Apple files first lawsuit in defense of "Made for iPod" licensing

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited January 2014
The first test of Apple's licensing system for iPod accessories has come with the launch of a complaint by the company against Atico International, whose iPod speakers allegedly infringe on patents behind the "Made for iPod" label.



In the ten-page suit submitted this week, Apple claims that a trio of Atico's products under the Living Solutions brand -- including the AM/FM Portable Boom Box, AM/FM Alarm Clock Radio, and Portable Speakers -- all tread on several key patents obtained by the Cupertino, Calif.-based electronics giant between 2007 and 2008.



These include a patent for the Dock Connector used by most iPods to transfer data, as well as patents for the Universal Dock's design, remote controls, and three dock adapters meant to fit different-sized iPods to a standard dock model.



In a copy of the complaint obtained by AppleInsider, Apple contends that Atico has failed to license its use of the docking design for the speakers, depriving Apple of royalties it believes are owed to its "Made for iPod" program. Uses of the iPod trademark, as well as some superficially similar logos designed to indicate compatibility with different iPod models, are also "exploiting Apple's name and reputation" and violating the federal Lanham Act by falsely suggesting an endorsement by Apple, according to the plaintiff.



The Delaware-based court filing adds that Atico's continued sales are depriving Apple of rightful income and asks for a permanent injunction against the sale of the offending Living Solutions speakers in addition to damages. The iPod maker sees this as an "exceptional case" that would allow it to collect not only triple damages but profits and court costs, including those for a requested jury trial.







The case marks the first known instance of Apple actively defending its controversial "Made for iPod" licensing program, which was launched in January 2005. Both in its lawsuit and in public presentations, Apple has argued that requiring licenses for iPod-specific peripherals helps the accessory designers by giving them the support to ensure their devices work with iPods. It also reassures buyers that a device meets a minimum quality standard, the company says.



Virtually all companies selling compatible accessories in the US have signed on to the program, with some arguing that the "Made for iPod" logo is effectively a sales booster: customers are more likely to buy add-ons when they know the items will work with their iPods.



Critics, however, have claimed that the need to license and pay royalties for the logo is chiefly a profit vehicle for Apple, which implemented the licensing system just as the iPod became mainstream and a raft of docking accessories were already in stores.



No matter how Atico interprets the move, the company is remaining quiet on the matter: neither it nor Apple has commented on the lawsuit.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 83
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    My understanding--way back when--was that you CAN make iPod accessories without violating Apple's patents, in which case, for those products, joining the Made for iPod program might be a nice sales booster but is optional. For others, who need those Apple patents, joining the program would be necessary.



    Anyone know the details? Is the issue there that Atico made iPod accessories at ALL, or that they did so in a way which violates Apple patents? Is it possible to make iPod accessories without violating Apple patents? (And, specifically, is it possible to interface with the dock connector in ways other than how Atico has done?)



    Just curious.
  • Reply 2 of 83
    crebcreb Posts: 276member
    I back Apple on this one, as Apple is looking to implement some type of quality control measures that are typically out of their hands. Yes, there is money involved, but I still believe Apple does it mostly to ensure a better product, and product experience.
  • Reply 3 of 83
    8corewhore8corewhore Posts: 833member
    BUSTED!
  • Reply 4 of 83
    citycity Posts: 522member
    $39. Here's where to get it. http://www.walgreens.com/store/produ...id=prod3371742 Oops, out of stock.
  • Reply 5 of 83
    samnuvasamnuva Posts: 225member
    Apple is clearly in the right. "Made for iPod" is their program, and this company is claiming false membership.
  • Reply 6 of 83
    flydoggieflydoggie Posts: 20member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nagromme View Post


    My understanding--way back when--was that you CAN make iPod accessories without violating Apple's patents, in which case, for those products, joining the Made for iPod program might be a nice sales booster but is optional. For others, who need those Apple patents, joining the program would be necessary.



    Anyone know the details? Is the issue there that Atico made iPod accessories at ALL, or that they did so in a way which violates Apple patents? Is it possible to make iPod accessories without violating Apple patents? (And, specifically, is it possible to interface with the dock connector in ways other than how Atico has done?)



    Just curious.



    The dock is patented, and therefore no one may make any accessory that connects to an iPod without a license from Apple.
  • Reply 7 of 83
    inkswampinkswamp Posts: 337member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by flydoggie View Post


    The dock is patented, and therefore no one may make any accessory that connects to an iPod without a license from Apple.



    Let me play devil's advocate here and ask you if you think that should cover all dock-like accessories? What if I come up with a radical new idea for an iPod dock that is significantly different in design and functionality from Apple's dock? Are you suggesting that Apple should be able to extend the legal reach of the patent for its own dock design to stop me from selling mine? If so, then you're missing the point behind patents. Patents exist to encourage innovation, not to allow one party to stifle another's innovation (and possible competition.) And patents definitely don't exist so one party can control the quality of products produced by another party.



    Part of me agrees that if Apple's patented ideas are being misappropriated, then they are in the right. But if this move is just to squash competition (and I have to say, it sure looks like it to me) then I hope Apple gets their ass handed to them in court.



