back to article Troll sues Apple for daring to plug headphones into iPhone

A patent hoarding firm is suing Apple for $3m for allegedly ripping off a protected design that describes plugging headphones into a mobile phone. Intelligent Smart Phone Concepts, a Delaware company with no web presence, launched its legal action against iPhone-maker Apple in California. ISPC has demanded damages for the …

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  1. Arachnoid

    Sounds like a repeat of the site name holding carpet baggers of the past

  2. nsld
    Facepalm

    I am sure

    I had plug in headsets like that on my mobile phone well before it was "invented".

    How did this get approved?

    1. tmTM

      US Patient Office

      Where they employ those too stupid to work at the DMV

      1. MarkA

        Re: US Patient Office

        Nay nay.

        People too stupid to work at the DMV get jobs in McDonalds. People too stupid to work there go to BK. Too stupid for the King and they go to Wendy's. Too stupid for square burgers and they work for the TSA. Only those too stupid to fondle weary travelers get to the dizzy depths of the USPTO.

        The USPS is probably in there somewhere.

        1. Androgynous Crackwhore
          Thumb Up

          Re: US Patient Office

          >The USPS is probably in there somewhere.

          Right between Wendy's and the TSA: It's legally bound to employ all the stupid people it can find.

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: US Outpatient Office

          People too stupid to work there go to BK

          Despite that, I find BK burgers less unpalatable than McD's

          1. TheRealRoland
            Happy

            Re: US Outpatient Office

            @stoneshop - i find that this varies per country... and per airport ;-)

            In the US i drink Pepsi; in the Netherlands i drink Coke... tastes more like the Pepsi from the US over there ;-)

            McKroket - hmmmm....

        3. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
          Facepalm

          Re: US Patient Office

          See http://www.freepatentsonline.com/crazy.html for "patents" granted by the UStupPidTO, there are some gems in there including there:-

          Patent Trolling Application - by Halliburton

          Apparatus for facilitating the birth of a child by centrifugal force

          Anti-Eating Mouth Cage

          Electrified table cloth

          Method of exercising a cat (with a laser pointer)

          Motorized ice cream cone

          Mug incorporating a simulated artificial horizon

          Stud Spectacles - Eyeglasses that don't need a frame because they attach to body piercings on the face!!!

          Device For Moistening The Adhesive Coating On Postage Stamps and Envelopes - "The applicator may be in the form of a human tongue" - Wow, I wish I'd thought of that!!!!

          and my fav.....

          Dog Nose Art - Dog nose smudges as art.....

          1. Andrew Moore

            Re: US Patient Office

            You forgot: Crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Facepalm

            Re: US Patient Office

            "Stud Spectacles - Eyeglasses that don't need a frame because they attach to body piercings on the face!!!"

            Hey, that's actually pretty cool. And if they came up with a novel design for the attachment points, could well be worth a patent.

            Face smack, for the pain when your son accidentally kicks your glasses off and rips out your body piercings...

            1. Nuke
              Boffin

              @David W - Re: US Patient Office

              Yes, I thought the spectacles attached with face studs the only one there worth a patent. I must admit it was not "obvious". Perhaps because it is so bizzare, and yet it might actally be useful.

          3. ravenviz

            Re: US Patient Office

            I love the way that list just fades out, most effective!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: US Patient Office

        Which is more of a stupid patent, plugging headphones into a mobile phone, or patenting a rectangle with rounded corners? The really big mistake that this company made was only asking for 3 mil. They should have gone for 1 billion plus. Using patents like these against other companies is nothing but legalized extortion.

    2. MrXavia
      Facepalm

      Re: I am sure

      Same here, my first Nokia phone came with one... that was in 1997 i think

    3. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: I am sure

      Never mind that, even the iPhone had plug in headsets like that before it was "invented".

      iPhone was released in 2007, and would have been in development for some time before that. This patent was granted in 2008.

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: I am sure

        Shame it was filed in March 2002, which is the important date. Still doesn't detract from the vast swathes of phones that pre-date this that came with a 3.5mm jack plugged headset & mic combo, though. Can't see how this will succeed apart from if Apple's reasoning is along the lines of "it'll cost us more than $3m to get the patent sunk, so we may as well pay".

        1. Whitter

          Re: I am sure

          It won't really cost Apple anything to contest the patent: they can show "blitheringly obvious" prior art pre-trial; if they then win in a full trial, they'll then claim and get costs.

          Of course they don't really have costs in the same way a small company do: they have specialist IP laywers on staff, so its just what they do in their 9-to-5. Perhaps it might stop them suing somebody else for a week though...

          1. Mostly_Harmless Silver badge

            Re: I am sure

            "It won't really cost Apple anything to contest the patent: they can show "blitheringly obvious" prior art pre-trial; if they then win in a full trial, they'll then claim and get costs."

            Makes a change from hounding other manufacturers, claiming patent infringement on blitheringly obvious details

        2. Number6

          Re: I am sure

          It's a short-sighted approach from Apple (and others). This one costs less than $3m to settle, but the trolls will come back with another little one a bit later. It's like paying the Danegeld, they'll come back for more each time.

