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Apple sued over printers it no longer makes

HP already caved in on laser patent infringement case

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Apple has been sued for allegedly infringing a single patent in products it hasn't produced or sold for over three years.

The plaintiff, US-based mail handling and document processing specialist Pitney Bowes, claims its intellectual property - the so-called '272 patent' - is integral to Apple's LaserWriter laser printer, and was filed before Apple developed its machine. Pitney Bowes' patent covers "variable dot printing patent which enhances the resolution of laser printing", according to the company.

Apple isn't alone here - Pitney Bowes has fired off similar suits against long-time laser printer makers Xerox, Lexmark and NEC, and more recent players Samsung (its US subsidiary and the parent company), Matsushita and Matsushita's subsidiary, Panasonic.

The one name missing from that list is Hewlett-Packard, which is probably the world's best-known laser printer maker. HP was sued earlier this year on the same grounds - and ended up paying Pitney Bowes $400 million.

HP does of course have a huge laser printer business to protect, as do the other recipients of Pitney Bowes' suit, with the exception of Apple. Canning Apple's printer business is one of CEO Steve Jobs' first moves to turn the company around.

That probably explains why Apple has failed to respond to Pitney Bowes attempts to seek a resolution to the problem by agreeing to licensing its IP - Apple doesn't need to any more.

We're not experts on the US legal system, and would never claim to be, but wouldn't the Statute of Limitations have something to say about this?

Five years seems to be the limit, we recall - and Reg readers suggest. Apple was certainly making printers five years ago, but based on development work done a long time before that. ®

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