Apple sued by 'patent troll' over Numbers software

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
In a court filing on Wednesday, a Texas-based non-practicing entity sued Apple for alleged patent infringement regarding the company's Numbers spreadsheet software.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Tyler Division, accepted the suit from Data Engine Technologies LLC, which claims Apple's Numbers infringes on a 1995 patent for a "system and methods for improved spreadsheet interface with user-familiar objects," reports CNET.

Spreadsheet Patent
Illustration from Data Engine Technologies' spreadsheet patent. | Source: USPTO


First discovered by Priorsmart, the suit alleges that Apple had prior knowledge of the patent as early as 2010 and went on to cite the IP in its own 2007 patent for manipulating spreadsheet cells.

The property being asserted is U.S. Patent No. 5,463,724, which was granted to Borland International and later purchased by Data Technologies, a non-practicing entity or "patent troll."

Apple first rolled out Numbers in 2007 as part of the iWork '08 software suite and went on to expand the software's capabilities by introducing it on the mobile iOS platform in 2010.

The suit is seeking damages and an injunction against Apple's infringing products, most likely in the hopes that Apple will settle out of court to avoid a possibly lengthy trial process.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 77
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    Will you stop with the silly patent troll nonsense?

    The rightful owner of a patent has the right to enforce it whether they are using it or not.

    It's like this. Let's say that you inherit a factory from your parents that was used to make widgets and includes all the equipment you need to manufacture widgets. You don't want to make widgets, so you sell the factory to a real estate investor who will then rent it to someone who wants to make widgets.

    Does the fact that you don't make widgets mean that someone else can just move in and start using your factory without permission? Does the fact that the real estate investor doesn't want to make widgets mean that anyone can move in without permission and start making widgets? So why should patents be any different? There is absolutely no requirement in US patent law (or any other country that I know of) that only allows you to enforce a patent if you are using it.
  • Reply 2 of 77
    This has gotten to be ridiculous.
  • Reply 3 of 77
    Some idiot scribbles an idea on a napkin and gets a patent. He doesn't have the brain power to actually create the product, yet, he has the right to sue someone who spends the hours developing and investing in the idea. Time to put an end to the free ride of all the PATENT TROLLS!!
  • Reply 4 of 77
    jragosta wrote: »
    Will you stop with the silly patent troll nonsense?
    The rightful owner of a patent has the right to enforce it whether they are using it or not.
    It's like this. Let's say that you inherit a factory from your parents that was used to make widgets and includes all the equipment you need to manufacture widgets. You don't want to make widgets, so you sell the factory to a real estate investor who will then rent it to someone who wants to make widgets.
    Does the fact that you don't make widgets mean that someone else can just move in and start using your factory without permission? Does the fact that the real estate investor doesn't want to make widgets mean that anyone can move in without permission and start making widgets? So why should patents be any different? There is absolutely no requirement in US patent law (or any other country that I know of) that only allows you to enforce a patent if you are using it.

    You contradicted yourself or your wording was off. If you're renting it so someone can make widgets why would it be a problem if someone did start making them? I understood what you meant and agree.
  • Reply 5 of 77


    Reminds me a lot of the old AppleWorks spreadsheet.


     


    On another note: My iPhone5 arrived today in perfect (no nicks or scuffs) and a week earlier that planned. The only unusual thing is that there was a note in the box that read, "Help! I'm being held captive in a Chinese iPhone factory."

  • Reply 6 of 77


    Except that is not what's happening here... Companies like this find dead or dying companies & purchase their IP portfolios with the sole intention of litigating another business that does anything that is remotely similar to the alleged imposed IP. And the district court in Tyler Texas is notorious for accepting these often frivolous patent infringement lawsuits.


     


    It's corruption at it's finest.... The courts get paid to accept the lawsuit by the Patent Trolls. The Patent Troll's squeeze the alleged infringer (Often ending up in settlement as the alleged infringer can't afford actual litigation) & the Patent Troll walks away with profit taken away from a legitimate business. Now Apple is not hurting for money which makes it an attractive target on the other side of the spectrum. The Patent Trolls are willing to spend money on litigation on the odds that the court will rule in their favor (Which in Tyler Texas happens more often than not) & walk away with an even bigger payday.


     


    Like the term or not... Even though it's not illegal, it is broken & wrong.

  • Reply 7 of 77

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    In a court filing on Wednesday, a Texas-based non-practicing entity sued Apple for alleged patent infringement regarding the company's Numbers spreadsheet software.

    The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Tyler Division, accepted the suit from Data Engine Technologies LLC, which claims Apple's Numbers infringes on a 1995 patent for a "system and methods for improved spreadsheet interface with user-familiar objects," reports CNET.


    Spreadsheet Patent

    Illustration from Data Engine Technologies' spreadsheet patent. | Source: USPTO



    First discovered by Priorsmart, the suit alleges that Apple had prior knowledge of the patent as early as 2010 and went on to cite the IP in its own 2007 patent for manipulating spreadsheet cells.

    The property being asserted is U.S. Patent No. 5,463,724, which was granted to Borland International and later purchased by Data Technologies, a non-practicing entity or "patent troll."

    Apple first rolled out Numbers in 2007 as part of the iWork '08 software suite and went on to expand the software's capabilities by introducing it on the mobile iOS platform in 2010.

    The suit is seeking damages and an injunction against Apple's infringing products, most likely in the hopes that Apple will settle out of court to avoid a possibly lengthy trial process.


