February 2012

February 21, 2012, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles – Apple has recently won a ruling against Motorola Mobility in Munich in a patent infringement dispute over the ‘slide-to-unlock’ feature for smartphones. This judgment marks Apple’s first patent victory in history and could potentially see Motorola’s smartphones running Google’s Android operating system which are banned for sale in Germany.

As the same patent dispute heats up in other European courts, technology analysts believe that the judge’s ruling could potentially affect patent disputes involving Android device makers globally.

Apple first introduced the ‘slide-to-unlock’ system on the iPhone in 2007, which controls how to make the touch screen active. The court ruled that two devices manufactured by Motorola Mobility that use the Android software infringe Apple’s technology because they are both unlocked by sliding an icon (of a padlock) across the screen to activate it.

Regarding the judge’s decision, Motorola says that it plans to appeal the verdict and that it would have no impact on future sales. “Today’s ruling in the patent litigation brought by Apple in Munich, Germany, concerns a software feature related to phone unlocking in select Motorola devices sold in Germany. Motorola has implemented a new design for the feature. Therefore, we expect no impact on current supply or future sales,” stated a spokesperson for Motorola.

The court’s announcement is the latest in an ongoing patent infringement battle between Apple and a number of Android handset makers, including Samsung and HTC. In those disputes, Apple is claiming that its competitors are infringing patents it holds on functions embedded into the chip technology of the iPhone. Apple currently has a lawsuit in German courts asserting the same patent against Samsung, the biggest manufacturer of Android handsets.

The latest verdict will further heat things up between Apple and Google. Google has received almost all of the formal approvals it needs to complete its $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility, and most of its handsets operate from the search firm’s Android mobile operating system.

The patent at issue in this case, EP1964022, involves the process of unlocking a smartphone by simply swiping a finger from one end of the screen to another. A second patent ruling relating to a method for scrolling through pictures on a mobile device’s photo gallery, was postponed by the court.

February 10, 2012, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles – Honeywell has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Nest Labs, Inc. in a United States District Court in Minnesota. The lawsuit is alleging the infringement of seven Honeywell patents relating to its thermostat technology. Honeywell is a leading manufacturer of safety, security, and energy technologies.

The allegedly infringed patents involve simplified methods for operating and programming a thermostat including the use of a natural language, user interfaces that facilitate programming and energy savings, a thermostat’s inner design, an electric circuit used to divert power from the user’s home electrical system to provide power to a thermostat, and controlling a thermostat with information stored in a remote location.
In addition to Nest Labs, Honeywell’s patent infringement lawsuit also names Best Buy, which sells the Nest Labs thermostat, and is seeking an injunction from the two defendants from using its patented technology in addition to recovery monetary damages. This lawsuit comes on the heels of recent patent litigation initiated by Honeywell accusing Venstar Inc. and ICM Controls of infringing its thermostat and combustion controls technologies.

“Competition is good and we welcome it, but we will not stand by while competitors, large or small, offer products that infringe on our intellectual property,” stated Beth Wozniak, president, Honeywell Environmental and Combustion Controls. She added, “From our iconic ’round thermostat’ to the first programmable and simple-to-use touch screen thermostats, Honeywell is known for setting the standard in home comfort and energy efficiency. We are focused on upholding the integrity of the hard work and development our company has put into its home comfort and residential control technologies.”
The Honeywell complaint raises many questions for the home energy management industry as a whole. The patents that Nest allegedly infringed include a set of functions and features that are widely used by competing companies and partnerships in the industry.

Nest Labs is a startup company founded in 2010 by Tony Fadell, the former Senior Vice President of the iPod division at Apple Inc. The company manufacturers the Nest Learning Thermostat, which requires no continual programming or constant changing of the temperature. The thermostat automatically programs itself in a week to keep users in a comfortable temperature while saving energy.

February 1, 2012, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles – HTC Corp., the world’s largest manufacturer of mobile devices running off of Google’s Android operating system, is embroiled in an ongoing patent infringement battle with IPCom GmbH in a U.S. court.

A recent ruling from the court of appeals said that a 2010 decision by a lower court judge to invalidate an IPCom patent that the company was using in a patent infringement dispute against HTC was wrong. According to the ruling posted on the website for the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, the lawsuit is being sent back to a federal judge who can consider additional arguments on the patent’s validity. The arguments concern mobile-device base stations. Apparently, the federal court is considering dismissing HTC’s motion for summary judgment to have the patent invalidated because it said the lower court misconstrued HTC’s claims, which only considered the apparatus but not the methodology.

This all began when HTC sued IPCom in 2008 and sought a declaration that it did not infringe a valid and enforceable claim of IPCom’s ’830 patent. IPCom filed a counterclaim and in addition to the ’830 patent, it alleged infringement of two additional patents. The ’830 patent at issue involves technology that provides a way to maintain service as a mobile phone moves from one coverage area to another.

IPCom is seeking royalties from a portfolio of mobile device-related patents that it had acquired in 2007 from Robert Bosch GmbH, the world’s largest supplier of automobile components. IPCom purchased the family of patents after Bosch failed to reach a licensing agreement with Nokia in 2003.

In addition to its patent infringement claims against HTC, IPCom has sued various German retail outlets that sell HTC’s Android-based 3G mobile phones.

HTC was founded in 1997 by Cher Wang, HT Cho, and Peter Chou. Initially established as a notebook computer manufacturer, the company soon began designing and engineering some of the world’s first touch and wireless hand-held devices. HTC’s smartphones were initially based on Microsoft’s Windows operating system software, but eventually shifted its core focus in 2009 to making Android OS-based devices.