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Texas troll two-step

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Apple, Research in Motion, and a gaggle of other deep-pocket firms have been slapped with a wide-ranging patent infringment suit by an obscure Texas firm.

The suit alleges that Apple and RIM - plus AT&T, Insight Enterprises, LG Electronics, Motorola, Pantech Wireless, Samsung and Sanyo - are in violation of one or more of seven mobile phone–related patents. The allegedly infringed-upon patents include ones for Bluetooth connectivity, syncing, background processing and other mobile matters.

Six of the seven patents were originally granted to PalmSource, which was spun out from Palm in October 2003 and acquired by the self-described "global provider of advanced software technologies to the mobile and beyond-PC markets," Access, in 2005.

Interestingly, the only patent that Apple is not accused of infringing is both the oldest and the only one that was not originally granted to PalmSource. "Personal Communications Internetworking" was filed by Bell Communications Research in September 1994 and granted in April 1998. All of the other seven patents were filed between 2000 and 2004 and granted between 2004 and 2009.

The suit was filed in - where else? - the patent infringement capital of the US, the District Court of the Eastern District of Texas. The judge assigned to the case is - who else? - Leonard Davis, who is currently presiding over or has recently closed hundreds of patent infringement cases, including the recent decision that outlawed Microsoft Word.

To put it bluntly, the case has all the hallmarks of typical East Texas trolling. The plaintiff, SmartPhone Technologies LLC, has no website, doesn't show up in the business directory of its stated hometown of Frisco, Texas, and a search for businesses listed at the address it provides in court documents, 6136 Frisco Square Boulevard, Suite 400, turns up merely law offices, mortgage brokers, a psychotherapist, and - amusingly - a document-shredding service.

SmartPhone Technologies LLC, by the way, is apparently not to be confused with Smartphone Technologies, Inc, the Jacksonville, Florida developer of custom celebrity, entertainment and college sports apps for mobile devices including the iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android handhelds - although neither the Florida developer nor SmartPhone Technologies LLC's lawyers immediately responded to our requests for clarification.

Those lawyers are T John Ward, Jr and J Wesley Hill of the Longview, Texas, Ward & Smith Law Firm. Although Ward & Smith until recently focused solely on personal injury lawsuits, the firm's website notes: "With the increased filing of patent infringement actions in the Eastern District of Texas, the firm has expanded its practice to include this challenging and complex area of practice." ®

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