back to article Find your wallet, Apple: Ex-engineer adds eight more patents to lawsuit seeking credit for his developer work

A former Apple engineer who claims the iTitan screwed him out of proper credit for his work has added an additional eight patents to his lawsuit against Cook & Co. In what is now the fourth version [PDF] of a legal claim, filed in California against his former employer, Darren Eastman says he should be listed on no less than …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hate software patents, they're always for the most OBVIOUS things or literally just extactly what was already being done but with a computer/mobile phone it's so stupid. if i EVER invent anything important I'm not licensing it in the USA just to punish them i'll patent it and then NOT LICENSE IT or produce it or allow americans to use it. everwhere in the world except there. that would be so awesome, inventing a proper self driving car AI and then patenting it but not letting anywhere in america use it. just them. for 20 years. ahahahah

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Ooh you big tough hero you

    2. Giovani Tapini Silver badge

      You will still have to patent the ideas though, even if you offer it as free to use, otherwise someone else will patent a version and bypass your generosity...

    3. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      WTF?

      Agreed - software patents, like business process patents, should not be allowed

      “This is a really good idea and something we have on our list to consider.”

      This implies that the idea already existed within Apple prior to Mr. Eastman's email to Mr. Cue.

      But the idea had been around long before Apple got into the phone business, so the bigger question is how Apple got a patent on it in the first place. Computrace, Homing Pigeon and Blue Bite, for example, were software that all existed in the 1990's for doing exactly this with laptops. Extending it to handheld computers like phones was obvious. Blue Bite even offered a full service laptop recovery service, as it was founded by former RCMP computer crime folks who even in the 90's knew the ins & outs of both IT and police departments.

      Business process patents are even worse. Thank God Halliburton filed a patent application for the business process of patent trolling & then abandoned it, just so no one else could patent it. http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20080270152.pdf

      1. AVee

        Re: Agreed - software patents, like business process patents, should not be allowed

        "This implies that the idea already existed within Apple prior to Mr. Eastman's email to Mr. Cue."

        It also implies they idea is obvious to someone working in the field and therefore should not patentable. However, neither Apple not Mr. Eastman will ever say that out loud...

        1. The Nazz Silver badge

          Re: Agreed - software patents, like business process patents, should not be allowed

          Didn't the article state that Apple did, as one of three reasons why the guy couldn't be credited, say precisely that the work wasn't novel?

          So maybe the Judge should simply declare "Patents Invalid - End of Case" and order the USPO to deal with their invalidation?

          Edit : posted when i got this far, didn't see Tromos' post lower down until later.

      2. Doug_S

        Re: Agreed - software patents, like business process patents, should not be allowed

        But the idea had been around long before Apple got into the phone business, so the bigger question is how Apple got a patent on it in the first place.

        Because you don't patent an "idea" you patent a particular implementation. Apple can have a patent for "find my phone" and Google can too, if they are implemented differently.

  2. HildyJ Silver badge
    WTF?

    Working models

    Back when patents meant something more than lawsuits, the US Patent Office required a working model to be submitted as part of the patent application.

    Software patents should require working code to be submitted as part of the patent application.

  3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    He was an employee

    His contract, unless Apple shares the same legal team as a lemonade stand, says all his work belongs to them.

    You normally sign a bit of paper assigning the patent to the company (in return for $1 but I never seem to get the $ (unlike Feynman))

    Being on the patent doesn't get you anything - even my mother isn't impressed !

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Go

      Re: He was an employee

      It doesn't get you anything directly, but it does allow you to put it on your resume that you are a co-inventor of X and that can help you find another job at a higher salary.

      Also I don't know what firm you work for, but in every firm I've worked for, whilst the firm owns the patents, you get listed as inventor, and you get a pretty big bonus and better promotion prospects for getting patents awarded. If your firm doesn't do that, you might want to consider taking your ideas elsewhere...