          Investing the money to try to bankrupt the troll in legal fees in a court case might be more cost-effective in the longer term.

          1. Nigel 11
            FAIL

            Kipling knew better

            We never pay any-one Dane-geld, // No matter how trifling the cost; // For the end of that game is oppression and shame, // And the nation that pays it is lost!

            For nation read company, for Dane read troll (didn't trolls come from Denmark anyway? )

            the whole poem is worth reading http://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/dane_geld.html

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge

              Re: Kipling knew better

              for Dane read troll (didn't trolls come from Denmark anyway? )

              Trolls (the smelly, living-under-bridges type) originate from Norway.

              Danegeld is a sort-of tax levied by the Vikings as a way to not have your village raped and your women pillaged.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Kipling knew better

                aka. a protection racket, also known to Doug and Dynsdale as the "Other, other operation"

            2. Androgynous Crackwhore
              Terminator

              Re: Kipling knew better

              Hmmmm... sounds suspiciously like Microsoft's Linux "strategy"

    4. Alex.Red
      Paris Hilton

      Re: I am sure

      Same way as rounded corner design and page turns along with slide to unlock and other "great inventions"...

    5. GotThumbs
      Linux

      Re: I am sure

      The patient office staff thought is was Apples patent application. Those are rubber stamped on sight.

      Hey, if Apple can patent a rectangle with round sides...then this is fair game.

      I don't like it, but Apple is a major abuser of the failing system as well.

      Do we need to start a petition demanding the entire restructuring of the US Patent office? How can We start the process to correct what is clearly flawed?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I am sure

        Do we need to start a petition demanding the entire restructuring of the US Patent office? How can We start the process to correct what is clearly flawed?

        C4

  3. nigel 15

    Karma

    Ridiculous obviously. But no more ridiculous than we have become used to.

    1. Ian Yates
      Pint

      Re: Karma

      Rubbish! Just look at the innovation that has gone in to this patent.

      They filed this in 2002, which everyone knows is before "mobile phones" were able to be used to transmit your voice, hence the idea they had to add a microphone to the headphones. Genius!

      Or maybe the innovation that the USPTO care about is being innovative enough to file for a patent that no one else bothered to?

      1. Androgynous Crackwhore
        Thumb Up

        Re: Karma

        Or maybe the innovation that the USPTO care about is being innovative enough to file for a patent that no one else bothered to?

        By Jove, I think he's cracked it!

  4. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

    Apple will reap what they have sown.

    1. Goldmember

      " Apple will reap what they have sown."

      How, exactly? In spite of years of mediocre products, a totalitarian disdain for their sheep/ customers and endless bloody patent lawsuits for 'innovations' they nicked from other companies, they are still the biggest tech firm in the world.

      They've sown a hell of a lot over the years, and have yet to 'reap' even a small percentage of it.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: " Apple will reap what they have sown."

        It must so hurt people like you when Apple continue to pile in the billions for their well-reviewed 'mediocre products'.

  5. Schultz
    WTF?

    Time to remove the I from IP

    No intellect is required for this kind of innovation.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Time to remove the I from IP

      I stands for Idiotic

    2. Androgynous Crackwhore
      Thumb Up

      Re: Time to remove the I from IP

      IP = Idiotic Patent

      Cool! So what's USPTO?

      U Sure Patent The Obvious?

  6. Stefing
    Coat

    "A patent hoarding firm" - the biter, bit!

    1. Miek
      Pint

      One Bitburger coming right up!

  7. localzuk
    Mushroom

    Not gonna win that one

    The patent fails the tests needed. There is prior evidence of this happening, and it is obvious too - headsets exist for walkie talkies, and its not a big leap to move to mobile phones, headsets exist for old walkman devices, and again it isn't a big leap. So, it it is neither original or non-obvious.

    Apple should open fire with all guns here.

    1. Bob Vistakin
      Pint

      Re: Not gonna win that one

      On the contrary - I hope there are shitloads more like this. The constant drip drip drip of pointlessness is eroding away the last remnants of credibility of the patent system as a whole. one day someone will wake up and bring the whole lot down, pointing to assholes like the ones who brought this as the reason for its demise.

    2. Brendan Sullivan
      Holmes

      Re: Not gonna win that one

      More importantly purely in the telephony realm:

      My Nokia from '99 had a headset jack.

      Western Electric (manufacturing arm of the old Bell System) had telephone subsets fitted with headset jacks at least as far back as 1965 and switchboards and call-director sets even earlier.

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Not gonna win that one

      Apple should open fire with all guns here.

      A pea shooter is the heaviest artillery needed for this battle.

    4. hazydave

      Re: Not gonna win that one

      Don't even need the Walkie-talkie example.. the patent actually cites the 2.5mm, 4-pin connector in popular use for phone headphones long before 2002 for cellphone use. The point of their invention seems to be incorporating two different jacks, one for regular phone use, one for "other uses", presumably music or other audio.

