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Apple claims Google's unified search, word suggestions, slide unlocking, and data tapping features are illegal

Apple, Inc. (AAPL) may have fared pretty badly of late, in terms of its lawsuit performance, scoring nothing but Pyrrhic victories and outright rejections [1][2][3][4] [5][6].  But the electronics maker is determined to kill its arch-nemesis Google Inc. (GOOG).  It has now filed a new major suit which looks to cripple Android Ice Cream Sandwich.

I. Apple Latest Attack Hits Ice Cream Sandwich

The core panzer in this patent blitzkrieg -- brought against Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KS:005930), and by proxy Google, in United States District Court for the Northern District of California -- is U.S. Patent No. 8,086,604.  Filed in 2011, and granted just after Christmas (Dec. 27), it describes a "universal interface for retrieval of information in a computer system." Apple is using the patent to attack the search features found within Android Ice Cream Sandwich

The suit specifically calls out Samsung's Galaxy Nexus smartphone, which was the first smartphone to carry the new version of Android.

A copy of the lawsuit can be found here.

II. The Return of the Touch Unlocking Patent

In the suit Apple also brings some familiar weapons to the table.  The four-patent suit is rounded out by U.S. Patent No. 8,046,721, which describes a method of "unlocking a device by performing gestures on an unlock image"; U.S. Patent No. 5,946,647, which covers turnings phone numbers/addresses in actionable hyperlinks; and U.S. Patent No. 8,074,172, which covers voice search word suggestions.

We've discussed at length how a wealth of prior art with regard to slide unlock existed (and was seemingly ignored by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office).  It may be that the USPTO intended to only grant the patent on a narrow scope, but if that was the case, it will be crucial that the federal court recognize that and avoid giving Apple credit for a technology it clearly did not invent.

The data tapping patent was file in 1996 and granted in 1999.  It was not originally targeted at the mobile space.  Here, Google may again be able to defend itself via prior art.  Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Word 1997 used a similar method to recognize and generate hyperlinks, though it remains to be seen whether this would be similar enough to invalidate the patent.

Double tapping
Apple has already succeeded in banning some of HTC's handsets using its double-tapping patent.  Now it looks to do the same to Samsung. [Image Source: Droid-Life]

Both slide-to-unlock and the data tapping are relatively crucial, as they're features users have come to expect from smartphones.  Apple's hope is clearly to drive these features out of Android, and thus drive users to the iPhone, slowly bleeding the life from Android.

Recall, also, that HTC Corp. (TPE:2498) was forced to gimp its Android smartphones, removing data tapping after Apple won a preliminary injunction against it, on the basis of that feature.

The third patent -- word suggestion -- was filed in 2007.  Again, this was a feature that appeared as early as 2006 in Ford Motor Comp.'s (FSYNC platform.  That said, this patent is less crucial.  While the quality voice search app, Siri, is a major selling point of the iPhone 4S, it's not as big a deal in Android Ice Cream Sandwich.  Still, being forced to remove the voice search app would be another setback for Android.

voice search
Apple hopes to force Google to remove voice search from Android.
[Image Source: Gadget Pdamu]

III. What's Next

Apple has already brought a preliminary injunction against the Galaxy Nexus, looking to ban it from sale in the U.S. Apple's new case appears very aggressive, but it remains to be seen if Apple will be able to achieve its fantasy of a Google-free world in court, when it has thus far struggled to scrape together many wins.

Google has a powerful second line of defense, via Motorola.  Motorola has won key decisions abroad [1][2], thus far and may succeed in banning the iPhone, iPad, and iCloud in some regions.  If it can do that, it may force Apple into an uneasy armistice, out of self-preservation.

Source: Apple v. Samsung [PDF]



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RE: FILE ALL THE PATENTS
By nafhan on 2/13/2012 3:59:39 PM , Rating: 3
MATH FAIL. I guess I must have been thinking '89 or something...
Anyway, 12 years instead of 25, makes my point even stronger, I'd say.


RE: FILE ALL THE PATENTS
By Etsp on 2/13/2012 4:20:39 PM , Rating: 2
I Agree.


RE: FILE ALL THE PATENTS
By masamasa on 2/13/2012 4:33:57 PM , Rating: 2
US patent office has become quite the joke.


RE: FILE ALL THE PATENTS
By Shig on 2/13/2012 5:00:52 PM , Rating: 5
Very good post Nafhan. With computer technology and more lawyers then ever, it's also speeding up.

The problem was voiced succinctly by an Apple executive who said recently in a New York Times story, "We don't have an obligation to solve America's problems."

While Apple may not feel obligated to solve US economic issues, it expects Uncle Sam (i.e. every single tax payer) to protect intellectual property rights and to keep waterways safe so that it can deliver it's made-in-China products.

Should companies have an obligation to their home markets? The very markets that originally gave them venture capital and hard working intelligent Americans simply so they could exploit them and when timing was right just move off shore, yet still enjoy all the tax breaks, freedom, and market access at no cost at all.

Patents have been broken for a long time. We can sit here and blame X political party or X president, but we know they're ALL in the pockets of private interests. Take a good look America, this is what it looks like when the corporate entity has more power than your government.


