Apple accused of stealing dual-camera technology used in latest iPhones

Posted:
in General Discussion edited August 15
Israeli-based camera technology firm Corephotonics is back with a massive lawsuit claiming Apple knowingly used patented dual-camera technology in iPhone, then attempted to cover its tracks with largely similar intellectual property filings.




Lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Corephotonics' suit claims infringement of ten separate patents covering methods of deploying dual-camera systems in handheld devices, as well as technology related to the advanced imaging hardware. Apple's iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, along with accompanying imaging features, are named as accused products.

Included in the claims are Corephotonics IP U.S. Patent Nos. 9,661,233, 10,230,898, 10,288,840, 10,317,647, 10,324,277, 10,330,897, 10,225,479, 10,015,408, 10,356,332 and 10,326,942.

Technology covered ranges from dual-camera setups with dynamic switching between lenses to methods of conducting zoom operations using two sensors. A number of filings also detail miniature telephoto lens arrays similar to those used in Apple's iPhone products.

Echoing two prior lawsuits filed in California court, Corephotonics says the company was set up in 2012 with the goal of developing next-generation smartphone camera technology. Founded by imaging industry veterans, the company's employees were led by Dr. David Mendlovic, a Professor at Tel Aviv University and former Chief Scientist of the Israeli Ministry of Science.

According to the filing, a founding member of the company in 2012 reached out to former colleague Graham Townsend, then Senior Director of Camera Hardware at Apple, in hopes of establishing a partnership. In May, Apple signaled interest in Corephotonics' dual-aperture solution, with Townsend and other engineers ultimately visiting the firm's headquarters in Tel Aviv to discuss technical details in June. Also presented was a design layout for a five-element telephoto lens, technology Apple had yet to deploy in an iPhone product.

Townsend left the meeting with a USB drive containing presentation materials, as well as pending patent applications and patent plans, according to the filing.

Apple later sent a larger team of engineers to Tel Aviv to discuss the dual-camera array in more detail. Corephotonics also sent personnel to Apple facilities in California on multiple occasions through late 2014, where they presented simulations and technical demonstrations to Apple's hardware and software teams.

Apple was granted access to Corephotonics test boards, lens modules and simulation files, and in 2014 attempted to secretly procure samples of a prototype telephoto lens module from the firm's manufacturing contractor. Upon learning about Apple's actions, Corephotonics provided the parts on its own volition. Apple was also furnished with "black box" simulation files for lens designs, a software simulator and access to system prototypes.

Following what appeared to be positive reactions from high-level Apple staff, the two companies met to discuss a potential business agreement in July 2014.

Negotiations were halted in August 2014, though technical discussions continued engineering teams for a few weeks. Apple was incommunicado until 2016, when Mendlovic reached out to a "high level hardware executive" offering to discuss collaboration on future projects. The unnamed executive said he was "looking into it" and referred Mendlovic to a system engineer.

Meetings resumed, with Apple said to have expressed interest in formalizing a business agreement in August 2016. A month later the tech giant introduced iPhone 7 Plus, the first of its handsets to feature a dual-camera array. Corephotonics examined the smartphone and deemed the camera technology to be in infringement of its patents.

By October 2016, negotiations had again cooled and two subsequent meetings relating to potential licensing agreements bore no fruit. Corephotonics met with members of Apple's camera team in 2017, but it was clear that the iPhone maker was not interested in striking a deal.

Corephotonics leveled its first infringement suit against Apple in November 2017, claiming iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 8 Plus relied on patented camera and zoom technology. A second lawsuit in April 2018 targeted iPhone X. Both cases are administratively stayed pending inter partes review of the leveraged patents.

In the suit filed today, Corephotonics alleges Apple was "well aware" of the Israeli firm's patents and associated technology as it sought to file its own patents covering similar camera solutions. Evaluation of certain dual camera patents filed by Apple yield reference to Corephotonics IP as prior art. The two previous lawsuits note Apple in some cases duplicates exact specifications from Corephotonics filings.

Corephotonics seeks damages, a permanent injunction against further sales and court fees in its current case.

Adding a wrinkle to the ongoing legal battle, rumors in January claimed Samsung was looking to acquire Corephotonics for between $150 million and $160 million. A subsequent report said the deal went through, though neither company issued official word of the purchase.

