Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/07/21/apple_patents/

Apple lays claim to expired patents

Cheap pops at Cupertino

By Bill Ray

Posted in Mobile, 21st July 2010 08:07 GMT

A Texas IP attorney who spotted Apple laying claim to expired patents is planning to see the company in court, or get a few dollars anyway.

It's not just Apple at fault – the suit names Sprint, Samsung and Cellco too - but the Apple patents are the most obvious, with four of those referenced in the iPod documentation expiring before the iPod was launched. That makes the markings false, prompting the legal action for which a lobbying group was specially set up.

The group Americans for Fair Patent Use (AFPU) is asking for $500 per falsely-labelled product, with half going to the US government and the rest being kept by the AFPU. This group, Apple Insider reports, was established "to encourage the fair use of the patent system".

That's sort of true. The AFPU was set up by patent attorneys F&B to front this case, but that doesn't change the fact that Apple and others are claiming their products are covered by patents that actually expired some time ago. Quite how much that hurts consumers is debatable, but the filing demands that the companies inform customers of the false markings.

It seems probable that Apple et al will settle with the AFPU (or, more accurately, F&B) rather than face court action for what would appear to be a simple case of not checking the documentation carefully enough. But we're glad someone is reading the small print and making sure its claims are as accurate as they should be. ®