Patent suit challenges motion-based input with Apple's iPhone 4

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
A new lawsuit takes aim at the accelerometer- and gyroscope-powered abilities of Apple's iPhone 4, alleging that the interactive, three-dimensional input methods are in violation of a U.S. patent.



The lawsuit, filed this week by Triton Tech of Texas, names both Apple and Nintendo as defendants. Triton is the owner of U.S. Patent No. 5,181,181, entitled "Computer Apparatus Input Device for Three-Dimensional Information."



That patent describes a handheld device that includes multiple accelerometers and angular rate sensors for detecting positioning and motion. By interpreting acceleration, velocity and relative position of the device, it can allow users to interact with a computer or other device with six degrees of motion in a three-dimensional space.



Illustrations that accompany the patent show a mouse with three buttons, and the filing specifically mentions a "mouse" that senses motion in six axes.



Triton's lawsuit only specifically singles out the iPhone 4 from Apple as an infringing device, though it implies that other devices could be in violation. Apple's iPod touch and iPad also include accelerometers that are used for input.







The iPhone 4 also includes a new gyroscope that is not yet found in other iOS-based mobile devices. The gyroscope allows for even more precise motion-based controls, particularly in games available on the App Store.



The suit asserts that the iPhone 4 is in violation because the hardware is "using acceleration sensors and rotational rate sensors for detecting motion about a particular axis for communication with a computing device." It notes that Apple's handset accomplishes this task without approval or licensing from Triton.







Also named in the lawsuit is the Nintendo Wii Motion Plus gaming accessory, which allows users to experience even more precise input via an attachment to the Wii remote control.



The complaint was filed Monday in a U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas. Patent lawsuits are often filed there in hopes of a favorable outcome.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 80
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by theAppleMan912 View Post


    Wow. Has anyone noticed apple have layed off the suing, and are now becoming the sued???



    If you cant beat them, sue them.
  • Reply 2 of 80
    More and more I wish I became a lawyer.
  • Reply 3 of 80
    hill60hill60 Posts: 6,992member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by theAppleMan912 View Post


    Wow. Has anyone noticed apple have layed off the suing, and are now becoming the sued???



    Only over around the last ten years.



    Psystar and HTC are the only suits I can think of off hand that were instigated by Apple, the rest are mainly as a result of Apple countersuing.
  • Reply 4 of 80
    newtronnewtron Posts: 705member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    The lawsuit, filed this week by Triton Tech of Texas, names both Apple and Nintendo as defendants. Triton is the owner of U.S. Patent No. 5,181,181, entitled "Computer Apparatus Input Device for Three-Dimensional Information."







    Looks to me like Triton is sick of being treated badly in negotiations by these big companies. They now have a big stick. Maybe now Nintendo and Apple will start to take them seriously?



    Good for them!
  • Reply 5 of 80
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    At least this company filing in Marshall Texas is from Texas.
  • Reply 6 of 80
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    A new lawsuit takes aim at the accelerometer- and gyroscope-powered abilities of Apple's iPhone 4, alleging that the interactive, three-dimensional input methods are in violation of a U.S. patent...



    Seems like weak sauce to me.



    It only really applies to what Apple is doing in the most tangential fashion, it was never implemented, and hasn't been defended even though many many devices have used this technique before the iPhone.
  • Reply 7 of 80
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Newtron View Post


    Looks to me like Triton is sick of being treated badly in negotiations by these big companies. They now have a big stick. Maybe now Nintendo and Apple will start to take them seriously?



    Good for them!



    I don?t understand this argument. Do you mean licensing their IP when you say negotiations? If they are actively licensing their product to these companies then how can they be suing them for patent violations?
  • Reply 8 of 80
    nkhmnkhm Posts: 928member
    So where is the market ready device from these guys? Where is the working prototype?



    People keep patenting concepts that they lack the wherewithal to bring to market, and then sue others when they are beaten to market - it's crazy.



    I don't think a patent should be accepted unless the applicant can demonstrate a working prototype.



    Maybe I'll patent the concept of teleportation (diagrams and all) and sue the first manufacturer who makes a mint selling them.



    Crazy.
  • Reply 9 of 80
    davegeedavegee Posts: 2,765member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nkhm View Post




    Maybe I'll patent the concept of teleportation (diagrams and all) and sue the first manufacturer who makes a mint selling them.



    Crazy.



