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Apple, Google, world+dog named in mobile patent suit

Shocker: may not be baseless

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Apple, Google, Motorola, HTC, and 18 other top mobile-tech firms have been hit with yet another wide-ranging patent infringement lawsuit.

Unlike a similarly broad-brush suit filed earlier this month by the obscure Texas firm of SmartPhone Technologies LLC against Apple, Motolora, RIM, and others, the plaintiff in this case is a company that appears to actually exist: MicroUnity of Santa Clara, California.

The 38-page complaint alleges that the 22 defendants have infringed upon 14 MicroUnity patents covering a variety of mobile-processor technologies. Of the 14, two - one concerning floating-point operations and another covering group data operations - were granted just last month. The earliest, which deals with microprocessor buffer design, dates from 1998.

Among the 22 alleged infringers, Qualcomm, Samsung, and Texas Instruments are alleged to be in violation of MicroUnity patents in their processors. AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint are alleged to violate patents in their support of infringing phones, while Apple, Google, HTC, Motorola, Nokia, and others are alleged to violate patents in their phones or other devices. Specifically named in the suit, for example, are Apple's iPhone 3GS and iPod Touch, Google's Nexus One, and Nokia's N900.

MicroUnity is no stranger to patent-infringment lawsuits. According to the company's website, they reached litigation settlements with Intel and Dell in 2005 and with Sony and AMD in 2007. MicroUnity did not immediately respond to our requests for comment.

Also according to the MicroUnity website, the company's prime area of current operations is the development of what they call "a new generation of broadband microprocessor innovations" known as BroadMX (PDF), a "programming model and synthesizable hardware library that makes broadband algorithms - including 4G wireless, HD video, and 3D graphics - practical to implement and upgrade in software."

As is standard practice in such patent-infringment lawsuits, the complaint was filed in the plaintiff-friendly US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, home to such recent patent-infringement filings as the aforementioned SmartPhone Technologies suit, VirnetX's pair of lawsuits against Microsoft, and BetaNet's questionable complaint against Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, Oracle, IBM, SAP, and a dozen other companies.

Palm, by the way, was also named as a defendant in the MicroUnity lawsuit - yet another headache for a company that is enduring both bad financial news and sloppily reported rumors. ®

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