Apple, Microsoft sued over iPod, Zune controls
Texas touchpad trouble
Apple, LG, Microsoft, and 20 other companies are being sued for patent infringement by a Texas firm that claims to have invented the touchpad.
Tsera LLC, a Texas business that's apparently named after a defunct Native American tribe, filed the suit on Wednesday in the US District Court, Eastern Texas Division.
According to the complaint, Tsera claims to own "all right, title and interest in" a patent for "Methods and apparatus for controlling a portable electronic device using a touchpad," granted to one Chuang Li in 2003 after being filed in 1999.
The complaint claims patent infringement due to the touchpad controls of Apple's iPod classic and nano, LG's Chocolate VX8500, Microsoft's Zune, and a host of other products ranging from TrekStore's i.Beat p!nk to a Jensen digital media player with the catchy name of SMPV-4GBTA.
The patent's wording, however, seems to imply a somewhat weak case by Tsera, which has no web presence. It describes a touchpad that interprets commands made by detecting the patterns of strokes made by a user upon it, with each of several patterns corresponding to "a predefined function or command of the device." Moreover, it says "No immediate visual feedback is provided as a command pattern is traced, and the user does not need to view the device to enter commands."
Doesn't sound like an iPod to us.
But of the 23 defendants, only Apple is singled out for special censure. The complaint states that Apple knew of the patent since September of 2004 and that their infringement "has been and continues to be willful, wanton, and deliberate, and carried out with full knowledge and awareness of the Plaintiff’s patent rights and without license from Plaintiff."
Due to the "deliberate and willful nature of [Apple's] infringement," the suit seeks "enhanced damages, up to treble damages" from Cupertino, while the other infringers are on the hook only for standard damages. The suit also seeks to require all defendants to "pay a compulsory future royalty" for the privilege of using touchpads in their devices.
The suit requests a jury trial - juries are seldom reticent to award large damages in David versus Goliath lawsuits. Especially when it's a home-town David versus 20 Goliaths. ®
Dosnt pattern law say something about it has to be something that several people couldnt come up with independently?
And forgive my anal retentive attention to detail, but didnt Paramount come up with the idea of a portable device being controlled by a touch sensitive interface in Star Trek? and Want Ziggies controller in Quantum leap not only touch sensitive but gesture controlled, I mean Al had to repeatedly bash and shake it.
Ok I know its fiction, but this just shows that it is not a unique idea, that it has been around in fiction for a long time, used both several authors.
And I present, the Newton as counter evidence...
Released in 1993 (and thus clearly predating the 1999 patent filing by this man), and for which the OS was under constant development by Apple as a platform until into 1999 when it was discontinued, and functions were merged into other divisions for future use (of which additional patents for devices that never materialized continue to pop up).
The newton used a full surface touch screen (albeit requiring a stylus, but the method of input in the patent in question describes techniques, not technologies, and does not preclude the use of "finger" as an input). The newton accepted compands via stokes or guestures as well as text and drawings from the pen. It's existance clearly invalidates the patent in question.
Guestures themselves as an input method are also protected by patents for multi-touch by Apple, and by others for various Operating system or Browser interfaces. This is a complete shot in the dark, and likely to cost the accuser a significant amount of money paying Apple's lawyers after he looses.
It was Creative labs who sued previously, and won, since they not only had the patent but were making better mp3 players. Apple ceded five patents to Creative as part of an out of court settlement, and agreed to label a number of Creative products iPod compatible: http://technology.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,,1857562,00.html