July 2, 2012

FTC investigating Google, Motorola over FRAND patent abuse

By AppleInsider Staff

Published: 11:50 PM EST (08:50 PM PST)
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission on Friday issued a civil investigative demand to Google to examine whether the Android maker is illegally using standards-essential FRAND patents acquired in a takeover of Motorola Mobility to block out smartphone competitors.

According to sources familiar with the issue, the FTC is focusing on Motorola’s commitment to license industry standard technology in a fair and reasonable way and whether new owner Google’s ongoing FRAND-based litigation should be considered anticompetitive, reports Bloomberg.

The FTC has reportedly requested information from other tech companies that may be affected by Motorola’s industry-standard 3G wireless, Wi-Fi and H.264 video streaming technologies like Apple and Microsoft in an attempt to decipher whether Google intends to license the patents fairly.

Also part of the investigation is a closer look at the litigation Motorola initiated, and Google continued after it bought the telecom in May for $ 12.5 billion, that could see the sales ban of devices like the iPhone and Xbox.

While a spokesman for Microsoft confirmed that the company had received a civil investigative demand, he refused to comment further and both Apple and Google did not issue statements regarding the matter.

FRAND patents have become the heart of Android’s arsenal in ongoing worldwide litigation against Apple’s iPhone and iPad as well as older Motorola suits against Microsoft. Under fair and reasonable use agreements, companies that own essential patents commit to licensing the key industry-standard technologies like those associated with 3G wireless communications. The use of industry standard patents in litigation is a sticky matter and some pundits argue that governmental bodies like the FTC should not involve themselves in what are essentially contract disputes. Others, however, say that such issues are within the commission’s jurisdiction given that the technologies apply to the broader market and are thus relevant in antitrust allegations.

Google acquired a litany of Motorola patents when it took over the Droid maker and has taken over the company’s dispute with Apple over a Wi-Fi property currently undergoing ITC review. Depending on the outcome of the commission’s findings, Apple products using the patent including the iPhone and iPad could be banned from U.S. shores.

Motorola is also complaining of the licensing practices shown by Microsoft and Apple as the company’s Vice President of Intellectual Property Kirk Daily claims that the two tech giants “seemingly won’t accept any price” for patents acquired from a group-buy of Nortel Network Corp. patents.

Friday’s news comes two months after the European Commission, the EU’s antitrust watchdog organization, formally opened identical investigations against Motorola at the behest of Apple and Microsoft. Google is also facing a separate FTC antitrust investigation regarding alleged anticompetitive web-based search result rankings and issues with Android handset makers.

AppleInsider

Apple Awarded Induction Docking Station Patent

Apple Awarded Induction Docking Station Patent

Apple Awarded Induction Docking Station Patent

So, yeah, like clipping the white 30-pin docking cable to the bottom of my iPad and iPhone is SO difficult. You kids these days have it easy. Back when I got my first iPhone, the docking cable had little freakin’ buttons you had to press on the sides just to disconnect it. Man, those were the days.

Wait, where was I? Oh, yeah. Patents. One specific patent, in particular.

Yesterday, Apple was granted patent No. 8,207,906. Also known as Antenna insert, it’s a patent that might lead to a technology that will let us iPhone owners charge our beloved devices via an inductive docking station. Pretty cool, right?

Said technology might likely involve charging circuits and an antenna that would boost any wireless signal for data transfers like backups, for example. All of this could happen wirelessly while your iPhone or iPad sits on a flat surface of some sort, obviating the need for wires to charge the devices.

The patent is for “Circuits, methods, and apparatus for adapters and docking stations that include one or more of the following: reradiating antennas to enhance wireless signal integrity, inductive charging circuits, and wireless or optical data links. The adapters may be inserts for use in a docking station, adapters for a cable connection, or other type of device. One example provides an adapter that includes a reradiating antenna. In other examples, passive coupling is used to charge a rechargeable battery in the handheld device. Other examples include wireless or optical circuits for faster data transmission.”

So, it’s a broad set of patented ideas that may or may not come to fruition, but it sure is fun to speculate. I’d love to walk into my house, set my iPhone on the counter, and know that it’s connected WiFi, backing up to my Mac in the other room, and charging itself just from sitting atop a countertop with the technology built into it. That would be a super future!

