Apple, iPhone drawn into touch computing patent lawsuit

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
A small Nevada company has added Apple and a slew of other PC makers to a lawsuit it hopes will give up royalties for an allegedly valid touchscreen patent that may affect the iPhone.



Filed on Monday in an Eastern District Texas court -- a region known to rule in favor of companies that thrive on patent lawsuits -- the amended complaint by Typhoon Touch Technologies accuses Apple of knowingly violating two closely related 1995 and 1997 patents by producing and selling the iPhone.



The patents superficially refer to any device with a touchscreen capable of collecting information and, while meant for in-field situations such as police stops, are allegedly so broadly worded and illustrated that virtually every company making a tablet-like device or a touch smartphone has violated some parts of both patents, which are exclusively the rights of a little-known tablet PC maker referred to in the 13-page document as Nova Mobility.



In sync with the broad reach of the patents, Typhoon plans to implicate as many major touchscreen device manufactturers as it can and includes Apple along with Fujitsu, HTC, Lenovo, LG, Nokia, Panasonic, Palm, Samsung, and Toshiba as new defendants in a suit that had started primarily with Dell, whose Latitude XT tablet PC the plaintiff says was the primary reason for the initial lawsuit.



Typhoon is also exiting settlement talks with Sand Dune Ventures, which makes the Tabletkiosk line of ultra-mobile PCs, and is drawing the company back into the much larger lawsuit.





Illustrations describing Typhoon's touchscreen computing patents.





Among the more notable devices that Typhoon says tread on its patent are the HTC Touch smartphone, Lenovo's ThinkPad X-series notebooks, Nokia's N810 Internet Tablet and Palm's Treo handset line.



It's unclear as to how well the lawsuit and the requested jury trial will succeed. While some aspects of the patents appear relevant, others are references to outmoded technology; in one instance, a patent refers to storage over floppy and SCSI drives, neither of which are used by the named devices.



However valid the case, Typhoon believes it can generate a steady revenue stream from all of the affected companies. It wants not just financial damages but an injunction against the products involved until the companies agree to pay a "reasonable royalty" every three months.



As is nearly always true for these lawsuits, Apple hasn't commented on its involvement in the matter.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 25
    rawheadrawhead Posts: 89member
    Owp. No Floppy Drive or Ram Pack in the iPhone. FAIL.





    But seriously. They should change the law so that only people or entities who actually have products on the market or are aggressively trying to get products on the market have a chance at lawsuits like this. These patent squatting trolls serve no good to the human race.
  • Reply 2 of 25
    It's completely ridiculous that courts have to waste their time on what seems to be so many superfluous patent suits. If there isn't already, there should be clear statutes of limitations for a reasonable period for the patent holder to productize the patent, say 5-10 years, along with requirements for patents to clearly define their intended market. A patent really shouldn't be so vague as to cover applications that the inventor never imagined or intended (ie. didn't invent).
  • Reply 3 of 25
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by rawhead View Post


    They should change the law so that only people or entities who actually have products on the market...



    The IBM Simon from 1992 and with a full touch display seems to qualify as prior art, a working product, and was most likely patented.
  • Reply 4 of 25
    Isn't Apple's own Newton, whose manufacture and availability predates these patents, a prominent instance of prior art?



    I'm surprised they haven't also named Nintendo, with respect to the DS cash-cow.



    I love how parasitic companies like Typhoon Touch Technologies sit on these patents for years, clearly lacking anything even remotely resembling the initiative or ingenuity to act constructively on their own, and wait until companies such as Apple et al have ripened the market with successful products, and then attempt to extort money from them. I realize I'm lamenting the obvious here -- if they were actually intent on protecting their supposed intellectual property, they would have pounced years ago. They're just interested in blackmailing companies once they've effectively "monetized" the relevant technologies.



    Barf.
  • Reply 5 of 25
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Besides the prior art there are aspects of this patent that make it the least plausible lawsuit that we have ever seen. The patent diagram specifically states the kind of battery and the power outage. Why would they do that? They should have just said battery. There are many other similar issues.



