Patent lawsuit targets Apple's Dock Connector in iPod nano, touch

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited January 2014
A new legal complaint accuses Apple of infringing on a patent for a flash memory drive by selling its ubiquitous iPod nano and iPod touch players, among other devices.



The 32-page suit -- most of which includes the patent in question -- was filed late last week in an Eastern District of Michigan court and claims that Apple's two main flash-based music players use a technology similar to those described in a patent granted in January of 2006.



The patent for a "Flash Memory Drive with Quick Connector" was originally filed in November 2004 by the suit's plaintiff, Henry Milan, and describes flash storage with male and female ends that allow the storage to attach to computers or other electronics through a "plurality" of connectors.



The complaint doesn't directly state what is infringed by the iPods but clearly points to the Dock Connector port, which is used by the jukeboxes to sync with computers as well as charge or stream media through to other devices. Accessories are also said to borrow on some claims made in the patent.



Apple was notified of its alleged violation of the patent in December of last year but has continued causing "irreparable damage" by continuing to sell the iPods without paying royalties, Milan and his representing lawyers from law firm Butzel Long note.



The overlapping timing of the patent and Apple's products may complicate the suit. Milan's filing was submitted just two months before the availability of the iPod shuffle, Apple's first flash-based player. The Cupertino, Calif.-based firm also released its first iPod nano in September 2005, four months before the patent was granted.



As compensation, Milan asks for triple damages and a jury trial. Apple hasn't commented on the matter and typically refrains from discussing ongoing lawsuits outside of necessary filings.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 24
    samnuvasamnuva Posts: 225member
    Apple has to have a patent on the Dock Connecter somewhere. My offical prediction for the outcome of this lawsuit: ends in 3 days.
  • Reply 2 of 24
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    The first ipod with a dock connector predates that filing by about a year and a half. Going from hard drive to flash for a portable device is just a natural progression of technology. A patent on a variant like a flash based device with a dock connector just doesn't seem like should be legitimately patentable if it's already been done with hard drive devices. I think USB stick drives were available for several years too.
  • Reply 3 of 24
    Pardon my ignorance, but doesn't Sansa, Microsoft, Creative and anyone who makes flash based MP3 players technically fall into this lawsuit's area as well?
  • Reply 4 of 24
    wigginwiggin Posts: 2,265member
    Even if Apple doesn't have a patent on the dock connector, and even if Apple never used the dock connector prior to this patent being filed, I just don't see the infringement. If you read the actual patent, the "unique" aspect of it is a cable with interchangeable ends. It's sort of like those universal travel power adaptor kits that include different plug ends so you can plug your electrical devices into the AC power outlets in different countries. Also, the patent specifically lists the different interchangeable plugs included in the kit. They are all of the variants of Firewire and USB specification, not customized versions (and you can hardly patent uninvented plug variants). Finally, the patent only covered cables with 6 conductors (to accommodate Firewire).



    So, not only is Apple's dock connector not covered by the types of plugs listed (both in form and number of wires), but it's also not interchangeable, which is the key to the whole patent.
  • Reply 5 of 24
    Mankind might as well. This guy might sue God (if he exists), but would be off by several million years.
  • Reply 6 of 24
    I feel sorry for examiners. This shouldn't have made it through. If only they had time to breathe at work.
  • Reply 7 of 24
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    The first ipod with a dock connector predates that filing by about a year and a half. Going from hard drive to flash for a portable device is just a natural progression of technology. A patent on a variant like a flash based device with a dock connector just doesn't seem like should be legitimately patentable if it's already been done with hard drive devices. I think USB stick drives were available for several years too.



    The article suggests that this is for devices with flash drives, not HDD based drives. If so, that is stupid to think you need to re-patent the same type of connector just because you change the storage type.
  • Reply 8 of 24
    I love these because I have a patent on stupid lawsuits, so I am going to make so much money off this case!
  • Reply 9 of 24
    wigginwiggin Posts: 2,265member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by zoboomafoo View Post


    I feel sorry for examiners. This shouldn't have made it through. If only they had time to breathe at work.