    Besides that, does anyone else think it odd that Apple is going after people making iPod accessories? I mean, they're creating reasons why people might be drawn to buy an iPod. They're on Apple's team to some extent. Talk about your circular firing squad.
  • Reply 8 of 83
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by inkswamp View Post


    Let me play devil's advocate here and ask you if you think that should cover all dock-like accessories? What if I come up with a radical new idea for an iPod dock that is significantly different in design and functionality from Apple's dock? Are you suggesting that Apple should be able to extend the legal reach of the patent for its own dock design to stop me from selling mine? If so, then you're missing the point behind patents. Patents exist to encourage innovation, not to allow one party to stifle another's innovation (and possible competition.) And patents definitely don't exist so one party can control the quality of products produced by another party.



    Part of me agrees that if Apple's patented ideas are being misappropriated, then they are in the right. But if this move is just to squash competition (and I have to say, it sure looks like it to me) then I hope Apple gets their ass handed to them in court.



    Besides that, does anyone else think it odd that Apple is going after people making iPod accessories? I mean, they're creating reasons why people might be drawn to buy an iPod. They're on Apple's team to some extent. Talk about your circular firing squad.





    Without knowing what the patents are specifically, it's all kind of hypothetical. But I do think patents are given out too freely in general, to the point that "defensive" patents are filed, just get it patented so some troll doesn't patent it and try to fleece anyone using a patent that shouldn't have been granted. There are even some people that filed ridiculous patents that were granted but shouldn't have - and they were filed just to show how stupid the system is right now.
  • Reply 9 of 83
    pg4gpg4g Posts: 383member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by inkswamp View Post


    Let me play devil's advocate here and ask you if you think that should cover all dock-like accessories? What if I come up with a radical new idea for an iPod dock that is significantly different in design and functionality from Apple's dock? Are you suggesting that Apple should be able to extend the legal reach of the patent for its own dock design to stop me from selling mine? If so, then you're missing the point behind patents. Patents exist to encourage innovation, not to allow one party to stifle another's innovation (and possible competition.) And patents definitely don't exist so one party can control the quality of products produced by another party.



    Part of me agrees that if Apple's patented ideas are being misappropriated, then they are in the right. But if this move is just to squash competition (and I have to say, it sure looks like it to me) then I hope Apple gets their ass handed to them in court.



    Besides that, does anyone else think it odd that Apple is going after people making iPod accessories? I mean, they're creating reasons why people might be drawn to buy an iPod. They're on Apple's team to some extent. Talk about your circular firing squad.





    I don't see this as squashing competition. There is SOO many iPod accessories that this is just one of many. Apple is protecting its system. Maybe they are doing it for the wrong reasons, as you say, its not about protecting the quality, but Apple is saying "You want to say that it is made to work with the iPod? Thats fine. You want to show our seal that ensures that this device has been designed for it? Acknowledge us and the information we gave you, and pay for that info."



    $30 doesn't exactly seem like Apple is making money off that. The time taken to get this stuff out to companies would barely be paid for in that.



    Apple may be doing it for the wrong reasons, but it is legal, and Apple should win this. (and believe you me, I expect them too 100%) Its just like a violation of the "PlaysForSure" thing from Microsoft. People wouldn't winge about Microsoft and this. Its an Apple Critics thing... and there are PLENTY of them.



    Besides, if they are using the dock connector then the development Apple put into it is benefiting another company, and that isn't fair unless Apple has authorized it. Apple asks you to contribute money as repayment for that benefit of earning off someone elses work. Thats extremely reasonable in my eyes.
  • Reply 10 of 83
    bergermeisterbergermeister Posts: 6,784member
  • Reply 11 of 83
    rot'napplerot'napple Posts: 1,839member
    Fair is fair... Apple is always being sued for "infringements" of other companies that we have seen in past articles here on AI, so it's about time Apple filed a lawsuit or two of it's own. That way the money Apple wins here, they can pay for lawsuits possibly lost elsewhere.



    Also, when do iPhone patents become binding. I recall SJ saying "boy have we patented it" when introducing the iPhone and yet all these other phones come out and mimic the iPhone in one way or another and Apple legal is silent?! What gives?? If any lawsuit were expected to come out from Apple, I would have figured it to be regarding this!
  • Reply 12 of 83
    pg4gpg4g Posts: 383member
    Apple is prosecuting now the iphone copies.



    And the patents were more on the multitouch handheld device, not just a screen over most of it.
  • Reply 13 of 83
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,361member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nagromme View Post


    My understanding--way back when--was that you CAN make iPod accessories without violating Apple's patents, in which case, for those products, joining the Made for iPod program might be a nice sales booster but is optional. For others, who need those Apple patents, joining the program would be necessary.



    Anyone know the details? Is the issue there that Atico made iPod accessories at ALL, or that they did so in a way which violates Apple patents? Is it possible to make iPod accessories without violating Apple patents? (And, specifically, is it possible to interface with the dock connector in ways other than how Atico has done?)



