Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has filed lawsuits against no fewer than nine silicon valley companies over alleged patent infringements. Targets of the suit are Apple, Google, Facebook, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, eBay, Staples, Yahoo, AOL, and YouTube. Allen is claiming infringement of four patents by the companies. All the intellectual property in question was held by a silicon valley startup Allen ran several years ago. The company is now gone.
All the patents are described as integral to the businesses of these companies. One example is a patent held by Allen for offering suggestions on an ecommerce site based on what a customer is viewing. Facebook had a comment ready saying, "We believe this suit is completely without merit and we will fight it vigorously."
Conspicuously absent from the suit is Microsoft, which Allen is still an investor in. Amazon is also missing; the only connection there is that Amazon is based in Allen's home town of Seattle. Do you think Allen is pursuing a legitimate course of action, or is he acting like a patent troll?
But Apple can be expected to pull out all the stops to retain its comfortable lead over its younger rival. Earlier this month, it dragged Taiwanese phone maker HTC to court, alleging that its Android phones infringe nearly 20 of its patents. It wants a ban on the import of all such HTC handsets that infringe the iPhone-related patents.
Although HTC is yet to officially respond in court, the phone maker from the Far East has finally broken its silence over the lawsuit. It should not surprise anyone that HTC disagrees with Apple's claims and remains unfazed. It has vowed to “fully defend” itself.
“HTC strongly advocates intellectual property protection and will continue to respect other innovators and their technologies as we have always done, but we will continue to embrace competition through our own innovation as a healthy way for consumers to get the best mobile experience possible,” said Peter Chou, chief executive officer, HTC Corporation.
The press release appears to be a reminder of HTC's ability to innovate to anyone who doubts it. It quite proudly points out “HTC’s technology firsts” that include the first Windows PDA (1998), first 3G CDMA EVDO smartphone (October 2005), first Google Android smartphone and first 4G WIMAX smartphone (November 2008).
No point in saving any ammunition for tomorrow: all out war means just that--all out. Nokia has opened up a third front in its legal battle with Apple with a second complaint filed in U.S. federal courts, this one alleging infringement on “implementation patents” held by Nokia.
This lawsuit argues that Apple’s implementation technology in the iPhone, from camera sensors to touchscreens, treads on Nokia’s intellectual property. This is in addition to an initial lawsuit about infringement on GSM patents, and an unfair trade complaint filed with the International Trade Commission (ITC).
Whether Nokia’s move is one of strength or weaknesses isn’t yet clear. This third filling, along with the request to the ITC to ban imports on Apple mobile products (including laptops), might be Nokia flexing its muscles, signalling to Apple just how serious it is about these various complaints. Or, it might be Noika going for broke--firing off everything in their legal arsenal in the hopes of wounding Apple enough to force a favorable settlement.
Taiwanese chip designer Richtek Technology said Wednesday it has filed a patent infringement complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) against several companies, including uPI Semiconductor, AMD, Sapphire Technology, Diamond Multimedia, and XFX.
Richtek claims the aforementioned graphic chip makers have infringed on three of the company's technology patents, as well as misusing business secrets. According to Fudzilla, the three patents deal with technologies for a Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) circuit, a method for current balance in a mulit-phase DC-to-DC converter to produce a respective PWM signal to regulate the corresponding channel current, and for a power metal oxide semiconductor transistor layout comprised of a gate electrode with a lattice pattern on a substrate having a first area and a second area.
Richtek is seeking an injunction and compensation, but the company didn't say for how much.
They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, so where does that leave ex-employees? In some cases, right in the same category. Just ask Seagate, who stands accused by a former employee of patent infringement and other underhanded deeds.
Paul A. Galloway, a former Seagate servo engineer until July of this year, says the hard drive maker has been infringing on HDD technology patents held by Convolve. What's more, Galloway alleges Seagate went so far as to destroy evidence to cover its tracks.
"According to Mr. Galloway, Seagate widely disseminated Convolve's technology throughout Seagate's servo engineering community, but engineers like Mr.Galloway, who were exposed to Convolve's technology, were not told that it was protected under an NDA," the court filing reads. "Certain technologies Seagate now claims to have independently developed were, in fact, influenced by Convolve's technology.