Rob LeFebvre

Rob LeFebvre is a freelance writer and editor living in Anchorage, Alaska. He contributes to online tech, gaming and iOS websites around the net, including Cult of Mac, 148Apps, VentureBeat, and Paste Magazine. He owns and operates GamesAreEvil as well, so it’s surprising he finds time to have two amazing kids, a disco band, and (yes) a day-job.

Feel free to find Rob on twitter: @roblef

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Cult of Mac

Apple patent batch includes inductive charging, antenna-equipped dock

By Josh Ong

Published: 03:20 AM EST (12:20 AM PST)
A group of 27 patents awarded to Apple on Tuesday includes a patent for a docking station that could offer inductive charging and a “reradiating antenna” that could improve the cellular signal of a device while docked.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published this week a list of 28 patents that it had granted to Apple. Included among the list were filings for a light sensitive display, multi-touch gestures for scrolling lists and resizing content and a process for unlocking a device via gestures.

Perhaps the most interesting patent of the batch was Apple’s “Antenna insert” application, as first noted by Patently Apple. The invention details a docking station that could have an antenna for improving wireless signal integrity, inductive charging circuits and even wireless or optical data links.

The background of the application details a problem that has arisen with docks for wireless handheld devices. In order to reduce user exposure to radiation, many companies design their cellular phones with the antennas as far from the user’s head as possible, often at the base of the handset. However, such a design sometimes results in interference issues when the device is docked.

Apple’s invention would eliminate the issue of interference by incorporating antennas within the docking station that would enhance the wireless performance of the docked handset. Adapters could help ensure that the devices “maintain proper antenna operation” even when attached to accessories, and they could also “enhance the integrity of wireless communication with a handheld device,” possibly without the need for a “physical connector.”

According to the application, a “reradiating antenna” describes one or more antennas “that both receive and transmit RF signals, such as once and data.” Docking station antennas could actually be advantageous to wireless connectivity as they could be tuned to different frequency bands, the inventors noted.

The patent went on to explain charging situations for the dock that would include “inductive coupling” for the circuit. Care would be taken to guarantee the design avoids circuit interactions between the antenna and the charging components.

Victor Tiscareno, John Tang and Stephen Zadesky are listed as the inventors of the patent. Apple filed for the intellectual property on Jan. 7, 2008.

Apple has shown interest in inductive charging in the past. Earlier patent applications depict docking stations with inductance-based systems that could be used in both portrait and landscape mode. Another invention by Apple would make use of the audio cable from headphones as an inductive charging coil.

AppleInsider

Novell/Apple patent covers digital profile ‘clones’ to spoof profiling

If you don’t want your true identity to be discovered online, one way to stay hidden is to muddle your online profile with tweaked names, different birth dates, made-up preferences and other false information. Some professionals who can’t present as themselves in social media contexts (teachers, therapists & the like) use this strategy to hide from inquiring administrators and searching students/patients.

This approach isn’t unique to individuals, however — a similar type of profile polluting is detailed in a patent that Apple recently obtained from Novell, says an Information Week report.

Patent number 8,205,265 was originally awarded to Novell in April 2007 as patent number 20070094738 and describes “techniques to pollute electronic profiling.” According to The Atlantic, one on-device method includes cloning a user’s digital identity multiple times and inserting fake information along with the real information. This new composite identity is employed when a user ventures out onto the Internet. The technology described in the patent is meant to stymie “eavesdroppers monitoring the network.”

The patent was assigned to Apple on June 19, 2012 and was obtained in a recent patent purchase from Novell.

[Via The Atlantic and MacDailyNews]



TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Apple could see U.S. import ban following ITC review of Motorola patent win

By Mikey Campbell

Published: 07:45 PM EST (04:45 PM PST)
The U.S. International Trade Commission on Monday announced that it will review an April ruling that found certain Apple products to infringe upon a Motorola Wi-Fi patent, possibly leading to an import ban on products utilizing the technology.

The ITC review is the next step in seeking a ban against the offending Apple products, which include the iPhone and iPad, and follows the initial ruling rendered by Judge Thomas Pender in April that deemed the company violated one of four Motorola Mobility patents.

As noted by All Things D, the commission’s review is being driven by petitions from both Motorola and Apple concerning claim construction, validity and infringement. Apple is also looking to bring FRAND licensing practices into the case by arguing whether the patent should even be enforced.