Apple is predicted to update its iPhone camera tech in 2019 with models bearing three rear-facing sensors, one of which will be covered by a super-wide lens.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    There’s enough meat to this story to make it seem credible.  The company is definitely not a patent troll.

    If everything turns out to be true, it’s not a good look, and it’s more than just a disagreement on patent validity...

    It’s full blown IP theft, which I despise.
    gatorguybigtdsfrankiedamn_its_hotchemengin1FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 2 of 22
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,173member
    There’s enough meat to this story to make it seem credible.  The company is definitely not a patent troll.

    If everything turns out to be true, it’s not a good look, and it’s more than just a disagreement on patent validity...

    It’s full blown IP theft, which I despise.
    Meat based on what? Their obviously slanted framing of the story? 
    The assumption that Apple would knowingly steal IP like this is laughable. 
    StrangeDaysdamn_its_hotmagman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 22
    chaickachaicka Posts: 134member
    Didn’t other makers added dual cameras to their smartphones before Apple did?
    PetrolDavevirtualshiftMacQcSpamSandwichmagman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 22
    igmxigmx Posts: 6member
    chaicka said:
    Didn’t other makers added dual cameras to their smartphones before Apple did?
    Yes.
    virtualshiftchemengin1magman1979
  • Reply 5 of 22
    There’s enough meat to this story to make it seem credible.  The company is definitely not a patent troll.

    If everything turns out to be true, it’s not a good look, and it’s more than just a disagreement on patent validity...

    It’s full blown IP theft, which I despise.
    I think Corephotonics has no case if the Apple patents are valid.
    The iPhone 7 came out years ago, so why didn't they sue?  Because they knew that they had no case.
    Many of the cell phone cameras have similar technologies but once key features are patented and the patent are valid, that's it.
    You can't sue a company for using their own valid patented technologies instead of yours.

    edited August 15 jbdragonPetrolDaveMacQcmagman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 22
    sreesree Posts: 110member
    There’s enough meat to this story to make it seem credible.  The company is definitely not a patent troll.

    If everything turns out to be true, it’s not a good look, and it’s more than just a disagreement on patent validity...

    It’s full blown IP theft, which I despise.
    I think Corephotonics has no case if the Apple patents are valid.
    The iPhone 7 came out years ago, so why didn't they sue?  Because they knew that they had no case.
    Many of the cell phone cameras have similar technologies but once key features are patented and the patent are valid, that's it.
    You can't sue a company for using their own valid patented technologies instead of yours.


    Please read the full article, full timeline is given. They did sue apple for patent infringement within an year (after attempting talks for a few months). Apple was engaged with them for 4yrs before they brought the tech out into an iphone. Their patents are older, and they have had the tech since 2012.

    Prima-facie this looks like a strong case, and possibly even legitimate.


    muthuk_vanalingamgatorguyCloudTalkinbigtdshodarapple2cdamn_its_hotchemengin1FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 7 of 22
    Dual lens camera doesn’t look good on the smartphone and it significantly ruined the design of every rear iphone in the past few years.  should just develop an entirely new concept of smart DSLR camera device if so obsessed about taking great photos.
    edited August 15
  • Reply 8 of 22
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,716member
    There’s enough meat to this story to make it seem credible.  The company is definitely not a patent troll.

    If everything turns out to be true, it’s not a good look, and it’s more than just a disagreement on patent validity...

    It’s full blown IP theft, which I despise.
    Yes, of course you do. 🙄

    Unfortunately, I don’t think this is as open-and-shut as you hope it is. 

    What I find odd is that Apple would mention Coretronics as an example of prior art. Strange to mention the company you’re ripping off in your own false patent, don’t you think?

    My first guess is that Apple came up with their own method of doing the same thing. As others have said, you patent a method, not an idea. It could be that Apple cited the Coretronics patents in order to demonstrate how there own patent differed, or to show that the same tech existed prior to Coretronics own filing. 

    I would agree that Coretronics doesn’t smell like a patent troll since they have demonstrable tech, rather than a stack of paper from a legal department. But that alone doesn’t mean they have a case. 


    bigtdstmayStrangeDaysmagman1979FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 9 of 22
    sree said:
    There’s enough meat to this story to make it seem credible.  The company is definitely not a patent troll.