      That's still an obvious way to do it, if pretty stupid. The way everyone else actually does it -- use the same headphone jack for audio or phone calls, is a much more intelligent way of solving the same problem, and should not be an issue with this patent, IMHO. Ok, maybe I want to bring back the walkie-talkie specifically, since it's been very common for walkie-talkies and other wireless "push-to-talk" radios to have a double-plug connector, very much like what they're showing, though one is for the headset, the other for the mic plus PTT button. I would claim that if they read on Apple's single 4-pin connector, then they're not different enough from the traditional radio headset connector to keep the patent.

  8. Richard 81

    The heart of the problem

    We all know this, but the heart of the problem is clearly the US patent office. Based on the approved patent, they may well have a case. The problem is that only a moron would have approved it in the first place.

    How the hell do we come back from this state of craziness?

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: The heart of the problem

      Wasn't it Marconi that kicked the whole patent frenzy off?

    2. Whitter

      Re: The heart of the problem

      Part of the US system is a legal undertaking from the inventors to bring all potential prior art they know of to the US patent office's attention duing the application process. Failure to do so is a criminal act. Its always tricky to prove what somebody doesn't know, but sometimes the blitheringly obvious really should try to lock some of these nutters away.

      As to why the USPTO didn't spot the blitheringly obvious - it's all been said before. Not fit for purpose.

      1. Androgynous Crackwhore
        Paris Hilton

        Re: The heart of the problem

        Part of the US system is a legal undertaking from the inventors to bring all potential prior art they know of to the US patent office's attention duing the application process. Failure to do so is a criminal act. Its always tricky to prove what somebody doesn't know, but sometimes the blitheringly obvious really should try to lock some of these nutters away.

        So the stoopider you are, the more stoopid "patents" you're allowed?

        Sounds like a recipe for success.

        So Apple Inc must be extra super ultra stoopid? ..but where does Paris Hilton fit into this?

  9. Fuzz

    2008?

    Not that the iPhone was the first (by a long long long way) but the iPhone itself was released before this patent was granted. How do they expect it to stand up in court?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 2008?

      This is the US craziness of "first to invent". The idea is that you provide proof of when you invented it, and that is the date. This made sense in the early days when someone in Buffalo could have invented the wheel a year before they made it to the patent office through the Indians and the British Army, but not so much nowadays. Corporations loved it because a big corp had the resources in old stocks of lab notebooks and old pens that they could forge records to "prove" something was invented years before filing (I have worked for a US company, I have seen the piles in the stockroom...)

      And then the USPTO gets paid according to grants...and the test of "obviousness" seems to be to show the patent to a chimpanzee and see if it laughs.

      The US is now moving to a "first to file" like the civilised world, but there are still trainloads of bad patents out there.

      Years ago I filed a US patent. A real, genuine patent based on expensive and time consuming research which demonstrated that something believed impossible could actually be done, using ingenious technology. The patent attorney asked me "Is this a real invention?" and when told it was, remarked that he didn't see many of those; in fact, the last one had so impressed him that he had gone in with the inventor.

      1. Zaphod.Beeblebrox
        Boffin

        @ribosome

        Whas the patent ever granted? If so, can you link to the patent #? In either case, what was the invention?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @ribosome

          Yes, but I'm not falling for that one.

      2. hazydave

        Re: 2008?

        That's no really a first-to-invent case... the patent was applied for in 2002, it just took them all this time to have it granted. First to invent lets another guy come along and claim the same patent, even if these guys had already filed. That's going away next year -- in January, we're first-to-file, just like the rest of the world.

        That's actually a much better system, for the simple fact that if there are really that many different folks "inventing" the same thing, it must not be that unique. So someone files, and another guy comes along with proof they invented the patent first. That should invalidate the first guy on prior art, but the second guy also doesn't get the patent. Much better for everyone.

        And yeah, the USPTO is crazy stupid about a bunch of things. They pretty much only search existing US patents for prior art. They don't mandate that examiners "skilled in the art" -- the specific area of the patent -- thus, they grant all kinds of drek that should fail the test of obviousness. Software patents don't even have to include source code anymore, so the actual implementation of the invention -- the thing that really matters (eg, you can patent a specific implementation of an algorithm, but in theory, you can't patent an algorithm) -- isn't included in the patent anymore.

  10. Deadly Headshot
    Facepalm

    2008? Prior art much?

    My 'phone uses an identical design. I got it in 2005. I think my old 'phone (1997ish) had a similar one...

    1. Joseph Lord

      Re: 2008? Prior art much?

      Filed: March 1, 2002 so priority date could be in 2001.

      It still looks like a load of rubbish to me but you need to go with the 1997ish phone rather than the recent one to have useful prior art. Most earlier phones had proprietary headphone connectors so I don't know if they practiced this.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: 2008? Prior art much?

        Filed: March 1, 2002 so priority date could be in 2001.

        From what I can determine the key feature being patented is a physical dual ported audio solution:

        The first port is intended for a typical telephony earpiece and mic combination. The second port is audio out only and was obviously intended to support higher quality audio for radio/music playback - obviously the 'inventors' were thinking along the lines of combining a mobile phone (with it's proprietary I/O interface with a Walkman and it's stereo jack interface, but failed foresee the level of integration that actually occurred. Interestingly, they omit the usage of the audio lead as the aerial for the radio...