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: He was an employee

        Well, would be interesting to know the numbers behind that "pretty big bonus". In the firms I've worked, there's been bonuses, but for individual patents the most you'd see is $3000 overall, from rewards for idea submission, patent filing and patent grant - typically the numbers would be shared by co-inventors, not multiplied up. Get a lot of patents and it adds up, and there may be milestone awards (10/15/25 patents granted), and these can be larger numbers.

        IIRC a company has to give you something in return for ownership of the patent, even though your name has to be on it as an inventor.

        Eastman will be on to a tough task proving he invented these (or co-invented) - especially if he had no interactions with the team whose names are on the patents. It's entirely possible a team may have come up with an idea/solution independently of him that happened to have the same solution and got it to patent, notwithstanding his email to a VP about the idea (which muddies the water a bit if the VP then gave the problem statement to another engineering team to solve).

        I very much doubt there'd be no "Find my iPhone" now if Eastman hadn't thought of it back then. SWMBO is always asking me to find hers, for starters. Not helped by it always being switched to silent mode, so have to roam the house listening for the vibrate-noise while ringing it.

        1. FIA

          Re: He was an employee

          SWMBO is always asking me to find hers, for starters. Not helped by it always being switched to silent mode, so have to roam the house listening for the vibrate-noise while ringing it.

          On iOS you can assign a contact to bypass silent so they'll always ring. Has helped me find my SOs phone (and the other way round) a few times as we both leave it on silent 100% of the time.

          Contacts -> edit contact -> ringtone -> check 'Emergency Bypass'.

          1. JetSetJim Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: He was an employee

            Ta - possibly had a passing awareness of this but it hadn't ocurred to me.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: He was an employee

      "His contract, unless Apple shares the same legal team as a lemonade stand, says all his work belongs to them."

      Moral rights are "a thing", and separate from financial remuneration/ownership (also, in some jurisdictions, you can't sign them away).

      1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: He was an employee

        Moral rights, even if you believe he should be listed as an inventor, have no cash value.

  4. Tromos

    Prior art

    The judge should go with Apple's argument that the work is not new or novel and is covered by “prior art”. This way, Apple win the case and lose all their patents.

    1. jason_derp Bronze badge

      Re: Prior art

      I was thinking exactly that. Pull the old Donkey Kong - King Kong / Nintendo - Universal switcheroo on the bastards.

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: Prior art

        I suspect Apple are not claiming that they are not invalid patents, merely that the ideas had been had internally to Apple prior to his claim - potentially hence the VPs response of "it's already on our todo list".

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Could the patents be invalid?

    I was under the impression that if the paperwork used to file the patent was wrong, then the patent could be invalidated. The list of inventors has to be correct. It's normally phrased to prevent egomaniacs adding their name to the inventor list. If the patent is challenged, you need to be able to stand up in court and say "I invented/thought up this part of the item/process/software which the patent refers to."

    If the court decides that he invented parts of the patent, and isn't listed as an inventor, then the USPO has grounds to declare the patent invalid, and revoke it. Anyone else being sued over these patents might just want to get in touch with him.

    1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Could the patents be invalid?

      Who constitutes an inventor isn't "who worked on it" nor "who implemented the idea". In the US it was supposed to be limited only to "who came up with the idea in complete form first". Very few companies really limit the listed inventors to that, and the "complete form" is critical. If all you had was a vague idea, you are SOL.

      Since 2013, the US changed it's patent law to match the rest of the world. Now, it's only "who filed first". So now, if you tell me your idea and I rush to file a patent & get my application to the patent office first, I get the patent. You can have a video of yourself telling me of your idea, and it's worthless to you.

      Some of these fly-by-night patent companies that milk backyard "inventors" still tell their marks customers that the US is first to invent, but if that just shows how shady some of them are.

    2. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Could the patents be invalid?

      Waste of time.

      I was the lead developer / team leader on a range of products in the 90s that used a particular technique to track packets through a network in order to measure network performance. The basic idea wasn't novel although implementing it required some thought to get it to work smoothly.