    NOTE: The Patent specifically states LCD so there is no need to post that ATMs had CRT touchscreens before that or that the touchscreen was invented 25 years earlier in 1971.



    @ AppleInsider Staff.

    Do you have the patent numbers. I'd like to look at them in detail?
  • Reply 6 of 25
    johnqhjohnqh Posts: 242member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    in one instance, a patent refers to storage over floppy and SCSI drives, neither of which are used by the named devices.



    Again, it shows how little AI knows about patents.



    Patents are not about descriptions, it is about the claims. The description could describe punch cards, but only the claims have any legal meanings.



    This is nothing but a storying trying to stir a flame war instead of meaningful discussion about the patent system.
  • Reply 7 of 25
    ivladivlad Posts: 739member
    I wouldn't worry about this one at all. They can't just go against the whole world. I always wonder why these companies who patent ideas never actually make the product. Is this on purpose? Do they really think of surviving on the money can might(/might not) win from the case. Ohhh so sad.



    In that case I would like to patent a wireless device imbedded in a brain for phone calls, holograms, flying cars, circular Space Stations, and the laser guns. I mean one day these technologies will exist and I'll sue who ever will think of them too.



    (retarded)
  • Reply 8 of 25
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by iVlad View Post


    I always wonder why these companies who patent ideas never actually make the product.



    Burst.com won a hefty sum from MS. Although the similarities end after the David and Goliath comparison between these two cases.
  • Reply 9 of 25
    "Typhoon Touch Technologies accuses Apple of knowingly violating two closely related 1995 and 1997 patents by producing and selling the iPhone."



    "Founded in 2005, Typhoon Touch Technologies is

    the owner of two foundational patents covering many common aspects of portable touch screen computing. Typhoon is entitled to participate in revenue streams realized from the sale of devices that utilize its patents." -- From Typhoon's site



    Classic patent troll. I assume they bought these from a failed/bankrupt company.







    The Patent Troll
  • Reply 10 of 25
    johnqhjohnqh Posts: 242member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    Besides the prior art there are aspects of this patent that make it the least plausible lawsuit that we have ever seen. The patent diagram specifically states the kind of battery and the power outage. Why would they do that? They should have just said battery. There are many other similar issues.



    NOTE: The Patent specifically states LCD so there is no need to post that ATMs had CRT touchscreens before that or that the touchscreen was invented 25 years earlier in 1971.



    @ AppleInsider Staff.

    Do you have the patent numbers. I'd like to look at them in detail?



    For a patent, the description should get as detail as possible. It often includes irrelevant info. However, the claims section is how it gets the legal protection, and it is often set as broad as possible.



    For example, a touch device may indeed include descriptions of floppy drive, voltage, even the screen resolution. However, when in court, nobody is going to even read that.



    And this is not just about software patents....read ANY kind of patents, if you read the description only, you will say "that is so old tech, nobody does that anymore, how can they get protection?" But actually, with good claims, a patent is good for as long as the law permits even if we are on the Nth generation of the technology.
  • Reply 11 of 25
    zwebenzweben Posts: 75member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Filed on Monday in an Eastern District Texas court -- a region known to rule in favor of companies that thrive on patent lawsuits -- the amended complaint by Typhoon Touch Technologies accuses Apple of knowingly violating two closely related 1995 and 1997 patents by producing and selling the iPhone.



    \



    I propose that we nuke this area of Texas. All those in favor, say "aye".
  • Reply 12 of 25
    irnchrizirnchriz Posts: 1,580member
    Prior Art, many examples but here is just one:



    The Apple newton from 1993 - 1998



    They can f%&k right off with their patents
  • Reply 13 of 25
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    Any number of science fiction novels have discussed this concept for decades. Would they count as prior art that invalidates the patent?
  • Reply 14 of 25
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    I think perhaps the patent system should be altered so the use of a patented 'idea' should have a set proscribed fee - not as much as the patent holder thinks they can gouge. Something like 1c for each product containing the idea.