        In the context of pre-2001 devices, I suspect that there will be little prior art for this specific combination of audio I/O, similarly for newer devices as it would seem that Sony/Nokia et al all used a single combined high quality audio input/output jack to support all audio (and radio aerial). So my question is whether Apple implemented a single combined port or used two ports on some of it's devices.

        1. Bill Stewart

          Re: 2008? Prior art much? Apple wasn't doing two-plug solution

          I haven't looked at an iPhone 1 in a long time, but I'd be surprised it had a dual plug as shown in the diagram. I've had Nokia phones that had separate jacks for the audio headset and the telephony headset-with-mike, but that's two separate interfaces, not a dual plug. (Also being Nokia, you tended to need a really _special_ snowflake of a connector to do anything at all with it, because the standard connectors everybody else used didn't break often enough or cost as much.)

      2. Whitter

        Re: 2008? Prior art much?

        Simply changing the connector's shape (to a known standard) isn't inventive. It might be clever - but not inventive. And in this case, had been done already anyway.

  11. John70

    USPTO

    How was this ever awarded?

    It's time for Judges to tell patent trolls if they are not using "their invention" they should lose the patent.

    1. thomas k.

      Re: USPTO

      Same should go for copyright - if the work is not made available to purchase, if falls into the public domain.

      Would love to rebuild my collection of opera recordings, most of which are no longer avaiable.

      1. Amonynous

        Re: USPTO

        "Same should go for copyright - if the work is not made available to purchase, if falls into the public domain."

        Really? So you fundamentally disapprove of the concept of property and the rights of the owner of that property to do with it what they will? In which case you won't mind if I pop round to your house, sit on your sofa, drink your beer and invite everyone passing by to do the same because you haven't offered to sell it to us?

        1. frank ly

          Re: USPTO

          I understand your point, at a 'technical' level. However, if you drink his beer then you are really stealing it from him in that you deprive him of the monetary value and the ability to enjoy his own property. If you and a bunch of other strangers invade his house, then you deprive him of the right to quiet enjoyment of his own home.

          If the composer of an opera, or the main singers have some strange idea that they never want their work to be enjoyed by the public again, then fair enough, the performance really does 'belong' to them and they would be rightly angry if their work was made available. I can't imagine any 'damage' to a record company if recordings that they refused to ever release (due to lack of projected profit) were made public property.

          Yes, the record company own that recording and have the right to do as they wish with it, or not do anything if they so decide. But, I really can't see why you chose such an emotive analogy to express your disagreement.

          1. Amonynous

            Re: USPTO

            @frank ly "I understand your point, at a 'technical' level."

            The point I am trying to make is not an emotive one, or a 'technical' one, it is a legal one. Property rights are established in law, they are not some fundamental underlying law of the universe. In the beginning, if you had the biggest pointy stick, you got to decide what was your property and what was not. More recently, the state (local warlord, monarch, democratic parliament, revolutionary council, dictatorship, whatever system currently prevails where you are) has the biggest stick and formalises property rights through the rule of law. In other words you have certain rights over both tangible and intangible things because the law says that you do, and for no other reason unless you want to go back to warfare as the primary means of dealing with property disputes. As we all know nation states and revolutionaries/terrorists (depending on your viewpoint) still do use violence as a means of resolving property disputes.

            Copyright is one of those rather unusual property rights that is (largely) agreed upon on a global basis, if not implemented and enforced uniformly by those states that have agreed to it. Ultimately if I create something and have the copyright on it, it is my choice as to whether I sell it now, later or not at all. If the state, commerce or others can arbitrarily decide that I no longer have those rights, how exactly is that different than stealing someone's beer? If Cameron/Clegg decided to build a motorway through your house and not compensate you for the loss of your property and the inconvenience, would that be okay?

            The argument that I have not lost some monetary value is spurious. Under our system of law, property rights are not about whether something has monetary value or not, they are about the right of the individual (or legal entity) to own something and to decide what they will or will not do with it, which includes making money out if it if they so wish. Hence my attempt to contrast the rather woolly thinking that stealing someone's IP is fine but stealing someone's beer is not.

      2. MrXavia
        Thumb Down

        Re: USPTO

        "Same should go for copyright - if the work is not made available to purchase, if falls into the public domain."

        bad idea

        1. John G Imrie Silver badge

          Re: bad idea

          Why?

          There are lots of things I would like to buy. Old CD's, DVD's only available in foreign, but still English speaking, markets. Books that are no longer in print. Old Computer games. I'd even pay a premium for them. But I simply can not legally get hold of them because the company that holds the IP rights refuses to make new copies.

          Come on you guys. Take may money, don't force me to become an IP Pirate.

          1. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: bad idea

            And you might want to buy the misses but it gives you absolutely no right to buy her. I don't care how much cash you have if I don't want to sell it you can just fuck off.

            Or can I have that Ming vase that you've never ever put a flower in - after all youre not using it?

        2. John 110
          Go

          Re: USPTO

          No, I think @thomas k is correct here. The important piece of his statement is "if the work is not made available to purchase..."

