Jawbone reaches out from grave to sue Apple over audio tech

Posted:
in General Discussion edited September 23
A non-practicing entity has taken control of a patent hoard from defunct device maker Jawbone and is now leveraging a cache of audio-related IP against Apple.

Jawbone


Lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas on Thursday, the complaint from Jawbone Innovations, the current owner of Jawbone's patents, claims Apple devices infringe on intellectual property related to audio technologies. The patent holdings firm set up shop in the state -- notorious for its patent holder-friendly federal courts -- in 2021, according to Bizapedia.

Named in the suit are U.S. Patent Nos. 8,019,091, 7,246,058, 8,280,072, 8,321,213, 8,326,611, 10,779,080, 11,122,357 and 8,467,543. The IP details methods of performing noise cancellation through hardware and software, detecting voiced and unvoiced speech, creating virtual microphone array and deploying multi-microphone beamforming arrays.

Jawbone Innovations is leveraging technology that was used in Jawbone's once-popular headset products. For example, Jawbone devices employed a physical vibration sensor that touched a user's face to detect when they were speaking. That data was compared and merged with microphone audio signals to effectively cancel outgoing background noise like wind. Iterations of the product included multiple microphones for audio beamforming, a technique in wide use today by major earphone manufacturers, including Apple.

Apple uses similar noise cancelling and speech detection technology in its various products, from iPhone to AirPods and HomePod, the complaint alleges. A number of instrumentalities are cited as potential infringers. "Hey Siri" is dinged for detecting user speech by comparing the amplitudes of beamformed microphones, while products like AirPods are said to crib techniques of forming virtual microphone arrays with physical omnidirectional microphones.

Jawbone started life in 1998 as AliphCom, a firm that received funding from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to create noise-suppressing headsets and related technologies for the military. After successful funding rounds, the company launched its first consumer product in Jawbone, a headset that integrated then-advanced noise-cancelling tech. A later version with Bluetooth support debuted in 2008 and was subsequently sold in the Apple Store, leading to a boom in sales.

In 2011, AliphCom changed its name to Jawbone and quickly expanded its range of products to Bluetooth-connected speakers and fitness trackers. The firm heavily invested in its health wearables division, a decision that ultimately contributed to its demise.

Unable to compete against the likes of Apple and Fitbit, the latter of which it attempted to sue for "systematically plundering" trade secrets, Jawbone exited the consumer space and began the process of liquidation in 2017. During that phase, Apple, Samsung, Google, LG and Fitbit were rumored to be eyeing Jawbone's IP stash, though none bit.

Jawbone Innovations lodged an identical filing against Google today, according to Bloomberg, while Protocol reported on a related suit against Samsung in June.

The NPE seeks damages with interest and royalties in its complaint against Apple.



Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    “Non-practising entity” ha!  Patent troll. 
    F_Kent_DStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 14
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,739member
    Patent reform.  NOW.  
    F_Kent_DpsliceStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 14
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,816member
    "Lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas..."

    The pond-scum of the judicial system.
    F_Kent_Dpslicewatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 14
    Anilu_777 said:
    “Non-practising entity” ha!  Patent troll. 
    The USA has a fine court system and patent system. I'd let these two fine systems play out.

    The phrase "non-practicing entity" seems disparaging, but what's wrong with anyone buying and selling patents? Shouldn't you as a private individual be allowed to buy someone else's patents just like you can buy someone else's stock? Any stockholder is "non-practicing" in that they don't really run the company.

    I'm sure Apple has bought many companies just to gain hold of the patents. Nothing wrong with that.
    OctoMonkey
  • Reply 5 of 14
    F_Kent_DF_Kent_D Posts: 85unconfirmed, member
    Anything to keep the money rolling in off the backs of a dead, failed company. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 14
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,739member
    sflocal said:
    "Lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas..."

    The pond-scum of the judicial system.
    It's the new one.  The old one was the Eastern district, but the law changed in terms of where one can file.  Someone I know very well was an IP lawyer in the Eastern district when it was the most active.  As for scum, it's less about the lawyers and judges (many of whom are excellent) and more about a system that allows this.  There should be limits on NPE lawsuits, prior concepts, etc.  I don't pretend to know exactly what to do, but there has to be a way to legitimately protect IP and prevent theft while stopping the shitshow that is this troll industry.  
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 14
    Jawbone abandoned their customers when they crumpled. Infuriating.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 14
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,628member
    My question is why Apple doesn’t seem to have any patents for the types of technology they use. When they use these technologies they certainly have the legal department research the patent issue, right? Or do they just use it and cross their fingers and hope they don’t get sued? Or is getting sued by patent trolls just part of doing business? We don’t hear about other tech giants getting sued but I’m sure they do all the time like Apple.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 14
    mike1mike1 Posts: 2,802member
    lkrupp said:
    My question is why Apple doesn’t seem to have any patents for the types of technology they use. When they use these technologies they certainly have the legal department research the patent issue, right? Or do they just use it and cross their fingers and hope they don’t get sued? Or is getting sued by patent trolls just part of doing business? We don’t hear about other tech giants getting sued but I’m sure they do all the time like Apple.

    I'm sure Apple's legal department is much larger and busier because of all the noise. It really just a part of doing business, unfortunately. Two things makes them a target. They're a hugely visible household name so anybody suing them immediately gets recognition which encourages even more. Second, they are incredibly successful with very deep pockets.

    Be curious as to how many suits are filed, how many are actually successful and for what amounts.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 14
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,300member
    lkrupp said:
    My question is why Apple doesn’t seem to have any patents for the types of technology they use. When they use these technologies they certainly have the legal department research the patent issue, right? Or do they just use it and cross their fingers and hope they don’t get sued? Or is getting sued by patent trolls just part of doing business? We don’t hear about other tech giants getting sued but I’m sure they do all the time like Apple.
    FWIW Google has also been sued for infringement of those same patents. Sometimes it's even Google before Apple and a win means the IP holder will sue the other. Apple and Google are often on the leading edge of the NPE assaults, but it does seem Google is generally more successful at warding them off. Not often enough not to be a regular target though. 
  • Reply 11 of 14
    I’m quite curious to know whether apple has any patents in this area.  They should since they design and sell airpods
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 14
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,300member
    docbburk said:
    I’m quite curious to know whether apple has any patents in this area.  They should since they design and sell airpods
    They almost certainly do. Having patents of your own would not negate IP owned by another though. Infringement can still happen no matter how patented your own product features are. 
    edited September 24
  • Reply 13 of 14
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,300member
    Anilu_777 said:
    “Non-practising entity” ha!  Patent troll. 
    The LLC also has no phone number listed and its lawyers are not responding to inquiries. 
  • Reply 14 of 14
    Poking Apple with a Jawbone of a donkey...
    watto_cobra
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