    And you seriously think you'll be the first one to do so? Somehow I think the patent system has more than it's fair share of embodiments of molecular translocation systems as well as embodiments of vertically tethered space platforms ... Space elevators .. As well as replicators and mater recombinators etc etc etc. Seems to be the best way to hit the jackpot .. Just think something up that might be remotely possible within the next 15ish years and cross your fingers. Anything over 15 and your gonna run the risk of the patent expiring.
  • Reply 10 of 80
    motleemotlee Posts: 122member
    It took them almost 5 years to figure out that the Wii was using their patent, yet only a couple months for the iPhone 4? Or did Nintendo recently change the way the remote works, putting it in "violation" of the patent?
  • Reply 11 of 80
    Or even make an algorithm that generates patent applications, perhaps using existing ones as seeds.



    Then overwhelm the system with it's own madness.
  • Reply 12 of 80
    nkhmnkhm Posts: 928member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DaveGee View Post


    And you seriously think you'll be the first one to do so? Somehow I think the patent system has more than it's fair share of embodiments of molecular translocation systems as well as embodiments of vertically tethered space platforms ... Space elevators .. As well as replicators and mater recombinators etc etc etc. Seems to be the best way to hit the jackpot .. Just think something up that might be remotely possible within the next 15ish years and cross your fingers. Anything over 15 and your gonna run the risk of the patent expiring.



    But you understand my point...
  • Reply 13 of 80
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by theAppleMan912 View Post


    Wow. Has anyone noticed apple have layed off the suing, and are now becoming the sued???



    No good deed goes unpunished.
  • Reply 14 of 80
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Newtron View Post


    Looks to me like Triton is sick of being treated badly in negotiations by these big companies. They now have a big stick. Maybe now Nintendo and Apple will start to take them seriously?



    Good for them!



    Nice to hear from you Mr. Triton! Welcome to the forum.
  • Reply 15 of 80
    If I understand patents correctly this is an 11th hour suit. Here is the patent info.



    Patent number: 5181181

    Filing date: Sep 27, 1990

    Issue date: Jan 19, 1993



    The patent is good for 20 years from the filing date. They are filing with less than a month left on their patent, but by the time they go to trial it will be expired. Not sure what can be done then other than back pay for that period at best.
  • Reply 16 of 80
    I forgot to add that if Triton Tech forgets to remove any information about their expired patent from public view they could get sued by a troll claiming harm from the company claiming an expired patent.
  • Reply 17 of 80
    s8er01zs8er01z Posts: 144member
    Sad...

    Those that can...do.



    Those that can't.. sue.



    I have had a million 'great' ideas float through my head... the fact that I could patent them and do nothing with them to better man kind is disgusting IMHO.
  • Reply 18 of 80
    yseanysean Posts: 11member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    At least this company filing in Marshall Texas is from Texas.



    It states in the filig that this Triton Tech is an LLC based in Marshall, Texas. It sounds to me like a shell company for patent trolling.



    BTW, this is by no means a comment on the merit of this suit. Even trolls get one right now and then. I don't know that this is the case, though.
  • Reply 19 of 80
    I suggest AI refrain from publishing these lawsuit stories for the following reasons:



    1) There are so damned many of them.

    2) We rarely get a followup, which gives the impression that Apple is being buried under an ever-growing pile of lawsuits

    3) They are very similar in quality and scope, only the specific challenged technology changes





    I suggest we see them only if:



    1) The suit is dropped, settled, won or lost. Then tell us about it so we get both ends of the story at once.

    2) The suit is particularly novel or important--use editorial restraint.



    To keep posting every one makes them become background noise. I tune it out. Also, we all get weary of reading the same four or five predictable categories of response: lawyers suck, Texas sucks, patent law sucks, "I am going to patent breathing," etc. Or maybe save them up for a year end summary: "Apple's 2010 Lawsuits in Review." Anything but this death by a thousand cuts journalism.
  • Reply 20 of 80
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,641member
    I'm no patent attorney, but another absurd lawsuit, in my opinion. The IDEA of including multiple accelerometers and angular rate sensors for detecting position and motion should not be patentable. To me, it's sort of like saying, "a wire will be used to conduct electricity" or "a metering device will be used to measure the amount of current in the circuit." Only the specific implementation should be patentable and what a three or six button mouse has to do with Apple's iPhone is beyond me.



    But I don't think Amazon should have gotten a patent on "one-click" purchasing either, which Apple had to license from them. The idea that a single virtual on-screen button performs multiple tasks, one of which might be to look up information in a database for the current user, should not be patentable. If any unique techniques were used to store or access the information, perhaps that should be patentable.
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