    However, if the patent holder actually manufactures a product containing the idea, then they should be able to gouge.



    Broad sweeping patents should be invalid. So you could patent an invention called 'paper' as a medium for carrying text or images, but if some kid folds a piece of paper and makes a plane out of it - tough!



    You should not be able to patent something derived directly from nature, as that is not 'invention'.



    I remember a morally repugnant case of a man undergoing treatment for an illness was found to have a unique immune system that produced a cell that had unique properties so they just took his cells and patented them without the patients consent or any benefit accruing to the them. The same goes for patenting the human genome or specific sequences of DNA - immoral and wrong on every level.



    F* it, the whole system is rank - scrap patents altogether, may the best product win.
  • Reply 15 of 25
    wigginwiggin Posts: 2,265member
    A question for the patent experts out there. Regardless if you actually produced a product (that's a bit gray..."well, I tried but nobody would give me the financing to develop it), isn't there also a requirement that you defend your patent against infringement? If you fail to defend your patent against obvious infringement, doesn't that mean you risk losing the patent rights?



    In that case, in addition to prior art, devices like the Palm Pilot have been around for a very long time. These were well known, practically ubiquitous devices so they can't claim they weren't aware of them. If there is a defense requirement, the fact that they failed to enforce their patent over a decade ago might mean it's too late to try and enforce it now.
  • Reply 16 of 25
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,445member
    Personal I am not sure what they are suing over and without seeing the actual case I am not sure anyone else can say for sure either. I think we are all assuming they are suing over the use of the touchscreen. But as we all know there is prior artwork and patents existing back to the 80's because I used one on HP computer back then.



    The could be suing on the combined use of touch screen in an all-in-one computer devise. But again, their prior art work dating back to the early 90's as everyone pointed out. It really comes down to the validity of the patent. This could be a classic example of patent being issue for something that seems unique and different but in reality it was not it was just a variant of an application of already existing technology.



    As we all know they will have to show why their patent is unique and prior to them nobody has done it the exact same way.



    I have seen where people failed to file for a patent because the lawyers and patent office claim it was similar to something in the past only to find out someone else years later file and got one. But it does not mean that person will win since their patent was obvious existed in the past.
  • Reply 17 of 25
    pmjoepmjoe Posts: 565member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post


    Personal I am not sure what they are suing over and without seeing the actual case I am not sure anyone else can say for sure either. I think we are all assuming they are suing over the use of the touchscreen. [...]



    The could be suing on the combined use of touch screen in an all-in-one computer devise. [...]



    I have seen where people failed to file for a patent because the lawyers and patent office claim it was similar to something in the past only to find out someone else years later file and got one. But it does not mean that person will win since their patent was obvious existed in the past.



    The problem here, and Apple does these patents too, is that there is a slew of patents where it's been done before, ... except that "it's on a mobile device". Without exerting a bunch of effort researching it, that's what this appears to be.



    If this company had developed some miniaturization technology for touch input, I can see patenting that, but it appears they just stuck a bunch of existing components together and patented the idea that you could stick them together in a mobile device. The companies who deserve the patents here are the ones who developed the low power components.



    It's just like how Apple seems to want to claim they invented multi-point input, but it's really old news. If they invented some kind of novel hardware to get that input, now that's another matter.
  • Reply 18 of 25
    rot'napplerot'napple Posts: 1,839member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    The patents superficially refer to any device with a touchscreen capable of collecting information and, while meant for in-field situations such as police stops, are allegedly so broadly worded and illustrated...



    Better include Kenmore and GE in that lawsuit because both my oven, microwave and stove have a touch screen interface!
  • Reply 19 of 25
    lundylundy Posts: 4,466member
    Obviously some person or persons in that Texas court are receiving some favors for allowing all these patent suits to go forward.



    It's hard to believe that there would be only one federal court which is so out of line with all of the others, if generally-accepted standards were applied.
  • Reply 20 of 25
    1997? they waited 10 years to sue?
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