          If the original owners of the copyrighted work or their accredited agent are no longer interested in profiting from their work, then I see nothing wrong with it being made freely available so that others can still enjoy it. (NOT resell it for profit, that's not in the spirit of the thing.)

          I'm thinking of out-of-print books and music here, but fill your own passion in.

          1. Number6

            Re: USPTO

            For some value of profit. How much does it cost to set up and print a single book? You can have a copy but it might cost you several hundred quid because you're the only one who's expressed interest in getting one and that's the cost to the copyright owner.

            Many things are no longer made because they are no longer profitable. How does one make them 'freely available without spending more money on them?

            I agree in principle that it's frustrating when what you want is no longer available, but that's why copyright (except in the US, which is likely to extend copyright each time Mickey Mouse reaches the end of the current period) is limited in duration so that eventually it becomes public domain.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: USPTO

              > How much does it cost to set up and print a single book?

              Not much. There are always companies near universities which do this - most PhD theses need to be in bound format.

          2. Matt Bradley

            The right to withdraw a work

            Creators have on occasion chosen to withdraw a work because of a change of heart about it. Maybe they don't feel it is up to their usual standard, or even in some cases they fell it to be morally or socially dubious.

            Recording musicians often record works which they choose not to release for one reason or another.

            Authors frequently bin works or work in progress for one reason or another.

            Software houses invariably withdraw older versions of their work when a new version is released.

            Copyright should continue to protect the owner's right to choose when and how to make their work available. It is fundamental to the principle of copyright.

    2. Steve I

      Re: USPTO

      "It's time for Judges to tell patent trolls if they are not using "their invention" they should lose the patent."

      The danger of that is the scenario of one man in a shed who invents the teleport. He'll (probably) never be able to build it so should he lose it? His only hope is to licence it which would fit this definition of patent trolling.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: USPTO

        No, that doesn't apply. It would only apply if (a) teleportation was obvious enough to be invented by a guy in a shed and (b) someone with proper resources actually invented and built a teleportation system, and he then came along and demanded that they pay for the privilege. The fact is, that of someone really did invent something as significant as teleportation, the world really would be beating a path to his door to licence it.

        These cases are all about insignificant, unimportant things that could be independently thought up by almost anybody.

        One company I worked for would only patent things from R&D relating to its "core business", so we in the electronics department used to submit all our possibly novel circuits to the magazines that existed at the time, so we could establish prior art and not risk having some bottomhole demanding that we pay him after he bought our kit, analysed the circuitry and then filed for a patent on it.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: USPTO

      I write quite a bit of music in my spare time, along with doing some programming, photography, etc.

      I don't have the resources or time to actually promote this stuff, so a lot of it sits. Some if it I give away, but I don't want people to use commercially.

      Allowing people to just say, "Oh, you're not using it, I'll take that, thanks" would be monumentally unfair - essentially it would hand control of any works made by independent creators to whoever had the money to grab them first.

      Even for patents, it's a can of worms - I could invent something but have to save up the money to start a business based on it, or have to use the patent to attract investors. But someone else should be able to just appropriate my work because I didn't already have the money to immediately take advantage of it?

      Both of those ideas are essentially really efficient ways of screwing the little guy.

  12. Crisp Silver badge
    Trollface

    And still no overhaul of the patent system.

    This has gone past absurd.

    What's next? A patent on the wheel?

    1. John Latham

      Re: And still no overhaul of the patent system.

      http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn965-wheel-patented-in-australia.html

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And still no overhaul of the patent system.

        People should not keep citing this. When it was filed in Australia it was genuinely novel and Australians had not yet invented it. It had to be filed by the white invaders to prevent the native Australians from developing technology and kicking them out.

      2. Crisp Silver badge
        Coat

        @John Latham

        I was joking! I swear I tried to think of the most absurd thing I could think of!

        I think I just lost all faith in humanity.

  13. PsychicMonkey
    Trollface

    Have they not heard of Apple?

    if there is one firm willing to go to the expense of a full blown trial it Apple!

  14. BigAndos
    FAIL

    I wonder if I can get a patent on humans talking to each other?

    1. Andyb@B5

      @BigAndos

      Probably not, plenty of prior art for that....

      Now patenting them actually listening to each other, could be some mileage in that!

  15. Terry 6 Silver badge
    Angel

    Is the core of this inovative invention significantly different from the ear peice on my old transistor radio circa 1970?

    Maybe i should patent a wooden rectangular device for admission to domestic property, complete with its revolutionary sliding steel security option and optional mail entry interface.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      To get through the rigorous standards of nonobviousness of the USPTO, you would need to describe an email delivery agent and then add "implemented on a door".

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: Not to state the obvious...

      Indeed, specifically a 2.5mm i/o port and an 1/8" audio plug (Claims 6 & 7). Not entirely sure what aspects of this patent that Apple have ridden roughshod over in not licensing it, though.

      1. NorthernCoder
        Go

        Re: Not to state the obvious...

        It would be more correct to phrase it "Indeed, specifically a 2.5mm i/o port -or- an 1/8" audio plug" Claim 7 only references claim 1, not 6 (although I am a bit rusty on USPTO interpretation of claim references)

        Anyhow; as I read the patent and the claims, 1 & 6 could be what the case is about.

        I don't have an iPhone, so the connector details may be incorrect (help me here).

        If the Dock connector/Ligtning can be used for Input/output of audio, a headset can be connected to it and that would be the first connector (A quick scan of a manual indicates that you can connect at least a microphone this way).

        The regular 2.5mm jack is then the other one, as outlined in claims 1 (and 6).

        As for prior art, my first thought was as most people here, that even my first phone (in 1998) had a connector for a head set. However, it didn't have -two- connectors for it, which the patent states.

        The question then is if any mobile phone maker (I'm looking at you, Motorola, Ericsson and Nokia, now) had publicized a phone in early 2002 (or possibly earlier due to the US weird "first to invent") which can serve as prior art?

        [Disclaimer: IANAL; I am an engineer who took an extra year of studies in IP]

        1. Markl2011

          Re: Not to state the obvious...

          Isn't it a 3.5mm jack on the iPhone not a 2.5mm jack?

          1. NorthernCoder

            Re: Not to state the obvious...

            You may very well be right.

            Adjust my previous post to 3.5mm and claim 7 in that case.

            1. Markl2011

              Re: Not to state the obvious...

              It might be just me being pedantic but 1/8" = 3.175mm and according to the Apple web the iPhone does have a 3.5mm jack.

        2. Adam Feldman

          Re: Not to state the obvious...

          What I'd like to know, is who holds the patent (or is it a public standard) for TRRS connectors, and when did those come into existence, because in effect, that's what the patent is for... Is it not? Whether the port appeared on the phone should pretty much be irrelevant as taking a TRRS port and putting it on a phone hardly seems patent worthy and that would be grounds for smacking down the patent (obviousness). Worth noting though, is that I couldn't find a patent filed before 2006 with TRRS connectors mentioned explicitly as TRRS. Enough ramblings from me.

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: Not to state the obvious...

      2-way radio handsets have them, though, and what is a mobile telephone but a rather specific implementation*) of a 2-way radio handset?

      *) rounded corners optional

  17. Androgynous Crackwhore
    Headmaster

    Two questions...

    1. When referring to one of those companies as a "troll", which one is it?

    2. When you say "The rather turgid patent in question describes...", are you sure you weren't aiming for something more like... turbid?

    1. Amonynous

      Re: Two questions...

      "When you say "The rather turgid patent in question describes...", are you sure you weren't aiming for something more like... turbid?"

      Turbid. Adjective:

      (of a liquid) Cloudy, opaque, or thick with suspended matter: "the turbid estuary".

      Turgid. Adjective:

      1. Swollen and distended or congested: "a turgid and fast-moving river".

      2. (of language or style) Tediously pompous or bombastic: "some turgid verses on the death of Prince Albert".

      In a word, no.

  18. Tom 35 Silver badge
    Devil

    Yes it's stupid

    But Apple loves to use Old_Idea+On_A_Mobile_Device = patent

    Now they get to wast time money on a bogus patent... Ha Ha

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A wireless mobile phone? Whatever next.

    I see the patent covers "A wireless mobile phone"; as opposed to the corded mobile phone?

    Anyway I'm sure that headsets for "wireless mobile phone" appeared before 2008.

    This sort of patent is not about IP, it's about low grade extortion where it's cheaper to pay them off than to go to trial. There should be criminal law to cover this as it is a waste of court time.

    At the moment there is no way to discourage this type of "legal" process because it provides employment for lawyers and court officials at the expense of IP dependent businesses; no-one goes to jail, and there's scope for endless legal appeals so as far as the courts are concerned it's easy money.

    The US needs to do something about this before these rats gnaw their technology sector to death.

    1. Bert 1
      Facepalm

      Re: A wireless mobile phone? Whatever next.

      "I see the patent covers "A wireless mobile phone"; as opposed to the corded mobile phone?"

      They've got a got a watertight defense here. Given the amount of time that the iphone must be plugged in to a charger, I'm not sure it could accurately be described as wireless.

  20. Pet Peeve
    WTF?

    The patent office needs a complete blood transfusion

    The patent covers specifically a mobile phone with an integrated headset-microphone, so you can't directly claim prior art on mike-headset combos on tape recorders which go back to what, the 70s? maybe earlier?

    The first phone I had that had earbuds with a built-in mic was my first gen iphone, and that's a year before this patent was granted, so it's trivially breakable on those terms, but I'm sure you could do even better. Even lacking prior art (which isn't lacking), I think the "trivial to anyone familiar with the technology" applies here. Duh, maybe I want to hang the mic on the same wires as the earbuds? Let's patent that!

    The USPTO is dysfunctional. Everyone who approves a reversed patent should get their asses fired. I'm not a freetard - I think there's plenty of good reasons to have a patent system, but when it's not doing what it's supposed to, ENCOURGE use of new technology, then it's got to be reformed.