Galloway's claims are the latest in a decade-long suit between Convolve and Seagate, in which the former, along with MIT, is seeking $800 million for the use of noise-reduction technology.
After winning a $290 million court judgment against Microsoft, Canadian developer i4i has vowed to keep a close eye on Microsoft to make sure the Redmond outfit doesn't try any further funny business in regards to i4i's patents.
"We are going to look extremely carefully at all Microsoft products," promised Loudon Owen, chairman of i4i.
Owen didn't say whether or not his company's software studs have been examining Office 2010, which Microsoft contends does not use i4i's Custom XML technology, but it's probably safe to assume i4i isn't leaving any software stone unturned. That includes the revised Word 2007 Microsoft must come up with by January 11, 2010.
A federal court recently rejected Microsoft's appeal and upheld a lower court ruling that ordered MS to pay i4i $290 million in damages and interest for infringing the firm's XML editing technology.
St. Clair has pursued similar suits and won against Sony ($25 million) and Canon ($34 million). It presently is suing other major camera makers: Casio, Fuji, HP, Kodak, Kyocera, LG, Minolta, Motorola, Nikon, Nokia, Olympic, Palm, Panasonic, RIM and Samsung. Absent names have either gone unnoticed--for now--or have entered into licensing agreements. (This seems to fit this Wikipedia definition, doesn’t it?)
This lawsuit follows on suits against Apple by Shared Memory Graphics and Nokia. Makes you wonder if the iPhone is worth this much bother.
Nokia has lost significant mobile domination due to new smartphone players, namely Apple. Well, Nokia isn’t sitting idly by; it is suing Apple for the infringement of 10 patents “fundamental for devices using GSM, UMTS and/or local area network standards” according to Nokia. The patents all pertain to wireless data, speech coding, security, and encryption inherent in all iPhone models.
Without a doubt, this will be a long drawn out battle. Both companies have enormous legal teams and huge amounts of cash. It is also extremely unlikely to affect either bottom-line. According to Avian Securities analyst Matthew Thornton, “we have a hard time seeing a material risk to either company.”
The frivolous lawsuits are getting a touch out of hand. At the same time, if you stand on the shoulders of technological giants, the least you can do is offer them a cold lemonade. What other choice do these companies have?
In a surprise ruling earlier this week, a U.S. District Judge for the District of Rhode Island overturned a $388 million patent infringement verdict against Microsoft and awarded to Uniloc. Already six years into litigation, Unilock says it's prepared to keep fighting, and with $388 million at stake, who can blame them?
"We are disappointed by the decisions the trial judge has made to overturn the jury's unanimous verdict in Uniloc's patent infringement case against Microsoft. We believe that the jury's verdict in April was thoughtful, well reasoned, and supported by the evidence presented," Brad Davis, CEO at Uniloc, said in a statement.
Judge William Smith saw it a different way, saying the jury failed to graps the issues properly, but that will be a decision for yet another judge to make. And while it would appear that Uniloc has a tough uphill battle in attempting to reclaim its original $388 million verdict, Davis points out that the patent status on its intellectual property remains unchanged.
A Texas Judge on Tuesday ordered Microsoft to stop "selling or importing to the United States any Microsoft Word products that have the capability of opening .XML, .DOCX, or .DOCM files (XML files) containing custom XML." The injunction is the result of a complaint filed by Toronto-based i4i alleging Microsoft of violating its 1998 patent (No. 5,787,449) on a method for reading XML.
"We are disappointed by the court's ruling," Microsoft spokesman Kevin Kutz said in a statement. "We believe the evidence clearly demonstrated that we do not infringe and that the i4i patent is invalid. We will appeal the verdict."
The Judge also ordered Microsoft pay i4i $240 million in damages plus court costs and interest. All tallied, the fine is estimated to be more than $290 million.
As it currently stands, the ruling, which applies to Word 2003 and Word 2007, takes effect in 60 days.