UGH. I think that sums up my feelings on patent trolls. It is yet another week and another lawsuit thrown Apple’s way. This week, though, Apple got slapped with TWO of the buggers. The first lawsuit contends that iPhone/iPod Touch infringe on three patents owned by Affinity Labs. The patents cover IDEAS such as a method for sending information wirelessly to a portable device, including for browsing and downloading online content like music or voice mail that could be transferred (either by copying or streaming) that content to a handheld device via a wireless network. They also cover docking the portable device to a boom box or a car stereo. Lastly, they contend that the App Store also infringes, unfairly, on those patents.
These patents seem like they could cover a whole host of devices from small laptops, so called ‘ultra mobile pc’ devices, netbooks, Smartphone’s and pdas. The ‘method’ for the browsing and downloading of content seems that it could also cover web browsers and that, to this writer, seems like prior art. These patents are relatively recent as well with two of them granted in the last nine months or so.
The second lawsuit deals with an imaging sensor in the camera portion of the iPhone camera. Accolade Systems claims that because Apple is using this sensor, they are contributing to the violation of the patent. The patent covers a method for detecting a camera’s sensor intensity saturation by producing three CMOS image sensors.
Accolade started out just by suing Aptina and Micron. Apparently, Accolade amended it’s lawsuit to cover Apple’s use of the chip.
These lawsuits, especially the first, just go to prove how broken our patent system truly is, and it needs to be fixed. I don’t know what the answer is, but it needs fixing. The patents awarded to Affinity Labs seem pretty obvious, that is, many people had the same idea and there are only so many ways to implement them. I would also argue that there is prior art with the web browser, HOT SYNC by Palm (though that was wired) and even the old fashioned cell phones had browse and purchase features. My old LG handset that I got in 2003 allowed me to browse a ‘store’ and buy content. I know, I bought a couple of games.
The notion of having a business model based solely on patents is just ridiculous. It reminds me of SCO, and look at what happened to them. Admittedly, I don’t know anything about the two companies involved, but this strikes me as a grasping at straws measure. And, I also cannot believe I am saying this but…Go get ‘em APPLE!