    Just curious.



    I would imagine that the dock is Apple's proprietary connector. Do they have it patented, or otherwise protected? Good question. I would supose so. Otherwise, anyone could use it.



    IBM's failure to patent the ISA bus resulted in "compatibles". The reverse engineering of their BIOS resulted in clones, which killed IBM's chance to own the PC market.



    If Apple can't control the manufacture of its connector, then anyone could make either accessories for it, but, much worse, players that would fit the accessories for the iPod.



    That would take away any advantage Apple had in accessories, and make other players much more desirable.
  • Reply 14 of 83
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,361member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by inkswamp View Post


    Let me play devil's advocate here and ask you if you think that should cover all dock-like accessories? What if I come up with a radical new idea for an iPod dock that is significantly different in design and functionality from Apple's dock? Are you suggesting that Apple should be able to extend the legal reach of the patent for its own dock design to stop me from selling mine? If so, then you're missing the point behind patents. Patents exist to encourage innovation, not to allow one party to stifle another's innovation (and possible competition.) And patents definitely don't exist so one party can control the quality of products produced by another party.



    Part of me agrees that if Apple's patented ideas are being misappropriated, then they are in the right. But if this move is just to squash competition (and I have to say, it sure looks like it to me) then I hope Apple gets their ass handed to them in court.



    Besides that, does anyone else think it odd that Apple is going after people making iPod accessories? I mean, they're creating reasons why people might be drawn to buy an iPod. They're on Apple's team to some extent. Talk about your circular firing squad.



    Assuming that the dock is patented, then that patent covers the physical layout of the dock. It also covers the electrical characteristics of the dock.



    Any accessory would have to meet both of those requirements before it would work.



    That's all that would be needed to defend the patent.



    Anything else the device did wouldn't matter.



    If you read my above post, then you would see why letting this go could be a serious mistake.
  • Reply 15 of 83
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,361member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    Without knowing what the patents are specifically, it's all kind of hypothetical. But I do think patents are given out too freely in general, to the point that "defensive" patents are filed, just get it patented so some troll doesn't patent it and try to fleece anyone using a patent that shouldn't have been granted. There are even some people that filed ridiculous patents that were granted but shouldn't have - and they were filed just to show how stupid the system is right now.



    Some patents are given out in error, because there aren't enough qualified examiners to check thoroughly through the patent portfolio to see if a patent is valid in that sense, or can determine if it is valid from a technical sense.



    I doubt if people pushed patents to see if they would be granted just to show how easy it is. Do you have any examples of that?



    It isn't easy!
  • Reply 16 of 83
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,361member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Rot'nApple View Post


    Fair is fair... Apple is always being sued for "infringements" of other companies that we have seen in past articles here on AI, so it's about time Apple filed a lawsuit or two of it's own. That way the money Apple wins here, they can pay for lawsuits possibly lost elsewhere.



    Also, when do iPhone patents become binding. I recall SJ saying "boy have we patented it" when introducing the iPhone and yet all these other phones come out and mimic the iPhone in one way or another and Apple legal is silent?! What gives?? If any lawsuit were expected to come out from Apple, I would have figured it to be regarding this!



    It's normally binding from date of application, though that would depend on whether it is granted later on.
  • Reply 17 of 83
    qualarqualar Posts: 72member
    Been able to patent a connector is insane. Connectors have been around for decades. Just because you create a connector that has a different size or number of pins etc you can hardly call that an invention. The US patent system needs a complete revamp. Patents are been abused.
  • Reply 18 of 83
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,361member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by qualar View Post


    Been able to patent a connector is insane. Connectors have been around for decades. Just because you create a connector that has a different size or number of pins etc you can hardly call that an invention. The US patent system needs a complete revamp. Patents are been abused.



    It's not insane. There are giant companies that do almost nothing BUT design and manufacturer connectors. Most are patented.
  • Reply 19 of 83
    qualarqualar Posts: 72member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by melgross View Post


    It's not insane. There are giant companies that do almost nothing BUT design and manufacturer connectors. Most are patented.



    So why does the fact that a lot of big companies do it mean that it is not insane. I agree that if you create something that is significantly different to a normal connector, like magsafe, that makes sense to issue a patent. However, I am afraid I do not agree with patenting a normal connector.
  • Reply 20 of 83
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by PG4G View Post


    $30 doesn't exactly seem like Apple is making money off that. The time taken to get this stuff out to companies would barely be paid for in that.



    But it's not chump change if you consider the number. Last I heard, Apple charges $4 per device in royalties. If you say maybe every iPod owner buys two accessories with a dock connector, that's $1.2B.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by melgross View Post


    Some patents are given out in error, because there aren't enough qualified examiners to check thoroughly through the patent portfolio to see if a patent is valid in that sense, or can determine if it is valid from a technical sense.



    I doubt if people pushed patents to see if they would be granted just to show how easy it is. Do you have any examples of that?



    It isn't easy!



    Micheal Crichton did such. Maybe the patent process isn't easy, but the fact that a lot of things do get patented that should not is really the problem.
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