    If everything turns out to be true, it’s not a good look, and it’s more than just a disagreement on patent validity...

    It’s full blown IP theft, which I despise.
    I think Corephotonics has no case if the Apple patents are valid.
    The iPhone 7 came out years ago, so why didn't they sue?  Because they knew that they had no case.
    Many of the cell phone cameras have similar technologies but once key features are patented and the patent are valid, that's it.
    You can't sue a company for using their own valid patented technologies instead of yours.


    Please read the full article, full timeline is given. They did sue apple for patent infringement within an year (after attempting talks for a few months). Apple was engaged with them for 4yrs before they brought the tech out into an iphone. Their patents are older, and they have had the tech since 2012.

    Prima-facie this looks like a strong case, and possibly even legitimate.


    Well, bottom line is that if the patents are essentially duplicates (and I doubt that they are) then Corephotonics can challenge the Apple Patents to get them invalidated.
    If 
    Corephotonics cannot do that then they are toast.
    MacQc
  • Reply 10 of 22
    Tbh, IMO, this camera set up on the xs has a flaw.  You can’t take a picture/video  w/flash on w/o getting red eye. The flash should’ve been separated from both lenses and not sandwiched in between them. 
  • Reply 11 of 22
    Vinny BruceVinny Bruce Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    My comment on my first experience when I had the LG G5 with the dual camera it was at first one one of the smartphones with the wide-angle and then along with all the others especially Apple should should have come out with their own cameras instead of copying off of the product that just had dual cameras with the wide-angle and then third-party smartphone started tagging along then I currently have the LG v40 with the 5 cameras also Samsung with the triple camera along with the other manufacturers than Apple tags along with the triple camera iPhone 11 that's going to launch I think it's a whole new copy cat.
  • Reply 12 of 22
    sree said:
    There’s enough meat to this story to make it seem credible.  The company is definitely not a patent troll.

    If everything turns out to be true, it’s not a good look, and it’s more than just a disagreement on patent validity...

    It’s full blown IP theft, which I despise.
    I think Corephotonics has no case if the Apple patents are valid.
    The iPhone 7 came out years ago, so why didn't they sue?  Because they knew that they had no case.
    Many of the cell phone cameras have similar technologies but once key features are patented and the patent are valid, that's it.
    You can't sue a company for using their own valid patented technologies instead of yours.


    Please read the full article, full timeline is given. They did sue apple for patent infringement within an year (after attempting talks for a few months). Apple was engaged with them for 4yrs before they brought the tech out into an iphone. Their patents are older, and they have had the tech since 2012.

    Prima-facie this looks like a strong case, and possibly even legitimate.


    Well, bottom line is that if the patents are essentially duplicates (and I doubt that they are) then Corephotonics can challenge the Apple Patents to get them invalidated.
    If Corephotonics cannot do that then they are toast.
    That's not true.  They don't have to get Apple's patents invalidated to succeed in the case.  That would be an entirely separate issue.  As explained in the article, Corephotonics claims Apple knowingly violated their patents and filed similar patents to cover up the violation.  They have to prove Apple violated their patents.  Based on the info in the article, they will use Apple's patent applications as evidence of Apple knowingly violating the Corephotonics patents.  They claim Apple even used their exact specs in some of the patent applications.  Invalidation of Apple's patents could be a consequence of winning the case, but they don't have to invalidate the patents to win.  
    gatorguyhodarapple2cchemengin1FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 13 of 22
    Looks like Corephotonics pimped itself to Apple for free, and now complains about not being payed.
    How about sub-contracting the camera development work before showing your tech in details to another company?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 22
    If they win you're possibly looking at billions in damages as they could rightly claim that improved cameras are among the very top features people want in a new phone. Would it not be cheaper for Apple just to buy them?
    Might this be one reason for the legal suits in the first place? If Samsung buys them you can be sure this will drag on for years and there will be blood everywhere. The legal costs themselves would be in the many millions.
    apple2c
  • Reply 15 of 22
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,894member
    At least two smartphone manufacturers are known to have licensed CorePhotonics IP, Samsung and Oppo, and the former was verified to have purchased them in January of this year for something under $200M (US), tho whether the sale has already closed/finalized hasn't been mentioned AFAICT. I would presume it has. 

