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back to article Apple unloads patent suits on Motorola Androids

Apple has hit Motorola with a pair of patent infringement suits less than a month after Motorola attempted to stave off such an attack with a declaratory judgment action. Late Friday, Steve Jobs and company unloaded suits against Motorola Inc. and Motorola Mobility Inc. in the Wisconsin Western District Court, as first reported …

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Unhappy

Status

"Method and Apparatus for Displaying and Accessing Control and Status Information in a Computer System"

Does this mean I can't check my Facebook status anymore?

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Troll

Sure you can..

Yes you can as long as it's on iKool-Aid device.

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You don't understand patentese

No.

"Method and Apparatus for blaah" does not mean you cannot do blaah. It just means that you cannot do it in the way that they have specified in their patent.

For example, if they patented accessing the info by shaking the device, then accessing the info by biting the device would still be fine - so long as you don't shake it.

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Silver badge

I look forward to.....

,,,,,,,seeing the same type of comments here that dominated this thread:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/10/29/microsoft_royalty_tactic/

After all if MS is a big bad wolf because of "patent waving" what does one say about Apple? I should say btw that I am perfectly well aware that the pursuit of patent actions is very often legalised bullying by the company with the deepest pockets rather than a response to a genuine infringement. It does however appear to be a very widespread and damaging practice (pursued by _many_, usually large, companies) and it might be an idea to discuss _that_ issue rather than commenting as if one were supporting/attacking ones favourite/most hated football team in the fashion that we see all too often in response to a news article of this kind.

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Jobs Halo

Wrong target

I think if you read the story again, you'll find that Motorola filed against Apple first. I don't think Apple have pro-actively sued anyone with a touchscreen device.

"none of the six were mentioned in the suits Motorola filed against Apple on October 6"

Motorola fired first, companies with large IP portfolios normally follow this course. Sorry if this does not fit you Apple = Microsoft agenda.

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Anonymous Coward

Agreed

But MS's action is perceived as attacking Open Source and holy cripoes that's a sacred cow these days, and the solution to all IT problems. And low betide anyone who dares to differ ;-))

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Badgers

Dares to differ?

Damned right! Open source of closed...it doesn't matter. To consumers - as well as a great many businesses - what matters is that it works. Preferably that it works without breaking the bank. (What good is something that works if you can't afford it?) Similarly, it has to work in a user-friendly and easy to understand way, because absolutely nobody wants to spend money on IT bodies. (We're a black-hole cost-center, don'tchaknow.)

I posit that no programming model, licensing model, form factor, UI, company, business model, individual personal charm or /anything else/ is a sacred cow. Everything and everyone are only worth what they can accomplish. (Though I will accept that sentient beings have a base rate value and a minimum level of respect and rights attendant to that concept regardless of external circumstances such as education, wealth, experience or other mitigating factors.)

If open source won’t do the job, then it has no value. If Apple is too locked down, then it gets left by the wayside. If Microsoft is charging to much for CALs and integration and secondary products required to make it work, then you ditch ‘em. Nothing is sacred anymore…it’s a big wild world out there and if you want my money then you had damned well better prove to me why your widget/software/wetware is better than how I do things now. If you can’t do that beyond some steaming turd like “the philosophy behind the programming/licensing model/what we feed the programmer’s bet chinchilla is superior to our competition” then don’t waste my time.

Be better adapted to your environment than the competition or else just go home.

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FAIL

@Wrong target.......... Indeed, Mrs Arctic Fox's little boy does not have an agenda.

My point should have been obvious and the MS/Apple counterpoint was primarily illustrative - I do not have in that sense an "agenda". I do not share the childish fanboi/hater obsessions with either MS or Apple that some people appear to suffer from. Apart from anything else I wrote in fact:

"........It does however appear to be a very widespread and damaging practice (pursued by _many_, usually large, companies)......."

May I ask what part of that you had reading difficulties with?

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@dares to differ

Success and prosperity do indeed properly belong to the provider of the best mousetrap. No argument there. What happens, though, when you've created just that and your ability to make anything of it gets mired in this morass of patent threats and litigation from anyone who ever managed to get an idea it its noggin that half-assed vaguely resembles your mousetrap and then managed to push it through the USPTO or equivalent? Particularly if said anyone hasn't done much with the idea but wait, like a spider at the center of its orb, for you, hapless innovator, to get entangled in it? True, Apple and the like don't really qualify for the sobriquet patent troll, but they're getting more and more caught up in that spirit, it seems, and when the target is also big and pockets deep, it turns into a wasteful, resource-draining contest.

The patent "landscape," as Sir Steven of Cupertino likes to call it, looks more and more like a war zone, with competing interests increasingly likely to find their inventive minds provoking suits instead of sales. That can only work to the detriment of--whom?--everyone except the attorneys, really, though most definitely it's the ultimate consumer who pays, because of the costs of the wars inflating product prices and the rate of innovation suffering while lawyers and courts haggle over who has the right to exploit one or another part of it at one time or other.

Like the article says, two of these patents are for something that's pretty basic. You can argue, maybe, whether or not those can be called frivolous, but either way, they hurt.

It's no secret that in a more relaxed world with less obsession with patents, innovation benefits just about everyone who doesn't affix Esq. after their name, and that includes those who might have the right to enforce a patent but instead, depending on the particulars, choose to let the benefits of the idea permeate the sector and the market. It's hard to prove directly, but it's better than arguable that not enforcing a patent often can ultimately be of more bottom-line benefit to the patent-holder than enforcing it.

M$ gets such bad ink because it has such a long and aggressive history of seeking hegemony everywhere it can. They're not by any means the only ones, but they are the ones that Jobs seems increasingly eager to match. Patents are weapons of hegemony; hence their appeal to that kind of mindset. It's hard to say where the minds of others are, if their patent suits at one time or other might not be more preemptive than seeking real damages.

Patents suck. Again I recommend http://patentabsurdity.com*

(*Beyond the content, a nice demonstration of the Theora codec)

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Linux

Beat you to it.

> After all if MS is a big bad wolf because of "patent waving"

> what does one say about Apple?

Where have you been? Some of us have been calling Apple the new Microsoft for quite some time now. All that remains now is to see if Microsoft has become completely toothless and will Apple become the new monopoly?

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Coat

So...

Any reason that we're still using CUPS (which was "donated" by Apple) instead of going back to LPD, knowing that they'll bite us anytime for using /their/ CUPS without a license?

Coat. I'd like to put out the joke icon, but then I thought about it over and realized that the danger is indeed very real.

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Anonymous Coward

CUPS

It was very kind of Apple to donate software that was already under GPL.

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WTF?

"We like competition as long as they don’t rip off our IP ..." Pot to kettles

I guess Apple has conveniently that the Mac started off with stolen goods from Xerox. And Jobs was there. Ang they have regularly done so ever since.

The whole American patent system is screwed up an needs fixing.

Funny how the US has time to work on a world agreement for Copyright, for Hollywood, but not for Patents, which is far more important than all this Hollywood bull.

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Thumb Up

@JaitcH Patent "protection".

I think that the difference here is that with regard to Copyright all the big boys in Hollywood have a common interest in protecting their products outside the US. With regard to patent protection _within_ the US it has never been in the interests of the big boys within US industry to have a patent system that largely excludes vexatious litigation and ensures that it does not cost a small company its financial life to defend itself in court. For the Microsofts, Apples etc of this world the current system is perfect. They can scare the shit out of any small to medium sized company by accusing them of breach of patent or, contrariwise, rip off one of their patents whenever they feel like it safe in the knowledge that very few such companies will dare defend themselves since that would very often mean risking total ruin. It is of course a well known tactic against a small company that has been subjected to a genuine infringement to counter-sue alleging (usually largely falsely) that _they_ are the ones who have infringed. The intended message is of course "fuck with us and your company will end up sleeping with the fishes" (if I may be permitted to recycle a rather well known quote!).

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Apple and Xerox

Apple gave Xerox an undisclosed amount of stock for a tour of the research facility. And a lot of GUI concepts you use today (on Windows or Linux, I'm guessing you wouldn't use a Mac) came from the Mac team. Some of whom worked for Xerox because their talent wasn't going to be used in any meaningful way there.

This is a good article from someone there at the time and fairly brief:

http://folklore.org/StoryView.py?project=Macintosh&story=On_Xerox,_Apple_and_Progress.txt

I'm not saying Apple are Saints and I agree largely with you on the principle that the patent system needs fixing. But this “Apple stole from Xerox” thing doesn't give nearly enough credit to the people who worked on it at the time.

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Anonymous Coward

Incredible patents

If these patents are found to be too loose to be applied the patent holder should have to pay the party(ies) they sued the amount of damages they went after, all court costs, and the patent should be revoked.

There really needs to be an end to this bs and the US Patent system is largely too blame. It's a shame they can't be held accountable for granting so many weak patents.

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Bigger piles

Motorola are bound to own far more patents necessary to making a modern phone or even electronic device then Apple will do. They are going to be on a hiding to nothing here.

If all these patents were enforced then Motorola might loose the multitouch interface, Apple would be reduced to sliding a few pips up and down strings.

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Joke

@Dazed and Confused

"If all these patents were enforced then Motorola might loose the multitouch interface, Apple would be reduced to sliding a few pips up and down strings."

Sorry, I almost choked over my coffee at the image of a certain gentleman being reduced to calling a press conference to tell everyone how wonderful the new iAbacus is!

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Joke

@Arctic fox

Our client, the Sumerian Empire, would like to point out that they have relevant patents granted on "the use of beads and wires forming a counting frame to aid mathematical processes", which has become known over time as the "abacus".

We take a very dim view of your incitement of Apple to infringe on our clients patents and would ask you to cease and desist forthwith.

Your Sincerely,

Messrs Sue, Grabbitt and Runne, Solicitors and Commisioners for Oaths.

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Say hello to my leetle friend!

... Prior art

http://www.billbuxton.com/multitouchOverview.html

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Silver badge

Prior art

Whether or not there is prior art depends very much on the claims of the patent.

If Apple is claiming to own the idea of multi-touch, then there would appear to be prior art.

If, however, Apple is patenting a Method and Apparatus for doing multi-touch then that's a completely different matter. Their way of achieving multi-touch might in fact be novel. They would not be able to pursue multi-touchers in general, just multi-touchers doing it *their way*.

Fer instance, I have a patent for herding animals via GPS. People have been herding sheep by hand or with dogs for thousands of years and may continue to do so. My patent only covers using GPS (or equivalent) to do this.

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Re: Prior art

Even more than that, it might be the /use/ of multi-touch that they've patented (which, from the patent titles, seems likely).

You've patented "herding animals via GPS", but you can then also patent "herding sheep via GPS", etc., and decide which and how many of your patents someone has infringed upon.

My usual disgust for these things comes with how long a patent holder takes to decide they have been infringed (although, that's not relevant with this case as they were in talks), and how daft the "use" they've patented is - a computer is merely a way of taking input and giving output, while I can understand novel ways of taking input, how can anyone patent the type of output (in this case, apparently, status of the hardware is one)?

I also hate when companies say they're "grieved" or "suffered damages" and don't have to prove that any so-called "infringement" actually had an affect on them...

Not pro either company, just anti-stupid-patents.

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Silver badge

"herding animals via GPS"

If there is a valid patent for "herding animals via GPS" then herding sheep falls under the category of obvious in the strict patent sense.

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Boffin

Prior art

Prior art on use of multitouch, all well and good:

First response, minority report, which if I recall correctly the producers went to Microsoft to ask about how people will interact with computers in the future.

Second response, you can't really sue a company for something a user does with your hardware.

Third, Microsoft has the useful patents in this area.

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Jobs Horns

This is so FUBAR

1. Motorola should have no trouble finding "prior art" to invalidate the patents; if they don't then they are either incompetent or the legal and patent systems are more bent than most people realise.

2. Software patents are ridiculous, because they are based on ideas.

3. IP is BS, as shown at http://www. ises.org

Basically, FUBAR

We need a Jobs Demon icon, now, given Apple seems to be getting evil faster than Microsoft now!

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WTF?

"We need a Jobs Demon icon, now"

...? You mean, like the one you used?

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Anonymous Coward

Isn't Motorolla gonna have a lot of patents of their own?

I would expect Motorolla to have a lot of patents to shoot back with unless they license most of the patents with RAND pricing.

The reason that the are supposed to be limits is because things that are unique ideas in one generation become patently :P obvious in the next.

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Motorolla

Motorolla shot first: "Motorola filed against Apple on October 6"

This is going to be a real tit-for-tat fight; probably ending with them all agreeing to hate each other from a distance, while their lawyers count the dimes.

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Jobs Horns

"We like competition as long as they don’t rip off our IP."

Lawyerspeak for "we don't like competition and we will try to rip them off ASAP"

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Boffin

1960's

Given that IBM developed touch screens in the 1960's, capacitance touch-screens date back to the early 1970's, with multi-touch being developed in the 1980's at Bell Labs, it's hard to fathom how Apple (or anyone) could get much in the way of patents on the concept 20 years later.

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LPF

@Dazed and Confused

Only in the US! those patents dont apply in the rest of the world!

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Nya
Unhappy

Re: JaitcH

Very true, also remember the Ipod, Apple ripped it's GUI off Creative and where are there MP3 players now :( Ok they got a couple hundred mil out of Apple when Apple decided to pay up. But for Apples so called "innovation" or lack of it's a complete joke. They make MS look like saints in business practices.

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Jobs Halo

St. Eve is at the door...

...would you like an Apple?

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g e
Silver badge

No

Absolutely not.

Apple make nothing that I want.

Now march me off to the stake and burn me.

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Motorola first mobile phone?

I think Motorola invented the mobile cellular phone back in the 1970s so will probably own a lot more patents relating to phones than Apple do since Apple are a late entry in the mobile phone world only having a presence in the last few years.

I suspect that as usual this will be settled out of court with joint licensing deals where Motorola agree to license some Apple patents and vise versa with the only winners being the law firms that will be charging $$$$ for doing not very much

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Jobs Horns

apple schmapple

I don't understand how apple can get off claiming rights to touch screen technology. That has been available for years, via software developed by HP and installed on Saber systems back in the 80's.

Apple steals everything, then claims it is their own. Our patent system is pathetic when they allow for patents on things someone else designed/developed.

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FAIL

They are not.

If you took the time to read the patents, you'd know that. Instead you take the easy option and give us your ill-informed opine instead, followed by a missve that has absolutely no meaning.

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WTF?

Microsoft Surface?

I wonder if the Redmond giant filed any patents relating to multi-touch technology when they were developing the Surface? Given the number of companies developing multi-touch screens, it probably wouldn't be too hard to dismiss / invalidate most of Apple's patents on the technology.

Courtesy of Wikipedia ("Multi-touch"):

...however both the function and the term predate the announcement or patent requests. Publication and demonstration using the term Multi-touch by Jefferson Y. Han in 2005 predates these. But Apple did give multi-touch wider exposure through its association with their new product and were the first to introduce multi-touch on a mobile device

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@ I look forward...

Absolutely. In principle, we, the humans, make up the rules that govern those other intelligent entities, the corporations. Having a rule about ownership of IP seems like a good idea in many cases, particularly where such IP is hard to come by (like discovering new drugs) since without ownership, companies wouldn't have a reason to put in the effort to discover them in the first place.

Unfortunately, the existing rules have a lot of unintended side-effects, notably that they can be used to claim ownership of things that already exist or that would have been invented independently very soon anyway. If you're exploring a large space where progress is very costly, it makes sense to give people the territory they discover (for a while). If on the other hand, there is a tidal wave of activity likely to swamp any newly discovered area within a year or two (as in the multi-touch patents), it makes no sense to allow a company to claim ownership and fight others off.

But, unfortunately, the current situation is great for the agents who handle the ownership and defense process, and to some extent it works well for the very big players too. The agents (patent lawyers) have no interest in taking away their source of livelihood, even if they are essentially just parasitic on the real activity of making cool things.

So, in principle, we, the voters could just adjust the laws to make the rules reflect what is economically optimal. Unfortunately, the biggest players like the rules, because they keep competition at bay, and the parasites have got themselves into the rule-adjusting process too - lawyers arguing about laws etc. Geez, I'm almost making myself sympathize with the Tea party.

Various things could improve the situation, like making the patent office pay if they award a patent that is later proved invalid or making the claimant pay if their claim is declared frivolous but these don't really fix the core issue that as a society it isn't very sensible of us to impose a notion of single ownership around things that multiple entities are likely to invent independently at relatively modest cost. The tricky thing, of course, is knowing whether someone else is likely to invent something. Having a look to see if it has been done already would be a good guide, but even this appears to be beyond the patent' office's remit.

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@I look forward (201011010542)

The patents that have real merit are, in general, what I call "hard" patents, patents on stuff you can see and touch, such as the drugs you mention, or the patents on the telephone, or K.C. Gilette's patent on the double-edged razor blade, or the patentee of the brassiere who earned the gratitude of a generation of young ladies who could toss out their whalebone corsets.

Correct me if I'm wrong, please, but my recollection of such patents is that they require some tangible proof that the patent filing wasn't merely the product of a bit of musing under a tree in the park, but that some actual, visible work has been done on the product.

Software patents, and their even more ridiculous cousins, business-model patents (are they real?) seem to depend only on how cleverly you can package simple ideas in complex packages consisting of impressive titles and even more impressively obfuscatory descriptive claims. You can almost see reviewers' eyes glaze over when they read "Method and Intelligence for Commerce-Oriented Human-to-Merchandise-Container Interface Employing Digital Techniques on Both Sides of Interface to Effect Reliable Commercial Exchanges of Merchandise and Corresponding Remuneration" and fail to realize that it's the logic in a vending machine and the "digital techniques" on one side mean fingers and there's prior art going back to Hero for it.

One problem with patents like those in this article is that they undermine the respect for and credibility of the ones that really have merit to them, including, I suppose, a small number of software patents. It's these damn-fool patents on every clever (or not-so-clever) idea that makes everyone scared to put their ideas into practice for fear someone else patented them last month.

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FAIL

this sort of behaviour...

..is obnoxious and bullying.

nope, I'm afraid that this sort of activity holds back and stifles developent - and is pretty anti-competitive.

I wont be buying an Apple iDevice now (though really I'd already made that decision when they

started bad mouthing Java and started to show off their latest walled-garden App store for OSX)

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FAIL

RE: this sort of behaviour...

"I wont be buying an Apple iDevice now (though really I'd already made that decision when they

started bad mouthing Java..."

Except that if you'd been reading El Reg, you would have seen that just a few days before that, Java rose to be in the top 2 pieces of software most likely to make your machine vulnerable to hackers. What else was in the top 2? Adobe products. So Jobs turns out to have been right about those two (and maybe the future will show that he's been right about a few other things too ;)

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Wood for the trees

More of the same old same old - the above comments that is. (Even down the tired old saw that Apple stole the ideas from Xerox.)

It isn't about the individual patents. Never was. It is about membership to the phone club. Apple want to join, Motorola/Nokia etc etc don't want Apple in. Nobody seriously expects these suits to reach a court judgement that results in anyone having to pull products. This is sabre rattling to allow Apple to join the cross licensing club. It has been playing out all year, and this is just another shot across the bows by both sides to see who blinks. Neither side did, and it will go on.

About the only thing we on the sidelines can hope for is that someone will slip up and we might get a taste of software patent armageddon. That is the only thing that will get some sense into the legislators. On the other hand, the spectre of these huge companies slugging it out over these patents might make legislators in countries other then the USA take a bit more notice of the inherent dangers in software patents. It should become manifestly clear that only very very large corporations and patent trolls are advantaged by the system, and that perfectly honest middle sized players can only ever get hurt.

That is the difference to when MS plays patents. They go out to hurt the middle sized and small guys by intent. What we see now is a war, not a mugging. It plays out very differently with different rules and goals.

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