Apple

January 9, 2014, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles – A recent patent application filed by Apple has people gearing up more than ever for the iPhone 6.   Entitled “Voice-Based Image Tagging and Searching,” the application seeks protection over technology that would let users tag and organize photos by speaking.  While iPhones have been able to sort photos by the time and location they were taken since the launch of iOS 7 in the fall of 2013, this patent takes it a step further.

The filing details how Apple users can tag photos using whatever “natural language” they want, including by naming the place, person or occasion featured.  The phone will then organize the photos based on the tags and store them in a database that is searchable by Siri.  Thus, users can easily save and recall photos in their growing photo libraries all by voice command.

The patent adds to a series of what are widely believed to be filings dedicated to technology for the next generation of iPhones.  In the past year, Apple has filed patents that reveal plans to implement a heart rate monitor into its devices and to expand the screen size.  The company has also fueled rumors of its plans to use flexible glass in its new displays and possibly add more biometric security features.

Given the ever-increasing competition between Apple and its chief rival, Samsung, Apple has also made recent attempts to file patents to differentiate the two brands’ devices.  Chief among this is one that looks to improve the hovering recognition technology already implemented in Samsung’s Galaxy S4.  While Samsung beat Apple to the punch in equipping its devices with the ability to allow users to hover their fingers over the screen to display additional information or to preview a link on a website,  Apple’s recent patent builds on this technology and streamlines the process of hover recognition.  In comparing Apple’s hover gesture patent with the hover technology already featured in some Samsung devices, commentators have noted that the Apple filing seems to shore up several problems that the Samsung products have had in differentiating the hover gesture from a traditional touch.

Though the next iPhone, already being called the iPhone 6, has no official release date, it is almost certain to make its debut in 2014.  With regard to what the official name of the new device will be, many have suggested that Apple might divert from its numerical naming system as it did with the recent iPad Air (chosen in lieu of iPad 5).  No matter what it ends up being called, with the flurry of patents packing it with new and exciting technology, the next iPhone is certain to impress.

October 22, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles – Apple scored a huge break this week as the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) changed its mind and confirmed the patentability of a sought-after patent now dubbed the “Steve Jobs Patent.”  The ruling came almost a year after the PTO initially rejected all twenty of the cited claims.   After months of reconsidering, however, it finally stated this week that, “No amendments have been made to the patent.  As a result of the re-examination, it has been determined that the patentability of claims 1-20 is confirmed.”

The patent at issue is for the multi-touch technology implemented in Apple’s touch screen devices, such as the iPad and iPhone.  It is formally named “Touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics.”  However, due to the fact that it lists Steve Jobs as its lead inventor, it has come to be known simply as the “Steve Jobs Patent.”  The claims, while relatively technical in language, all generally have to do with the scrolling features of Apple touch screen devices.

The recent ruling based on the USPTO’s reconsideration found that the prior inventions and technologies invented before this patent neither anticipated the Steve Jobs Patent’s claims nor rendered them obvious.  As such, all twenty claims were given the green light as patentable subject matter.  This gives Apple a major boost in its fending off of Samsung and Google, the three of which have been battling over patents for years.

With the patent now confirmed, the Cupertino based company has made it much more difficult for its competitors, who will have to work around the claims in order to avoid infringement.  The situation is complicated further by the fact that this is one of two patents that Apple previously accused Samsung of infringing, which led to a US import ban on some Samsung devices.  In light of the new finding by the PTO, Samsung will have to make sure to steer even more clear of all of the claims mentioned in the Apple patent.  Given the tense war that has sprung up between the tech giants, Apple supporters have begun to theorize that the aptly named “Steve Jobs Patent” is the company’s late founder’s final way of making sure that Apple wins out.

Los Angeles – Once again, Apple Inc. is the target a patent infringement lawsuit concerning its FaceTime app.  The Plaintiff is National Cheng Kung University in Tainan City, Taiwan.  The claim is based on U.S. Patent No. 7,561,078, issued in 2009, which relates to a system “for compressing a video data set” that provides a “coding strategy with parameter searching” which optimizes performance.  National Cheng Kung University believes that FaceTime, among other similar applications, is an infringement.

Apple’s  FaceTime is a downloadable software application for iOS devices such as iPhones, iPads and Macs which allow users to videoconference through a built in camera on the device.  According to National Cheng Kung University, FaceTime uses “block-oriented motion compensation video compression” which infringes on its patent.

This is not the first time that Apple has been accused of patent infringement regarding FaceTime.  Last year Apple lost out in a long and drawn-out lawsuit filed in Texas by VirnetX Holding Corporation and was ordered to pay $368 million in damages related to patent infringement.  Apple also lost its attempts to appeal the verdict and have the judgment reduced.  Then VirnetX came after Apple again hitting it with another lawsuit citing the same patents, but targeting Apple’s newest product models.

This also is not the only patent infringement lawsuit that National Cheng Kung University has filed against Apple.  In another case also filed in Texas federal court, the charges against Apple concern the voice-recognition software application it developed called Siri.  Siri, also designed for iPhones, iPads and Macs, acts as an intelligent personal assistant.

Apple has been no stranger to litigation since its inception by Steve Jobs who established the company in Cupertino, California in 1976.  Most of the court battles involve either protecting or defending the company’s Intellectual Property rights.  The most notable of the recent cases is an ongoing patent battle with Samsung.  Also, for 30+ years Apple has had continual trademark disputes with Apple Corps, founded by the Beatles rock group.

National Cheng Kung University currently owns over 100 different patents registered in the United States.