As noted in the ITC’s review statement, the commission is requesting further information from Motorola on the following FRAND-related matters:

  • If the record of an investigation lacks evidence sufficient to support a RAND-based
    affirmative defense (e.g., equitable estoppel, implied license, waiver, etc.), under what
    circumstances (if any) should a RAND obligation nonetheless preclude issuance of an
    exclusion order?

  • Does the mere existence of a RAND obligation preclude issuance of an exclusion
    order?

  • Should a patent owner that has refused to offer a license to a named respondent in a
    Commission investigation on a RAND obligated patent be able to obtain an exclusion
    order?

  • Should a patent owner that has refused to offer a license on a RAND obligated patent
    to some entity (regardless of whether that entity is a named respondent in a
    Commission investigation) be able to obtain an exclusion order?

  • Should a patent owner that has refused to negotiate a license on RAND terms with a
    named respondent in a Commission investigation be precluded from obtaining an
    exclusion order?

  • Should a patent owner that has refused to negotiate a license on RAND terms with
    some entity (regardless of whether that entity is a named respondent in a Commission
    investigation) be precluded from obtaining an exclusion order?

  • Should a patent owner who has offered a RAND license that the named respondent in
    a Commission investigation has rejected be precluded from obtaining an exclusion
    order?


In raising the FRAND issue, Apple has managed to obtain support from outside parties that have submitted letters to the ITC in favor of the company’s argument. The FTC, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Nokia, Verizon, the Business Software Alliance, and the Association for Competitive Technology are among those who filed public statements, a sampling of which can be found here.

At issue is Motorola’s U.S. Patent No. 6,246,697 for a “Method and system for generating a complex pseudonoise sequence for processing a code division multiple access signal” was granted in 2001 and describes timing and phase angles for wireless chips to be used in Wi-Fi applications.

Motorola, now owned by Google, first sued Apple in 2010 for alleged infringement on a range of wireless communications patents. The iPhone maker filed a countersuit with the ITC but the commission ultimately cleared Motorola of any wrongdoing in March.

The six-member commission expects to give a final judgment on Motorola’s assertions by August.

AppleInsider

Apple/Motorola reciprocal patent lawsuits dismissed in Chicago

The ongoing legal battle between Apple and Microsoft Mobility closed one chapter this Friday, as Judge Richard Posner dismissed the case before him, with prejudice. Reuters and AllThingsD have the details. This dismissal means that the dueling lawsuits, covering four Apple patents and one standards-essential Motorola patent, cannot be refiled — although Apple is likely to appeal.

Both companies apparently failed to adequately demonstrate that injunctive relief would be appropriate, nor did they put solid numbers for damages into play. Judge Posner declined to give Apple a blanket justification for pushing Motorola devices out of the market: “Apple is complaining that Motorola’s phones as a whole ripped off the iPhone as a whole… But Motorola’s desire to sell products that compete with the iPhone is a separate harm — and a perfectly legal one — from any harm caused by patent infringement.”

The Motorola side (now owned by Google) was pleased with the ruling, even though Judge Posner was entirely dismissive of the company’s argument regarding its responsibilities to fairly and reasonably license patents deemed essential to industry standards (FRAND terms). ATD quotes a Motorola spokesperson: “We are pleased that Judge Posner formally dismissed the case against Motorola Mobility… Apple’s litigation campaign began with their attempt to assert 15 patents against us. As it relates to Apple’s violation of our patents, we will continue our efforts to defend our own innovation.”

As usual, you can get the deepest available dive on the case (as well as scores of other patent actions across the globe) from Florian Mueller’s FOSS Patents site.

Photo by JD Hancock | flickr CC



TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Apple’s patent case against Motorola dismissed ‘with prejudice’

By Mikey Campbell

Published: 09:45 PM EST (06:45 PM PST)
A U.S. court judge on Friday dismissed Apple’s smartphone patent claims against Motorola after holding a rehearing on Wednesday, possibly putting an end to the nearly two-year conflict.

Judge Richard Posner sitting by designation on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois dismissed Apple’s patent suit against Motorola “with prejudice,” meaning that the assertions can’t be reargued in front of that particular court, after giving the iPhone maker a second chance at an injunction earlier this week.

The judge, who has been an outspoken critic of Apple’s court tactics, temporarily canceled Apple’s trial in early June citing lack of injury but decided to rehear the case two weeks later. During the second hearing Apple once again argued for injunctive relief against Motorola’s alleged infringement on four patents regarding heuristics, UI elements and wireless technology. The court was unimpressed with both the assertions as well as Apple’s injunction request that asked the Droid maker to switch to its own solution within three months.

