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Troll sues Apple for daring to plug headphones into iPhone

Spare us some change, guv'nor, just $3m will do?

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A patent hoarding firm is suing Apple for $3m for allegedly ripping off a protected design that describes plugging headphones into a mobile phone.

Intelligent Smart Phone Concepts, a Delaware company with no web presence, launched its legal action against iPhone-maker Apple in California. ISPC has demanded damages for the alleged infringement of its "Wireless mobile phone including a headset" patent, and has requested a jury trial.

The rather turgid patent in question describes a removable audio headset with an optional microphone that can be connected to a mobe:

A wireless mobile phone is provided with an input-output interface and an output interface. The input-output interface may be employed singularly to facilitate removable attachment of a telephony headset to the phone to receive at least telephony audio signals from the phone, and to provide audio signals to the phone.

Similarly, the output interface may be employed singularly to facilitate removable attachment of an audio output only headset to the phone to receive at least a selected one of telephony and non-telephony audio signals from the phone.

However, the input-output interface and the output interface may also be used jointly to facilitate removable attachment of a two-plug headset to the phone to receive at least a selected one of telephony and non-telephony audio signals from the phone, and to provide audio signals to the phone.

This masterpiece was rubber-stamped by the US Patent Office in 2008 and awarded to Varia Mobil, a firm related to Varia Holdings that is suing Samsung and RIM for their use of emoticons.

ISPC wants $3m in damages, although the final figure can be trebled by the judge, and of course sales bans on any products infringing the protected design.

grab from US Patent Office

The innovative earpiece (216) with attached microphone (218), or just plain headphones (206), at the heart of the lawsuit
(Credit: US Patent Office)

Patent-holding companies that only use their vaults of amassed intellectual property purely for launching lawsuits are often kindly referred to as patents trolls. Their usual strategy is not to win any cases but to encourage major firms to part with reasonably small amounts of money in royalties or settlements so as to avoid the cost of a full-blown trial. ®

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