March 5, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles – A Texas federal judge upheld a $368 million patent infringement judgment against Apple Inc. last week, but the judge refused to issue an injunction against Apple over the FaceTime app that would have prevented Apple from offering its video chat product on the market.

In November, a Texas jury found that Apple had infringed four patents owned by VirnetX Holding Corp. with its FaceTime application that is available for use on various Apple products, including the iPad and iPhone.

After the $368 million judgment against Apple in November, the technology giant filed several post-trial motions attempting to eliminate or reduce the verdict against it, which U.S. District Judge Leonard Davis denied.  The judge also ordered Apple to pay pre- and post-judgment interest to VirnetX, though he denied VirnetX’s request for attorney’s fees.

Judge Davis, however, rejected VirnetX’s bid for a permanent injunction that would prevent Apple from providing the popular videotelephony software application on its various devices.  As the app is already on millions of phones and tablets, Judge Davis said an injunction would be too drastic, resulting in unnecessary inconvenience and expense.

“The most recent estimates project the cost [for Apple] to comply at $50.8 million,” the judge said.  “Additionally, though VirnetX only seeks to enjoin the use of the infringing feature and not the entire devices, an injunction would not only harm Apple, but also its customers and other third parties.”

However, Judge Davis did order the two companies into mediation to determine a fair royalty rate that Apple will pay in order to use the technology in its products.

VirnetX originally filed the lawsuit against Apple in August 2010, alleging that Apple was infringing four patents.  The FaceTime app allows users to make video calls to others who also have Apple products with FaceTime.

VirnetX said in a statement that it was pleased with the judge’s decision to uphold the ruling against Apple and said that it would drop the related lawsuit it filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission and pursue relief through the federal courts.

February 1, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles – A U.S. District Judge denied Apple’s bid to increase the $1.05 billion in damages the company was awarded against Samsung by a San Francisco jury in the companies’ ongoing patent war.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Francisco said that Apple had not provided sufficient evidence to prove Samsung’s infringement was willful and therefore denied Apple’s bid for treble damages.

The decision was one of many post-trial rulings Judge Koh issued Tuesday.  She also denied both companies’ requests for a new trial, which were based on parts of the verdict that were adverse to each company’s interests.  Judge Koh said that after reviewing the trial, she did not find error in the decision and upheld the jury’s verdict.

Judge Koh also denied Samsung’s request that the damages be reduced.  The San Fransico jury awarded Apple $1.05 billion to compensate Apple for losses caused from Samsung’s patent infringement.  The jury awarded the damages after determining that Samsung infringed six of Apple’s patents by using the protected technology in 26 models of smartphones and tablets without license from Apple.

Samsung claimed that the jury was not provided with a verdict form that was particular enough to allow it to properly calculate damages on a product-by-product basis.  The company claimed that if the damages were properly calculated, the verdict would be reduced by more than $600 million.

Another argument Samsung offered for reducing the damages was its claim that Apple’s patents should never have been granted because the language was too vague and did not accurately describe the technology covered by the patents.

Judge Koh rejected both arguments and did not provide much detail on why she was upholding the amount of the verdict, particularly when she had said in a hearing on December 6th that the original award was not “authorized by the law” and that the jury’s approach to calculating the damages was likely faulty.

In Tuesday’s decision, Judge Koh said that the court would not speculate on how the jury determined the damages awarded, but claimed that it was reasonable to assume the jury calculated the damages in order to compensate Apple for any losses it suffered due to Samsung’s infringement of Apple’s patents.

Despite Judge Koh’s ruling, it is likely the case is far from over, as at least one of the companies will likely appeal the decision.

January 3, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles – The United States Patent and Trademark Office said in a preliminary ruling that one of Apple Inc.’s touch-related patents, a patent that played a large role in securing Apple over $1 billion in damages from Samsung Electronics,  should never have been granted.

After reexamination of the patent application by the USPTO, the agency rejected all of Apple’s 26 claims in its pinch-to-zoom patent on Wednesday.  The patent in question, patent No. 7,844,915, covers software that differentiates between single-touch and multitouch motions.  The software allows the smartphone to differentiate between scrolling and gesturing commands.

According to a document issued by the USPTO, which Samsung filed with the federal court in San Francisco on Wednesday, several portions of the patent were discarded based on findings that prior patents owned by Apple protect the same technology.  Patents are only valid if the invention is novel considering all prior art.  According to the USPTO’s report, Apple’s pinch-to-zoom patent does not live up to this standard.

Apple is expected to appeal this preliminary ruling.  The USPTO often rejects patents, only to reinstate them later, so the patent may still be held valid.  However, if the decision does hold, the rejection of the patent will have lasting consequences for Apple.  Since Apple claimed that its pinch-to-zoom patent was one of its most commercially valuable patents, demanding a $3.10 per unit royalty from Samsung for any future use of the patented technology, it could have a large impact on the verdict Apple received in August.

Samsung is already claiming that this new action from the USPTO supports its bid for a new trial, which Samsung is requesting as an attempt to reduce the $1.05 billion in damages that a San Francisco jury awarded Apple.

The pinch-to-zoom patent is only one of six of Apple’s patents that Samsung was found to be infringing during the companies’ patent trial.  However, due to Apple’s claims of the commercial importance of the patent, it could prove grounds for retrial, though it is more likely that the verdict will just be reduced.

This is the second patent related to the Samsung case that has been struck down by the USPTO since the August decision.  In October, the USPTO rejected Apple’s patent for the feature that makes pages bounce when a user swipes a finger from the top to the bottom of the touch screen.

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