According to court documents, Judge Posner recommended that Apple license the technology to Motorola instead seeking an injunction which would be “catastrophic” and harmful to consumers. He also noted that merely issuing an injunction wouldn’t necessarily stop Apple from reasserting the same claims when Motorola switched to another solution three months later.

On Apple’s claims that it had been harmed by Motorola’s actions, Judge Posner said that the Cupertino-based company was attempting to leverage precedent set in a 2010 court case involving Microsoft. The presiding judge in that case stated that “a small company was practicing its patent, onlyto suffer a loss of market share, brand recognition, and customergoodwill as the result of the defendant’s infringing acts. Suchlosses may frequently defy attempts at valuation, particularlywhen the infringing acts significantly change the relevant mar-ket, as occurred here.” To this Judge Posner said, “Apple is not a “small company”; its market capitalization exceeds that of Google and Microsoft combined. To suggest that it has suffered loss of market share, brand recognition, or customer goodwill as a result of Motorola’s alleged infringement of the patent claims still in play in this caseis wild conjecture.”

Judge Posner said that the only reasonable outcome to the case is dismissal, both of Apple’s and Motorola’s claims, arguing that the case should not be considered moot as the dismissal itself can be appealed. He explains that “even if no appealwere planned, the case would not be moot, because a failure ofproof, whether with respect to liability or to remedy, while itends a case does not make the case moot. A dismissal for moot-ness ordinarily (though with exceptions, for example because ofvoluntary cessation by the defendant of his alleged misconduct,or because the case is capable of repetition but evades review) iswithout prejudice.”

“It would be ridiculous to dismiss a suit for failure toprove damages and allow the plaintiff to refile the suit so that hecould have a second chance to prove damages,” Judge Posner said. “This case is therefore dismissed with prejudice; a separate order to that effect is being entered today.”

The ruling wraps up at least one chapter of the Apple v. Motorola saga that began when the Droid maker filed a complaint with the ITC in 2010 only to be hit shortly after with the Apple countersuit dismissed today. Both parties have the option to appeal the dismissal to a higher court but no official plans to do so have been announced.

AppleInsider

Apple’s patent case against Motorola dismissed ‘with prejudice’

By Mikey Campbell

Published: 09:45 PM EST (06:45 PM PST)
A U.S. court judge on Friday dismissed Apple’s smartphone patent claims against Motorola after holding a rehearing on Wednesday, possibly putting an end to the nearly two-year conflict.

Judge Richard Posner sitting by designation on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois dismissed Apple’s patent suit against Motorola “with prejudice,” meaning that the assertions can’t be reargued in front of that particular court, after giving the iPhone maker a second chance at an injunction earlier this week.

The judge, who has been an outspoken critic of Apple’s court tactics, temporarily canceled Apple’s trial in early June citing lack of injury but decided to rehear the case two weeks later. During the second hearing Apple once again argued for injunctive relief against Motorola’s alleged infringement on four patents regarding heuristics, UI elements and wireless technology. The court was unimpressed with both the assertions as well as Apple’s injunction request that asked the Droid maker to switch to its own solution within three months.

According to court documents, Judge Posner recommended that Apple license the technology to Motorola instead seeking an injunction which would be “catastrophic” and harmful to consumers. He also noted that merely issuing an injunction wouldn’t necessarily stop Apple from reasserting the same claims when Motorola switched to another solution three months later.

On Apple’s claims that it had been harmed by Motorola’s actions, Judge Posner said that the Cupertino-based company was attempting to leverage precedent set in a 2010 court case involving Microsoft. The presiding judge in that case stated that “a small company was practicing its patent, onlyto suffer a loss of market share, brand recognition, and customergoodwill as the result of the defendant’s infringing acts. Suchlosses may frequently defy attempts at valuation, particularlywhen the infringing acts significantly change the relevant mar-ket, as occurred here.” To this Judge Posner said, “Apple is not a “small company”; its market capitalization exceeds that of Google and Microsoft combined. To suggest that it has suffered loss of market share, brand recognition, or customer goodwill as a result of Motorola’s alleged infringement of the patent claims still in play in this caseis wild conjecture.”