    Can you sue before you offer a license on a patented technology? If they offered a license at say a penny per headphone, and they really could prove it was their original idea, not simply the first to file a stupid patent that should never have been approved, then it wouldn't be an issue.

    1. Steve the Cynic

      Re: The patent office needs a complete blood transfusion

      Tsk. Be careful of the difference between date of grant and date of filing. The patent was granted in 2008, but filed in 2002. Now, I'm not saying there were or were not phones with dual audio sockets before that date, but I think we'd all agree that 2002 is well before the release of the first iPhone...

  21. Don Jefe
    Meh

    Patnet Office

    The biggest problem with the USPTO is the insane amount of paperwork involved. It's sort of like getting a green card. If you fill out all 75,000 forms correctly and pay the fees no one really even reads the actual merits of the application.

    The paperwork/bureaucracy doesn't help foster innovation, it just makes it so that big companies who can afford the lawyers to fill out the applications get to screw the individual with the good idea.

  22. system11

    Kind of difficult to feel sorry for Apple given their recent behaviour, even if patent trolls are wretched.

  23. ukgnome
    Joke

    I'm just waiting until there are enough handsets to launch my multi-lawsuit against all manufactures.

    In it my patent describes holes \ slats \ slits that are placed in front of a speaker to facilitate the hearing of the speaker if it is mounted in a case that can be utilised for mobile transportation. This only applies to devices that are no larger than 4.5 inches across.

  24. Simon B
    Devil

    if Apple can patent a rectangle then curved corners AND have it allowed, then I hope thet get nailed by someone elses pathetic patent.

    1. NorthernCoder
      Boffin

      It's a language problem as well...

      They don't have (I hope!) a utility patent on rectangles, they have a -design- patent on "a rectangle then curved corners". Most likely this design patent is restricted to fondlephones and -slabs.

      There is a big difference both in how utility (i.e. regular) patents and design patents work, but it gets lost when calling both types simply "patents". Things would be easier if the two types had different names (in EU the term "Industrial design right" is used where USPTO uses design patent)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's a language problem as well...

        Indeed. A little part of me dies whenever I see people foaming at the mouth, confusing the two without bothering to understand what they're ranting about. HA HA IM GONNA PATENT THE SQUAR LOL

        No, idiot. You could patent a particular specific design of a square shape - say, with lines fat at the bottom and thinning toward the other end, making the square kind of look like it's rotating.

        People freak out about this stuff because they tend to hear about big companies going after other people, but it's things like design patents that prevent Apples and Microsofts and Sonys from seeing some cool design a tiny company did and appropriating it for their own products. Industrial design is critical for product success, and it's very, very difficult and requires a lot of skill and time. Allowing companies to expropriate designs that might give smaller competitors an advantage, or to make confusingly similar products without having to put in the investment themselves, is, well, patently unfair.

  25. envmod

    what can i patent?

    i'm going to try patenting the square, cat food and trees.

    1. Toothpick

      Re: what can i patent?

      "i'm going to try patenting the square, cat food and trees."

      No you're not, I've beaten you to it

  26. dssf

    Someone needs to invent a functioning

    Tantalus field to zap to molecules the cretins who dare to sue or shake down people and companies for obvious stuff like this.

  27. BitDr

    Greedy troll... stupid USPTO

    I have a 1988 cell phone with a 'mic-in' jack.

  28. Arachnoid

    "It's time for Judges to tell patent trolls if they are not using "their invention" they should lose the patent."

    Judges dont make the law they only enforce that which Parliament enacts

  29. Caltharian

    I personally feel sorry for the Judge that has to make a ruling on this case as morally neither company deserves to win!

  30. Velv Silver badge
    Go

    Ultimate Patent

    OK, who's going to be first to file a Patent request on Patents?

    Clearly you can Patent anything that isn't already Patented :)

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Ultimate Patent

      IBM - they filed a Patent on using a Patent as a business method to threaten competitors

      http://www.conceivablytech.com/4823/business/the-ultimate-patent-troll-patent-get-sued-when-you-file-a-patent

  31. billium

    stupid

    Why do all the comentards say stupid USPTO, I would have thought they would more likely be corrupt than stupid. They are patent lawyers with qualifications I presume. I don't know .. I'm not a yank.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: stupid

      They are not corrupt, precisely, but their mission is to grant as many patents as possible so that US corporations can sue the rest of the world (under WIPO). They have no incentive to find an application obvious or in prior art, because if the number of applications drops, so does their job security and pay.

      Like a lot of well meaning systems, doing a really good job is often negatively rewarded because the real objective of the organisation is not what most people think.

  32. xyz
    Devil

    Companies have been doing this for aeons

    Take British Rail back in the 70s when they patented a nuclear powered flying saucer (I jest not). It was just a drawing, but they were betting that someone would have to use nuclear power to lift a flying saucer off the ground, so got their oar in first for obvious kerching reasons. Obviously Apple (being artistic) have elevated this sort of trolling to an art form and have given everyone the idea...I think I'll patent breathing in and out in order to stay alive. That should bring in a good few sheckels.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Companies have been doing this for aeons

      Before the rules were tightened up there was an American inventor in the 70s who patented "using a laser to do ....." for anything to do with printing, surveying, displaying light shows. etc

      He bet that lasers would become smaller and more portable quickly enough - and made a fortune. He didn't describe or invent how to actually make a laser printer, or a theodolite - just that you could use a beam of straight light.

