Apple's iBeacon targeted in patent infringement lawsuit

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 2021
In what appears to be yet another lawsuit lodged by a non-practicing entity, Apple on Tuesday was hit with a complaint claiming its iBeacon technology infringes on multiple patents owned by a Texas company.

iBeacon


Lodged with the patent holder-friendly U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, the suit from BillJCo claims Apple infringed on a total of six instrumentalities with the release of iBeacon in 2013.

Introduced with iOS 7, iBeacon is a location-aware communications protocol that uses Bluetooth Low Energy for precise positioning and ranging operations. Compatible beacons can interact with iOS devices, for example, to trigger app features, redeem digital passes, issue push notifications, or assist in indoor navigation.

Though iBeacon has seen limited adoption among third-party vendors, Apple in 2013 used the technology to power location aware features at U.S. brick-and-mortar Apple Stores, augmenting the in-person shopping experience with rich notifications and new service options.

"From welcoming people as they arrive at a sporting event to providing information about a nearby museum exhibit, iBeacon opens a new world of possibilities for location awareness, and countless opportunities for interactivity between iOS devices and iBeacon hardware," Apple says in a developer document.

According to BillJCo, iBeacon's underlying BLE subsystem infringes on the inventions of William J. Johnson. Specifically, Johnson and his BillJCo own a patent portfolio consisting of 33 patents covering beacon technology. The earliest priority date in the patent batch goes back to March 14, 2008.

As expressed in the filing, BillJCo is asserting U.S. Patent Nos. 8,566,839, 8,639,267, 8,761,804, 9,088,868, 10,292,011 and 10,477,994. The IP covers topics including location based transfer of data, location based permissions, and automated content presentation, among others.

BillJCo informed Apple of the allegations in 2019. Additionally, the patents-in-suit, as well as other IP from the BillJCo beacon portfolio, were cited in the prosecution of Apple's own patents.

The lawsuit seeks compensation for infringement, damages, and court fees.

In an unrelated action, BillJCo in 2019 filed a trademark application for a "Shower Liner Stay," a plumbing-related property covering shower curtain positioning and swell prevention. That filing was killed because the company failed to respond to a USPTO office action.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 9
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,892member
    Seems like a moribund technology that Apple shouldn’t spend much to defend. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 9
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,430member
    Patent Troll. Not the euphemistic “non-practicing entity”.
    robin huber
  • Reply 3 of 9
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,969member
    What is a “non-practicing entity”?   In this case the patent holder is actually the inventor, it appears.   That is “practicing “ in my book. 

    However, the whole “non-practicing entity” business in all these patent stories about Apple (or anyone) is just a distraction.  It doesn’t matter if the patent holder is making a product that uses that patented technology.  It is totally irrelevant and shouldn’t even be mentioned.  If the patent is indeed valid, then it has value and can be bought and sold and the owner can enforce it.  A lot of small time inventors who invent real, new ways of doing things, don’t have the capital or desire to bring a product to market. They are interested in the inventing bit.  

    What should matter, is that the patent is valid. A lot of these so-called patent troll suits seem to revolve around patents that may not be actual new methods of doing something but nebulous ideas that they slid through the patent process and that should never have been granted.    That is where the outrage should be against the patent system.  
    IreneWFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 4 of 9
    zeus423zeus423 Posts: 213member
    More lawsuits come out of East Texas than any other place in the universe, methinks.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 9
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 3,504member
    chadbag said:
    What is a “non-practicing entity”?   In this case the patent holder is actually the inventor, it appears.   That is “practicing “ in my book. 

    However, the whole “non-practicing entity” business in all these patent stories about Apple (or anyone) is just a distraction.  It doesn’t matter if the patent holder is making a product that uses that patented technology.  It is totally irrelevant and shouldn’t even be mentioned.  If the patent is indeed valid, then it has value and can be bought and sold and the owner can enforce it.  A lot of small time inventors who invent real, new ways of doing things, don’t have the capital or desire to bring a product to market. They are interested in the inventing bit.  

    What should matter, is that the patent is valid. A lot of these so-called patent troll suits seem to revolve around patents that may not be actual new methods of doing something but nebulous ideas that they slid through the patent process and that should never have been granted.    That is where the outrage should be against the patent system.  
    Excellent post.

    Just one gripe. You said people should be outraged with "the patent system." It's not clear whether you mean with "the patents that were granted in this case" or with "how the system grant patents in general." I think you meant the former, but that's not what you said.

    The patent system always existed under the premise that people would defer to the court system to resolve disputes. Nobody expected the patent system to work flawlessly. And nobody wants the bureaucrats in the patent office to be the final arbiters of disputes. It has to be the courts. An independent court system is one of the crown jewels of a strong democracy. Let's use it and trust it.
    FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 6 of 9
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,969member
    zeus423 said:
    More lawsuits come out of East Texas than any other place in the universe, methinks.
    Did you read this or the other photos one?  West Texas, my man.  New judge in town.  
  • Reply 7 of 9
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 6,070member
    chadbag said:
    zeus423 said:
    More lawsuits come out of East Texas than any other place in the universe, methinks.
    Did you read this or the other photos one?  West Texas, my man.  New judge in town.  
    Actually, he's the old judge from East Texas that move to the West Side and invited all the patent trolls to the new house.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 9
    hmlongcohmlongco Posts: 504member
    chadbag said:
    However, the whole “non-practicing entity” business in all these patent stories about Apple (or anyone) is just a distraction.  It doesn’t matter if the patent holder is making a product that uses that patented technology.
    Actually, I think it does. All of these lawsuits are based on the idea that in some way they're harmed by Apple's "infringement" of their patents. Yet in the case of non-practicing entities most of the lawsuits are brought by companies (of lawyers) who bought a batch of patents solely with the intent of suing companies who actually make and produce products.

    In order to prove "harm" they should be required to prove that they actively attempted to produce a product, or that they attempted to sell the patent and were blocked due to Apple's actions.

    And which doesn't even cover the whole ground that almost all software patents are bogus anyway, as they're usually based on the idea of doing real-life action X "on a computer". Or do you think the idea of writing your location on the back of a photo is new? Or that the broad concept of triggering an action based on location should be patentable?
    dysamoriaFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 9
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,430member
    The “the bureaucrats in the patent office” actively tried to save us from this current nightmare of patent trolls and illegitimate patents by rejecting software patents. It was the correct choice. They knew what they were doing. Well, maybe not the people there today; the people there decades ago.

    Instead, computer industry lobbyists made that decision, forcing the patent office to accept software patents. You know, plutocratic oligarchy.

    It was wrong then and it’s still wrong now.

    The system has been utterly defeated to where it now works in the opposite direction: stifling inventors, instead of protecting them. As the computer industry has inserted itself into almost every damned industry, software is everywhere and so too are ludicrous patents and monstrous corporations being gatekeepers over who is and who is not allowed to offer up new products with interesting functions.

    The corporatists in both parties of government are to blame for letting money, not logical & reasoned analysis, determine how our laws function, and the only “reform” offered up usually has the goal of making it worse, because it’s presented by more corporatists, written by lobbyists from the industry.

    Most of the lawsuits and money spent in this area are around patent trolls. If one of them actually originated a patent, but they’re still functioning like a patent troll, then I don’t care about their ownership of said “invention”. It’s probably only a “legit” patent because of the utterly idiotic system of being allowed to patent software.
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