      Imagine my suprise/disgust to discover a clique of engineers working on a rather different product had patented the concept. They're at least two teams removed from the original idea so they can't have 'invented' anything but in US corporate land details like this don't matter. Everything you do belongs to your employer (read your contract...). I suppose it might be nice to have one's name on a patent but realistically I'd be a bit ashamed to claim that I'd invented the use of a CRC pattern to verify data integrity.

  6. trevorde

    Patents are worthless

    Worked in several companies where colleagues were named as an inventor on the company's patents. In all cases, they were awarded a beautiful certificate of achievement, in a handsome plastic frame and round of applause.

    1. rmacd

      Re: Patents are worthless

      > patents are worthless

      apart from if you're applying for a position elsewhere: I can only imagine that your prospects of being invited for an interview are immeasurably higher if you've got a couple of patents on the CV

    2. Kane Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Patents are worthless

      "In all cases, they were awarded a beautiful certificate of achievement, in a handsome plastic frame and round of applause."

      Ahh, the cheapest kind of Reward and Recognition!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Patents are worthless

      I didn't even get a handsome plastic frame or a round of applause when I built the first modern motion capture camera. The company that I was working for at the time told me that the idea was stupid and I had no rights to invent anything that worked in the environment that they were employing me in. About four years later, after I had left the company, they launched a new camera range that worked almost exactly the same way that my design did but used more modern controls and now all of their systems are completely remotely controllable from the console.

      I just washed my hands, it's how they always worked so it was no big surprise and a lawsuit would have just brought a lawyer a new yacht - sometime you just have to move on anonymously.

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: Patents are worthless

        Unless you were a contractor with specific clauses in your contact, anything you invented at work whilst employed by them was theirs to do with as they please, not yours. You would have a right to stick your name on any patent, but you would not own it, or have any rights to monetize it

  7. rmacd
    Devil

    Playing devil's advocate

    I've worked with a couple of people over the years who have claimed my or someone else's work.

    Best one was a presentation I went to where MY slides were being presented by our contractors as THEIR work (with my name removed, of course). It wasn't anything particularly "novel", just a new process for automatically deploying keys or something. But I sat there wondering, heck, I wonder what else they've ripped off...

    1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      Alert

      Don't you love that?

      I worked at a Silicon Valley startup in the 1990's where we had a small pass-through government R&D subcontract from a huge multi-billion dollar government contractor where the government contractor didn't have a single employee with expertise in our technology area. They had zero IP rights to any of our work under the terms of the contract. Yet a huge photo (with our logo photoshopped out) of one of our devices under test taken in our lab graced the cover of their annual shareholder report as an example of their cutting edge technology.

  8. Cuddles Silver badge

    Seems questionable

    “The method for finding a lost device would not exist today if I hadn’t invented it, and, Passbook relies fundamentally on my previous invention for redeeming electronic tickets with a barcode,”

    I'm pretty sure that's not how patents work. If you invent something once, you don't then get credit for every future invention that makes use of it somehow. If Apple are screwing this guy out of credit for work he actually did that's one thing, but his own claims make it sound as though he's trying to claim credit for other people's work just because they happened to base some of it on something he'd done in the past. Which is also consistent with Apple's claim that it was an unrelated group who happened to read the work he'd already published.

  9. Dinanziame
    Alert

    How about asking the people whose name are on the patent to document their work?

    That said, it's entirely possible that they also developed this independently from his work. That email from the VP sounds a lot to me like "thanks for the suggestion, we already had the idea and we're working on it". It does happen to me that people come with a grand new suggestion, and it can take quite a bit to convince them that we are already implementing it, no we don't need their design doc, and please don't take credit for it.

    1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      Alert

      Obviously

      If two groups independently & simultaneous came up with the same idea, that's evidence the idea was obvious.

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: Obviously

        Tell that to Alexander Graham Bell

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