  33. Frederic Bloggs
    WTF?

    Which is the bit that they claim is novel?

    Do you suppose it is sticking a headset into a mobile phone? Is it the headset? The earpiece or the fact that you (may) need two plugs? I am confused. Clearly people have been using plugin headsets / earpieces in radio transceivers for decades. One standard for aircraft even has twin plugs (one 1/4" and one slightly smaller) for headsets and has had since (IIRC) the war.

    1. TchmilFan

      Re: Which is the bit that they claim is novel?

      An aircraft is a *very* mobile mobile-communications-device, you can sit inside it too.

      I should patent a mobile communications device that you can sit inside (possibly with more than one seat - conference calls, you know?), flies gaining lift by using wings or a spinning, bladed wing-system and forward thrust from the use of a newtonian reaction motor… with a headset that uses one 3.5mm jack plug

  34. ForthIsNotDead

    Why...

    ...would *anyone* want to do business in the USA?

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Why...

      Loads of sheeple that will part with money if the packaging is pretty enough.

  35. Herby Silver badge

    This just in...

    I saw a nice policeman with a headset (it had a microphone too) on his motorcycle. Is this covered as well? The said headset was probably connected to his police radio, but that is a small detail.

    Will the trolls sue the local gendarmes and take away their headsets? Now if I held the patent for traffic cameras, that would be another story (*SIGH*).

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Patent Terrorism

    Given all the ticking Patent bombs that the USPTO has manufactured (by their apparent lax approach to Patent granting) are they not now guilty of commercial terrorism and should be closed down by the Dept. of Homeland Security?

  37. 1Rafayal
    FAIL

    God, this is getting ridiculous...

    See title...

  38. feanor

    Apple, hoist on its own petard. Beautiful.

  39. Trainee grumpy old ****
    Coat

    Dr Evil is that you?

    Three million dollars?

  40. PassiveSmoking
    Coffee/keyboard

    I think I just had an aneurysm out of sheer stupidity. There's blood and brain tissue all over my keyboard now.

    Can the rest of the world just start ignoring US patents? They're obviously of no worth other than as toilet paper anyway.

  41. spanner

    Hoist on their own petard

    Is this really much different from Apple suing Samsung for rounded corners?

  42. Gary 13

    But

    Regardless of all the beer stealing rhetoric, the key thing here is that they didn't invent what they have patented so the clear motive is not to protect IP but to sue people for using something that already existed that you didn't actually invent.

    It's like me stealing your beer (sorry, couldn't help myself) and then suing you for trying to drink it - we'll, not exactly like that, but sort of.

  43. Nick 26

    Not necessarily two sockets

    Nathan Hobbes wrote: "Not to state the obvious, but this explicitly talks about having 2 separate sockets, one for handsfree (mic/headphones) and one just for headphones"

    Claim 1 ends with "said input-output and output interfaces to be jointly employed for said first and second headsets where said first and second headsets being the same headset" which at a stretch capturess the single connector with a single headset option.

    In that case the prior art would be a mobile phone which played music/radio before 2001.

  44. William Boyle
    FAIL

    And to think

    That in 1999 I was using a headset w/ microphone with my Ericsson mobile when travelling between Boston and Chicago... I'd use the hands-free feature (with voice interface) to call my wife when I'd get to Cleveland. These people are dumbots and should be taken out to the back 40 acres, and disposed of in an unfriendly (but legal) manner!

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If my retarded brane even functions this far back...

    I think the Sony Walkman or derivatives of it, had them.....

    And I recall in a prior life time, that we had them in the bombers and wireless sets in WWII - and earlier.

  46. Rob Crawford

    Oh fuck off

    That is all

  47. SirDigalot

    the patent system is weird

    going through my some of the things from my old ladys family, we came across a patent for a stop light on school busses from around 1950, by her grandfather, there was even a popular mechanics article on it, pretty smart ( her grandfather was a bit of a crazy inventor type), however someone else a few years later decided a stop sign would be better... and that's what they use today.

    he also invented a coffee pot for use on the stove called the million dollar coffee pot, we have a couple but they are incomplete, the only ones online I see are also incomplete, all the patents he files took years ( back then) and a re pretty useless tbh) there was rumour he came across another copy of the Gettysburg address ( there were some publications about the finding) but the people who were going to verify it wanted thousands of dollars to do so (and if verified it probably would have been confiscated due to eminent domain or "we have an army you don't" sort of thing.

    still pretty cool to go through his old stuff, I keep trying to see if there was a gem in there that would make us rich... I want to sue someone *LOL*

    oh apple have filed for patent for wireless charging, and the world is taken by storm! regardless of the fact that it was invented a long tome ago, in a galaxy far far away... but since apple have filed for it, it must be new....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      Re: the patent system is weird

      Oh, god, now you're going to draw out the Tesla conspiracy nuts. Thanks a lot.

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