    I think they are using the term "patent troll" accurately.


    Definition - Opportunistic with no intention to manufacture or market the patented invention


    I know you want to label it Professional Escort Service but we all know what it is.

  • Reply 8 of 77
    sipsip Posts: 210member


    Most definitely a troll...... I think these guys got their companies mixed-up: that drawing looks more like the original Excel than Numbers. In fact, the only similarity with any Apple product is that it looks more Mac OS 6-ish than it does Windows. Apple should sue this company for copying Apple's IP.

  • Reply 9 of 77
    jragosta wrote: »
    Will you stop with the silly patent troll nonsense?
    The rightful owner of a patent has the right to enforce it whether they are using it or not.

    While yes they might have a valid legal issue, that they waited 5 yrs to protect their IP, until a time when Apple has way more money than back then, still makes them trolls. And that's just with Apple. Excel would fit the vague details of this patent and was out way before Numbers. So where is their law suit

    Patent laws need to have the same 'clearly you don't give a shit' type rules as trademarks. Protect from day one or give it up.

    And your example is horribly not even close.
  • Reply 10 of 77
    drwho4 wrote:
    The Patent Troll's squeeze the alleged infringer (Often ending up in settlement as the alleged infringer can't afford actual litigation) & the Patent Troll walks away with profit taken away from a legitimate business. Now Apple is not hurting for money which makes it an attractive target on the other side of the spectrum.

    Yep, like the con that pays the guards to look the other way. Only Apple isnt some fresh fish startup that will bend over, close their eyes and take it. Nope, Apple is Andy Dufresne promising to bite someone's dick off. Which is why companies like Lodsys go after the developers in the hopes they gave no clue of their rights and not Apple.
  • Reply 11 of 77

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by tundraBuggy View Post



    Some idiot scribbles an idea on a napkin and gets a patent. He doesn't have the brain power to actually create the product, yet, he has the right to sue someone who spends the hours developing and investing in the idea. Time to put an end to the free ride of all the PATENT TROLLS!!


     


    That company does rightfully own the patent, so it is legal, and a relatively easy way to make some cash.  If the suit stands, Apple will pay, but it is no big deal.  Cost of doing business.  Sometimes the patent system works for Apple, sometimes it works against them.  I think it has worked for them on many more occasions than the reverse.

  • Reply 12 of 77
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,331member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post



    Will you stop with the silly patent troll nonsense?



    The rightful owner of a patent has the right to enforce it whether they are using it or not.



    It's like this. Let's say that you inherit a factory from your parents that was used to make widgets and includes all the equipment you need to manufacture widgets. You don't want to make widgets, so you sell the factory to a real estate investor who will then rent it to someone who wants to make widgets.



    Does the fact that you don't make widgets mean that someone else can just move in and start using your factory without permission? Does the fact that the real estate investor doesn't want to make widgets mean that anyone can move in without permission and start making widgets? So why should patents be any different? There is absolutely no requirement in US patent law (or any other country that I know of) that only allows you to enforce a patent if you are using it.


     


    They may well have the right to attempt to enforce this patent, but they still appear to meet the generally accepted definition of a patent troll. That term does not imply any illegitimacy of the patent.

  • Reply 13 of 77
    It's good that companies exist to buy patents, else a poor inventor has no market to sell into. I am more concerned about cases where Apple needs to protect its developer community.
  • Reply 14 of 77
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,523member
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    I must have missed the answer to this but I'd look forward to knowing how the folks behind VisiCalc haven't cleaned up on Excel and every spread application sheet since 1980.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visicalc
  • Reply 15 of 77


    Curious that Corel doesn't own this patent since it acquired Quattro Pro, which is still a shipping product.

  • Reply 16 of 77
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member
    The original concept of the patent was to protect the creative output of the individual. If they would just return to that ideal, none of this patent troll stuff would be possible at all because the people who invented this stuff are either all dead or have already been suitably compensated.

    It's the (ridiculous) concept that you can somehow buy and sell ideas that's really at fault here just as it's the ridiculous concept that corporations are somehow "people" that causes all the worst abuses of capitalism.

    All these problems would disappear overnight if we just changed our point of view.

    Just sayin. :-)
  • Reply 17 of 77
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member


    It is not about the patents. It is about East Texas. It reminds me of the recently deceased  Finance Minister from Nigeria whose relative is willing to share a large potion of his millions of dollars hidden in a suitcase if I can import it into the US. The whole of East Texas would be a wasteland if not for Apple lawsuits. 

  • Reply 18 of 77
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by brutus009 View Post



    It's good that companies exist to buy patents, else a poor inventor has no market to sell into. I am more concerned about cases where Apple needs to protect its developer community.


     


    Nah.  It's really the whole "buying and selling of ideas" that's the root of the problem.  The patent was originally put in place to preserve the inventor's idea, not to create a psuedo-market for ideas.  

  • Reply 19 of 77
    ajmasajmas Posts: 590member
    We just need to point to OLE ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Object_Linking_and_Embedding ), which was first defined in 1990 and used by Microsoft in most of their office products.
  • Reply 20 of 77
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post



    I must have missed the answer to this but I'd look forward to knowing how the folks behind VisiCalc haven't cleaned up on Excel and every spread application sheet since 1980.



    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visicalc


    Well in their case they forgot to file for a patent at all.

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