
    I am not knowledgeable in IP laws etc but to me the sensible approach would be that if a company or someone buys patents then they can only be used as a basis for litigation if these patents are actually being used by the owner or the owner has clear plans on how they will be used within a reasonable period of time.
    This topic on patent trolls keeps arising and it is absurd that this has not been resolved yet.
    Of course, in the absence of laws as I indicated, perhaps another approach is to keep these trolls in court until they have no further resources left to fight the case. This course of action should only be available when the entity is non practicing in relation to the patents.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 15
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,075member
    Whenever a lawsuit like this is reported we usually see comments about reforming the patent system. Well, that’s NEVER going to happen and I’ll tell you why. We will never see reform because the lawyers are making craptons of money off the current system. And the lawyers become politicians to make sure things never change. 
    martenfmattinozfotoformatdhawkins541entropystobiancroprwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 15
    These lawsuits like many others would never be filed, if the the plaintiffs had to pay damages if they lose. It would make these silly patent trolls think twice about how good their case really is, and if they win, the outcome is the same, someone pays them, but if they lose, they lose big time perhaps for all those legal fees..
    martenfmattinozchristophbbeowulfschmidtDAalsethwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 15
    LatkoLatko Posts: 382member
    martenf said:
    I am not knowledgeable in IP laws etc but to me the sensible approach would be that if a company or someone buys patents then they can only be used as a basis for litigation if these patents are actually being used by the owner or the owner has clear plans on how they will be used within a reasonable period of time.
    This topic on patent trolls keeps arising and it is absurd that this has not been resolved yet.
    Of course, in the absence of laws as I indicated, perhaps another approach is to keep these trolls in court until they have no further resources left to fight the case. This course of action should only be available when the entity is non practicing in relation to the patents.
    Agree, but that would make the major part of (sleeping) Apple patents worthless too...
    CelTanwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 15
    When RIM sold their patents, Apple should have been involved in the group that bought them.

    Like they did in this one:
    Jul 1, 2011 · Apple, Microsoft, Sony and RIM part of consortium that bought patent portfolio from bankrupt telecoms company Nortel Networks. ... Apple, Microsoft, Sony and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion are part of a winning consortium of six companies which have bought a valuable tranche of ...

    Unfortunally, this lawsuit is the new normal.

    Jan 11, 2013 · Ericsson hands over 2,000 patents to licensing company suing Apple, Google and RIM ... Under the terms outlined in a recent Unwired Planet 8-K filing, Ericsson will sell and transfer its ...

    Patents should be defensively, for cross-licensing agreements, to stop blatant violations, but the patent trolls are getting ridiculously aggressive.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 15
    lkrupp said:
    Whenever a lawsuit like this is reported we usually see comments about reforming the patent system. Well, that’s NEVER going to happen and I’ll tell you why. We will never see reform because the lawyers are making craptons of money off the current system. And the lawyers become politicians to make sure things never change. 
    Yep! Revolving door system. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 15
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,123member
    The first patent cited in the article is from 2002 and cites how the adapter tells the charging device (phone, etc.) how much current/power it can provide. This appears to be a ttcritical manner of operation related to the complaint.  

    I remember reading about how early 2010/2011 iMacs had “high power” USB ports that could provide more power than the 5W that was part  of the standard.  This allowed iPads to charge at 12W, etc.  This could also be related.

    As always, let’s see where this goes.  Without reading the complaint and patent in detail, I really can’t comment more. 
  • Reply 12 of 15
    lkrupp said:
    Whenever a lawsuit like this is reported we usually see comments about reforming the patent system. Well, that’s NEVER going to happen and I’ll tell you why. We will never see reform because the lawyers are making craptons of money off the current system. And the lawyers become politicians to make sure things never change. 
    Ah, so what you're saying is it's the voters fault (you and I). Well you would be right. In our system, the people are the ones to blame, as uncomfortable as that may be to admit. You, me, our neighbors, fellow posters here; we are all to blame. Enjoy that truth sandwich.
  • Reply 13 of 15
    martenf said:
    I am not knowledgeable in IP laws etc but to me the sensible approach would be that if a company or someone buys patents then they can only be used as a basis for litigation if these patents are actually being used by the owner or the owner has clear plans on how they will be used within a reasonable period of time.
    This topic on patent trolls keeps arising and it is absurd that this has not been resolved yet.
    Of course, in the absence of laws as I indicated, perhaps another approach is to keep these trolls in court until they have no further resources left to fight the case. This course of action should only be available when the entity is non practicing in relation to the patents.
    I've said for many years that they should make patents non transferable. If a patent holder dies, or the company collapses, they become public. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 15
    belonged to another thread
    edited February 12
  • Reply 15 of 15
    acejax805 said:
    lkrupp said:
    Whenever a lawsuit like this is reported we usually see comments about reforming the patent system. Well, that’s NEVER going to happen and I’ll tell you why. We will never see reform because the lawyers are making craptons of money off the current system. And the lawyers become politicians to make sure things never change. 
    Ah, so what you're saying is it's the voters fault (you and I). Well you would be right. In our system, the people are the ones to blame, as uncomfortable as that may be to admit. You, me, our neighbors, fellow posters here; we are all to blame. Enjoy that truth sandwich.
    No Representative or Senator from my District and State have ever agreed to any position or I have ever written to or called them about. No Representative or Senator from my District and State have ever had my vote, expressly because of positions they take that are antithetical to my views. A blanket accusation across all eligible voters is more than a little unfair. In what way is it my fault that a majority of my neighbors are either happy with or oblivious to the status quo? Voting has had a 100% failure rate over the 34 years I have been eligible and registered to vote. Not one candidate I have ever supported, who might actually have addressed any of the issues I have expressed concern about have ever gotten into the office I was voting for them on. Based on my direct experience, voting is utterly useless. Enjoy that truth sandwich.
    edited February 12 DAalseth
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