    Actually, I'd go so far as to say it's a perfectly fine patent. It's a pretty lame idea, and I doubt it would make a successful product. But after reading the patent, I think it's legit. However, that being said, there is absolutely no way Apple's dock connector infringes on the patent.
  • Reply 10 of 24
    julesjules Posts: 149member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Bergermeister View Post


    Mankind might as well. This guy might sue God (if he exists), but would be off by several million years.



    If he exists.... yeah I think there's a Court case going on there too...
  • Reply 11 of 24
    julesjules Posts: 149member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by reallynotnick View Post


    I love these because I have a patent on stupid lawsuits, so I am going to make so much money off this case!



    I have just patented patenting things, so now you all owe me lots of money.
  • Reply 12 of 24
    wheelhotwheelhot Posts: 465member
    Quote:

    Pardon my ignorance, but doesn't Sansa, Microsoft, Creative and anyone who makes flash based MP3 players technically fall into this lawsuit's area as well?



    Yeah, you got a point there.



    Quote:

    I love these because I have a patent on stupid lawsuits, so I am going to make so much money off this case!



    No fair! I was going to patent this and I found out a person already did. Now I know its u



    Quote:

    I have just patented patenting things, so now you all owe me lots of money.



    Haha, I have just patented "A method of transportation for a living base organism from Point A to Point B", so now you all must pay me for using your car, airline company must pay me for the aircraft, animals must pay me for walking, NASA must pay me for their space shuttle .



    I'll become the world richest man in no time
  • Reply 13 of 24
    Am I wrong, but didn't the Mini have a CompactFlash II drive?





    The mini was released in January of '04.





    Most importantly, if this was a huge deal to the company, why sue now, and not earlier when the original Nanos were released?
  • Reply 14 of 24
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by skottichan View Post


    Am I wrong, but didn't the Mini have a CompactFlash II drive



    Both generations of the iPod Mini had 1.8" HDDs in 4GB and then 4 and 6GB capacities. The first iPod to contain Flash was the iPod Shuffle released in January 2005 with 512MB and 1GB capacities.



    The 1st generation Shuffle didn't have a dock. The first fkash based iPod with a dock is the iPod Nano released in September 2005 with 2 and 4GB capacities.
  • Reply 15 of 24
    I suspect that the patent office rubber stamps a lot of these patents, and leaves it up to the courts to sort things out.



    One very important issue here is, there is NOTHING unique about the patent. I don't think it'll last more than a week in court.
  • Reply 16 of 24
    tomozjtomozj Posts: 54member
    One word: ridiculous.
  • Reply 17 of 24
    Quote:

    The patent for a "Flash Memory Drive with Quick Connector"



    sounds remarkably like a compact flash card and connector to me :/
  • Reply 18 of 24
    msnlymsnly Posts: 378member
    I think I'm going to patent ignorance and stupidity



    wait never mind, there is too much prior art...
  • Reply 19 of 24
    ajpriceajprice Posts: 320member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    Both generations of the iPod Mini had 1.8" HDDs in 4GB and then 4 and 6GB capacities. The first iPod to contain Flash was the iPod Shuffle released in January 2005 with 512MB and 1GB capacities.



    The 1st generation Shuffle didn't have a dock. The first fkash based iPod with a dock is the iPod Nano released in September 2005 with 2 and 4GB capacities.



    The Mini had a 1" CF Hard drive. The standard iPods have 1.8" drives.
  • Reply 20 of 24
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Wiggin View Post


    Actually, I'd go so far as to say it's a perfectly fine patent. It's a pretty lame idea, and I doubt it would make a successful product. But after reading the patent, I think it's legit. However, that being said, there is absolutely no way Apple's dock connector infringes on the patent.



    I don't see how it's a fine patent. If it is, then it really lowers the bar on the "non-obvious" standard. The text of the patent doesn't appear to do describe anything that's novel. Just applying one idea they didn't invent to another idea they didn't invent, or substituting one idea they didn't invent for another idea they didn't invent isn't enough to meet the mandates for patentability. It looks to me that I could patent for putting a clock in a door handle without specifying any new technologies necessary to do it that prevented it from happening before. It's about that kind of quality.
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