RE: FILE ALL THE PATENTS
By TSS on 2/13/2012 5:57:34 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
The very markets that originally gave them venture capital and hard working intelligent Americans simply so they could exploit them and when timing was right just move off shore, yet still enjoy all the tax breaks, freedom, and market access at no cost at all.


Why, yes if the people are willing to finance it.

Don't get me wrong i'm against the patent system as we know it and even against patents in general. But apple didn't get as big as google and microsoft combined because they printed the money they have. It has got to come from somewhere.

Capitalism is about voting with your money. While the system has become somewhat diluted, because there are so many people with so much money that individual votes mean very little, that does not apply to hyper-large companies, who can only get so large by the collective donating of cash of a nation, even a world.

The above is not a patent problem. It's a culture problem, of people willing to accept any abuse as long as they don't lose anything and get what they want when they want it. And while i can fathom sollutions to the patent system, i haven't got a clue how to turn culture around.


RE: FILE ALL THE PATENTS
By FITCamaro on 2/13/2012 7:30:15 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Should companies have an obligation to their home markets? The very markets that originally gave them venture capital and hard working intelligent Americans simply so they could exploit them and when timing was right just move off shore, yet still enjoy all the tax breaks, freedom, and market access at no cost at all.


They have an obligation to sell a product that is what they claim it to be. That's about it. They have no obligation to produce said product here, keep any profits here, or anything else. They are a business. Not a charity.

I'm not saying this in support of Apple. I dislike Apple. I'm saying this for businesses as a whole. The people have only two (possibly three) entities to blame for jobs leaving America. Themselves for voting for certain politicians and caring more about price than quality. The federal government for creating an environment that is now hostile to businesses, especially those who make large amounts of money (unless their CEO engages in crony capitalism with the administration). And potentially their state government for creating an even more hostile business environment (looking at you California and friends).


RE: FILE ALL THE PATENTS
By bupkus on 2/14/2012 9:15:08 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Themselves for voting for certain politicians and caring more about price than quality.
Why the conjunction "and"? To me this sentence makes no logical sense if the first part is supposed to somehow be related to the second... unless we're buying cheaper politicians.

Then you follow that with Federal and State hostility to business as the causes of job exportation? Jobs are exported because of cheap labor with no regard to pollution or work conditions, etc.
Apple would not have failed if they kept production here in the U.S.A. They just wouldn't have made nearly as much m.o.n.e.y.

My question is, why does Apple have so much loyalty to its product? Sure, there was a time when Americans wouldn't dare buy a foreign car. Maybe Americans think Apple is an American company at least in title-- certainly not in action,i.e., "
quote:
The problem was voiced succinctly by an Apple executive who said recently in a New York Times story, "We don't have an obligation to solve America's problems."
Maybe we have become so used to foreign companies for our preferred products that we no longer see our borders so clearly.
I imagine a satirical piece where an american company contracts a hostile foreign power like China to build weaponry components designed by scientists and engineers in India to be used by the American military to protect Taiwan from Chinese aggression. The Chinese lend money(US dollars) to the USA to maintain a military force that depends on foreign subsidies and technology becoming a larger and larger financial anchor until the USA defaults on a loan, its interest rates jump, the Saudis drop the US dollar as the currency accepted for oil purchases and adopt the Chinese Renminbi in its place. The US dollars are dumped into the market place, just like the Iranians once tried to do to damage the value of the dollar.
Said dollars are used to buy American Corporations and infrastructure and we all learn to speak Chinese.
Hmmm... I wonder how cat tastes.


RE: FILE ALL THE PATENTS
By nafhan on 2/14/2012 11:10:20 AM , Rating: 3
I agree with what you're saying. I want to point out that "price vs. quality" is kind of a BS argument in this case for a number of reasons, among them:
--Quality is a bit of a nebulous concept - often based on perception
--Quality and price don't generally scale at the same rate: a small increase in perceived quality may equate to a massive increase in actual price
--"Made in America" may just mean the price is going to be higher, not the quality of the item - especially if the manufacturer makes a big deal about it


RE: FILE ALL THE PATENTS
By nafhan on 2/14/2012 10:27:03 AM , Rating: 2
Companies (large or small) have no obligations whatsoever other than to, their customers, shareholders, and the laws in the countries in which they are operating. It's the "Justice" department failing here, not Apple. Apple may be the company most blatantly taking advantage of a ridiculous legal situation, but you can pretty easily argue that Apple is just doing the best they can with the tools available - nostalgia (or "obligation to their home markets" if you want to call it that) is not necessarily a good way to run a business. With luck, though, Apple's flagrant use/abuse of the patent system will lead to IP law reform. ...I do consider myself an optimist, though.

Problems like this are certainly not specific to one "side" or the other in US politics. IP owners have seemingly bought themselves a pretty wide support base, which is made easier by the fact that, up until recently, this was not an issue that polarized voters ("polarizing" issues tend to get picked up by one side and demonized by the other in a two party system). Hopefully, (again being optimistic) people will become more concerned about IP issues going forward, and this will become more difficult for the big IP owners.

I believe that restrictive IP law is the number one threat to personal freedom in the world, right now (especially the "developed" world).


"We’re Apple. We don’t wear suits. We don’t even own suits." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs














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