    A quote in connection from the first IP infringement filing after licensing talks went nowhere:
    "...after one failed effort to negotiate a license, Apple's lead negotiator expressed contempt for Corephotonics' patents, telling Dr. Mendlovic and others that even if Apple infringed, it would take years and millions of dollars in litigation before Apple might have to pay something". Whether that was factually stated by Apple or not, the costs and delay are true. Apple as expected is going over every one of CorePhotonics patents, notifying the court of several patent validity challenges. They've also filed several motions to delay, reschedule, or otherwise slow the wheels down. 
    https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/6218628/corephotonics-ltd-v-apple-inc/
    All are perfectly acceptable legal maneuvers. 

    The judge in the case (Koh) has already dismissed Apple's multiple requests for dismissal of willful infringement where among other things they state they didn't know anything about CorePhotonics IP claims until receiving an email a week before the lawsuit was filed. Judge Koh found that Apple wasn't being truthful, in fact having several licensing communications along with presentations from the company and Apple going so far as to cite one of CorePhotionics patents in their own patent filing. She finds CorePhotonics has valid grounds to claim willful infringement on the part of Apple. Because of willfulness that case has become a little more serious than run-of-the-mill IP infringement ones regularly filed IMHO. 
    https://norcalrecord.com/stories/511599107-apple-loses-bid-to-dismiss-patent-infringement-suit-involving-iphone-camera-technologies


    Wheels turn slowly... the original case, one of three, won't be tried until January 13th next year. 
    edited August 15 CloudTalkinlarryjwmuthuk_vanalingamhodarapple2cFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 16 of 22
    Dual lens camera doesn’t look good on the smartphone and it significantly ruined the design of every rear iphone in the past few years.  should just develop an entirely new concept of smart DSLR camera device if so obsessed about taking great photos.
    You think the dual lens setup on the iPhone is aesthetically displeasing, and you think they should replace it with a DSLR mechanism? That’s pretty funny. 

    Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) refers to an optical dual-mirror viewfinder mechanism that enables the user to look directly through the lens to see exactly what the camera’s digital sensor will see when the user activates the shutter mechanism, which then momentarily flips the mirror that’s in front of the sensor out of the way so that the sensor can pick up the image. That’s not a mechanism that would fit into your pocket very easily. 
    edited August 15 StrangeDaysfastasleepFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 22
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 8,244member
    slurpy said:
    There’s enough meat to this story to make it seem credible.  The company is definitely not a patent troll.

    If everything turns out to be true, it’s not a good look, and it’s more than just a disagreement on patent validity...

    It’s full blown IP theft, which I despise.
    Meat based on what? Their obviously slanted framing of the story? 
    The assumption that Apple would knowingly steal IP like this is laughable. 
    Yeah I like how just after reading a light rumors site article, everyone is a SME and lawyer. lol
    fastasleepwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 22
    chaicka said:
    Didn’t other makers added dual cameras to their smartphones before Apple did?
    Dual cameras were introduced in the HTC Evo 3D in 2011, before Apple had first discussion with the Israeli company. Apple: [sigh] 'take a number..see you in court..'
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 22
    hodarhodar Posts: 277member
    I am eagerly waiting for the magnificent work of Rafael G. González-Acuña to hit the cell phone world, with low cost, "perfect" lens for cell phones.  This genius solved the problem of perfect focus, at all focal points, across any lens material, for any lens shape.  The formula is now public domain - this man should be an over-night Billionare, but alas as this was his post-doctorate paper, it's a donation to humanity.

    Still, this man deserves a tremendous amount of respect for his accomplishment, for the pictures coming to eveyrone - soon.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 22
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,301member
    hodar said:
    I am eagerly waiting for the magnificent work of Rafael G. González-Acuña to hit the cell phone world, with low cost, "perfect" lens for cell phones.  This genius solved the problem of perfect focus, at all focal points, across any lens material, for any lens shape.  The formula is now public domain - this man should be an over-night Billionare, but alas as this was his post-doctorate paper, it's a donation to humanity.

    Still, this man deserves a tremendous amount of respect for his accomplishment, for the pictures coming to eveyrone - soon.
    As I understand it, these two solved an ancient mathematical problem, which does not automatically translate into a product if it cannot be manufactured.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spherical_aberration
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