Judge Posner said that the only reasonable outcome to the case is dismissal, both of Apple’s and Motorola’s claims, arguing that the case should not be considered moot as the dismissal itself can be appealed. He explains that “even if no appealwere planned, the case would not be moot, because a failure ofproof, whether with respect to liability or to remedy, while itends a case does not make the case moot. A dismissal for moot-ness ordinarily (though with exceptions, for example because ofvoluntary cessation by the defendant of his alleged misconduct,or because the case is capable of repetition but evades review) iswithout prejudice.”

“It would be ridiculous to dismiss a suit for failure toprove damages and allow the plaintiff to refile the suit so that hecould have a second chance to prove damages,” Judge Posner said. “This case is therefore dismissed with prejudice; a separate order to that effect is being entered today.”

The ruling wraps up at least one chapter of the Apple v. Motorola saga that began when the Droid maker filed a complaint with the ITC in 2010 only to be hit shortly after with the Apple countersuit dismissed today. Both parties have the option to appeal the dismissal to a higher court but no official plans to do so have been announced.

AppleInsider

Apple files 4G LTE patent countersuit in ITC case against HTC

By AppleInsider Staff

Published: 05:30 PM EST (02:30 PM PST)
Apple on Thursday filed suit against HTC over alleged infringement of certain standard-essential 4G LTE patents as part of an ongoing U.S. International Trade Commission case involving the two companies.

The suit was filed as a counterclaim to HTC’s second ITC complaint against Apple and brings FRAND contract and antitrust assertions against the Chinese handset maker, reports FOSS Patents.

Because counterclaims cannot be adjudicated by the ITC, counterclaimants must file their suits in federal court and Apple chose to bring the case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia Alexandria Division.

Apple’s FRAND counterclaim is one of many leveled by the company in other ITC cases like the ongoing federal suit against Samsung currently being heard in California. Last year Apple filed FRAND counterclaims in the Western District of Wisconsin as part of the company’s ITC case against Motorola.

It seems as though the most recent counterclaims are similar to those raised against Samsung and Motorola, and assert the following:

  • breach of contract based on standards-related misconduct

  • fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud

  • promissory estoppel

  • conspiracy under § 1 of the Sherman Act (the cartel paragraph of U.S. federal antitrust law)

  • violation of § 2 of the Sherman Act (the monopoly abuse paragraph of U.S. federal antitrust law)

  • violation of 15 U.S.C. § 8 (illegal restraint of import trade)

  • violation of Virginia state antitrust law


HTC is down to three asserted patents after the ITC agreed with an Apple motion to throw out five others borrowed from Google. Two of the three patents, which HTC purchased from ADC Telecommunications, were declared by firm to be standard-essential to 4G LTE. U.S. Patent No. 7,672,219 and U.S. Patent No. 7,417,944, both for 4G LTE technology, are at issue in Apple’s counterclaim.

In May, HTC “specifically accused Apple of infringing the ADC patents based solely on the fact that Apple devices contain baseband chips that implement the LTE standard.” Apple argues that “[i]n light of the purported essentiality of the ’219 and ’944 patents, those patents should have been disclosed by HTC and ADC to the relevant standards setting organizations (‘SSOs’), and commitments to license on fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms (‘FRAND’) should have been made for their purported inclusion in standards and in evolving standards under development.”

Apple goes on to claim that HTC and ADC both conspired to conceal the patents from the SSOs and “purposefully evaded any obligations to license under FRAND terms, a course of conduct HTC continues even as it participates in work on evolution of these same standards.”

FOSS Patent’s Florian Mueller believes that the tactic of using 4G LTE-essential patents will become more prevalent in the future as lawmakers and regulators become increasingly concerned over the abuse of stand-essential patents.

AppleInsider

Samsung will seek compensation from Apple following 3G patent ruling

Samsung will seek damages from Apple after a ruling yesterday in The Hague stating that Apple had infringed on a 3G patent. The Dutch court ruled in favor of Samsung, stating that Apple must pay compensation for infringing European patent EP1188269.

Previously, Samsung had unsuccessfully attempted to ban sales of iPhones and iPads in Europe based on four patents that are essential to implementation of 3G. The court ruled that the technology in question is subject to “fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory (FRAND)” licensing, so Samsung was not entitled to ask for a ban on sales of the infringing Apple devices. Those devices include the iPhone 3G, 3GS, and 4, as well as the iPad 1 and 2.

The ruling of the court means that Apple will need to pay damages to Samsung for these devices, which use baseband chips manufactured by companies other than Qualcomm.



TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog