Bell Labs descendant sues Apple for infringing on clutch of patents

Posted:
in General Discussion
Apple was hit with yet another patent infringement lawsuit on Wednesday, with Bell Northern Research, a distant descendant of Bell Labs, leveraging multiple properties related to basic mobile wireless technology against the iPhone maker.




Lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, BNR's complaint brings claims from a total of ten patents to bear against Apple's iPhone, iPad and related wireless products.

BNR cites alleged infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 8,204,554, 7,319,889, 8,416,862, 7,957,450, 7,564,914, 6,963,129, 6,858,930, 7,039,435, 8,396,072 and a re-issue of patent no. 7,990,842. The patents-in-suit detail methods of saving power in mobile devices, MIMO beamforming, semiconductor packaging, chip packages with heat spreaders and general cellular communications technologies.

For example, the '554' and '889 patents target iPhone's proximity sensor, which is used to dim or shut off the handset's screen when the device nears a user's face. Other allegations are broad, with '862 property leveraged against Apple products that perform beamforming or beam steering operations in line with the 802.11ac standard.

The path to BNR's patent suit is long and winding. Importantly, BNR is far removed from Bell System's Bell Labs, an entity that developed significant advances in telecommunications and laid the groundwork for today's interconnected world.

BNR traces its roots back to Bell Telephone Company of Canada, an arm of the the Bell System that originally made telephones and other equipment based on Western Electric's designs. The manufacturing business was spun out into Northern Electric in 1895 and subsequently cut ties with Western Electric to begin creating its own set of inventions in research labs based in Canada. BNR was formed when Northern Electric and Bell Canada later merged research and development organizations.

When Bell broke up in 1982, a number of splinter companies were left standing. Lucent and its subsidiary Agere Systems were among the offshoots. Lucent was absorbed by Nokia in 2016 and Agere was acquired by LSI in 2007. LSI was later acquired by Avago, which in turn acquired Broadcom and adopted the trade name Broadcom, Inc. Amid this tumult, BNR was folded into Nortel.

According to the suit, former employees of Bell Labs, Northern Electric and Nortel "decided to reenergize BNR" in 2017, which in practice meant turning the organization into a patent holdings firm that exists to leverage intellectual property developed at Lucent Technologies, Agere, LSI, Avago and Broadcom.

In its suit against Apple, BNR asserts four patents developed by Broadcom, three from Agere, two from LSI and one from Japanese chipmaker Renesas.

BNR notified Apple about potential infringement of its owned properties in correspondence to CEO Tim Cook in June 2018. That letter named iPhone X, iPad Pro, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and iMac Pro as infringing instrumentalities.

Citing irreparable injury, BNR seeks an injunction against infringing products, damages and court fees.



Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    auxioauxio Posts: 2,667member
    According to the suit, former employees of Bell Labs, Northern Electric and Nortel "decided to reenergize BNR" in 2017, which in practice meant turning the organization into a patent holdings firm that exists to leverage intellectual property developed at Lucent Technologies, Agere, LSI, Avago and Broadcom.
    Reengergize?  By turning a once-great telecomm research company into a patent troll?  Uh-huh 🙄
    pulseimagesStrangeDaysteejay2012DnykjpRfC6fnBsbaconstangkillroywatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 2 of 12
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,663member
    "We decided to reenergize our desire to get rich but not actually doing anything."
    teejay2012DnykjpRfC6fnBskillroywatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 3 of 12
    red oakred oak Posts: 1,050member
    Go.  F***.  Yourselves  
    killroywatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 4 of 12
    Political contributions are free speech, the gift from Supreme Court hell that keeps on giving. Until this changes we are an oligarchy. Forget patent reform. 
    OferronnkillroyAlex_VllamaStrangeDayswatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 5 of 12
    tjwolftjwolf Posts: 424member
    Bell Northern Research is not any kind of descendent of Bell Labs.  They’ve got nothing to do with one another.  Bell Labs was the research division of the US’ Bell Telephone Company - aka AT&T or Ma Bell.   Bell Northern Research was the research arm of Canada’s Northern Telecom - aka Northern Electric or Bell Canada.
    DnykjpRfC6fnBsronnkillroyapplguyllamawatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 6 of 12
    baconstangbaconstang Posts: 1,063member
    And I thought they were going to nail them for dropped calls and unintelligible speech.
    watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 7 of 12
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    Citing irreparable injury, BNR seeks an injunction against infringing products, damages and court fees. 

    Irreparable injury?

    That's overcooking it. Your company fell apart because you couldn't figure out what to do with the stuff you invented. That's what caused the irreparable injury.


    StrangeDayswatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 8 of 12
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,992member
    Political contributions are free speech, the gift from Supreme Court hell that keeps on giving. Until this changes we are an oligarchy. Forget patent reform. 
    That’s exactly what they are. And we need more freedom and transparency for political donations, not less.  Attempt to limit contributions have ended in total disaster, like we have now. The answer is total transparency.  
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 12
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,663member
    sdw2001 said:
    Political contributions are free speech, the gift from Supreme Court hell that keeps on giving. Until this changes we are an oligarchy. Forget patent reform. 
    That’s exactly what they are. And we need more freedom and transparency for political donations, not less.  Attempt to limit contributions have ended in total disaster, like we have now. The answer is total transparency.  
    Nonsense. Corporations giving unlimited gobs of money to politicians is not speech, it’s bribery for favorable policy. There’s a reason in other countries there is no campaign contribution. Further, the current state of affairs is hardly transparent — look up dark money, where SIGs hide their campaign donations behind layers of BS.

    Corporations are not people. 
    watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 10 of 12
    payecopayeco Posts: 578member
    tjwolf said:
    Bell Northern Research is not any kind of descendent of Bell Labs.  They’ve got nothing to do with one another.  Bell Labs was the research division of the US’ Bell Telephone Company - aka AT&T or Ma Bell.   Bell Northern Research was the research arm of Canada’s Northern Telecom - aka Northern Electric or Bell Canada.
    Bell Canada was a division of AT&T and the Bell System until 1975. Western Electric held an ownership stake and provided its R&D to Northern Electric up until that point. So yes, it is technically a descendant of Western Electric and Bell Labs. 
  • Reply 11 of 12
    Actually, as part of the consent decree signed in 1956 to resolve the antitrust lawsuit filed in 1949 by the United States Department of Justice, AT&T and the Bell System proper divested itself of Northern Electric in 1956.  Later on, Bell Canada just didn't buy from AT&T as it was 50% owner of BNR along with Northern Electric. AT&T finally dismissed the Bell Canada attachment in 1975 as almost all equipment was purchased from Northern Electric such as SP-1, DMS systems.  All patents which were owned by Nortel after consuming all of BNR were sold in a bankruptcy proceedings as was the Class A (47.xxx.xxx.xxx) network assignment purchased by Microsoft. Apple did buy within a consortium access to many patents after Google consortium losing by bidding pi million. I guess it was as good a number as any! It's also Bell-Northern Research, Ltd. with a hyphen. As it was explained to me, there is always a BNR entity in Canada after Nortel, because of a real estate deal the Canadian Federal government enshrined into law.  So who's BNR and where do people from Northern Electric show up from after company had changed names over 70 years ago?
    watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 12 of 12
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,783member
    The suit listed current products. But from the description these features have been in use for ages. If you don't defend your patent, you lose it. That's what's supposed to happen. In the US court system though, anything, no matter how bat-s**t stupid, might happen.
    watto_cobrajony0
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