Print 21 comment(s) - last by foolsgambit11.. on Dec 21 at 8:19 AM

Patent could have been used to carry out an import ban on the iPhone

Google Inc. (GOOG) received a blow on Tuesday when U.S. International Trade Commission Administrative Law Judge Thomas Pender ruled that a patent on proximity sensor behavior belonging to Google subsidiary Motorola Mobility was invalid.

The patent, U.S. Patent No. 6,246,862 is one of six utility patents Google is using [PDF] to try to ban import of Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) iPhone smartphone and iPad tablet.  Motorola spokeswoman Jennifer Weyrauch-Erickson in a comment to Reuters remarked, "We're disappointed with this outcome and are evaluating our options."

Apple and Google are both keen to convince the ITC that the other infringes on its intellectual property, as their suits/countersuits have already been dismissed with prejudice from federal courts three times.  In other words the ITC is likely both companies' last hope at banning each others' products in the U.S.

The ITC had previously ruled that three other patents in the case were either invalid or were not infringed upon by Apple products.  That leaves only two patents Apple may have infringed upon.  The full panel of judges assigned to the case will review these preliminary conclusions and make a final decision on whether to accept or reject Motorola Mobility's request for injunctive relief (a ban on Apple imports).

Apple products
Google is seeking to ban virtually all Apple's devices [Image Source: Apple]
Google purchase Motorola Mobility in April 2011 for $12.5B USD.  The purchase was completed earlier this year, after it was finally greenlighted by regulators in China.

Source: Reuters

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RE: Invalid??
By drycrust3 on 12/19/2012 1:52:25 PM , Rating: 2
I think the ITC has bought into the idea that Apple invented everything.

Totally agree. Apparently this particular patent covers the turning off of the keypad when a phone call is in progress so that keypad beeps aren't constantly being sent to the listener.

To quote from the Motorola Patent,
and a user interface having a touch sensitive input device for generating the input signal, also has a sensor. The sensor disables the touch sensitive input device from generating the input signal when the portable communication device is positioned in close proximity to a user. By using this arrangement, inadvertent actuations are prevented while the user holds the portable communication device against his or her head to facilitate communication.

I've never used an iPhone, but a search on the internet suggests the iPhone does exactly this: the iPhone has a light sensor that turns the keypad off when the phone is put up against a person's head during a call, thus the iPhone is doing exactly what the patent says.
I guess it would be too much to ask the ITC to explain why what looks like a patently obvious patent infringement isn't.

RE: Invalid??
By Shadowself on 12/19/2012 2:39:48 PM , Rating: 2
Disclaimer: I haven't read the entire patent filing in question here.

However, based upon the quote above
also has a sensor. The sensor disables
the issue is that the "sensor" is not adequately defined.

As I've said on these boards several times, you must patent a specific implementation. You can't be overly broad. You can't patent an idea. You can only patent a specific implementation (or a specific method of creating a specific implementation). An overly broad patent will often get invalidated (and really should never have been issued in the first place).

That all being said, it is also true that *many* of both Apple's, Motorola's, Google's, Microsoft's, etc. patents fall into the category of being overly broad and should never have been issued. It's just one more set of examples as to how the patent system is broken.

RE: Invalid??
By zerocks on 12/19/2012 3:34:58 PM , Rating: 3
As I've said on these boards several times, you must patent a specific implementation. You can't be overly broad.

Like having a rectangular device with rounded edges?
Is that being overly broad? ;)

RE: Invalid??
By maugrimtr on 12/20/2012 9:17:38 AM , Rating: 2
While I disagree with design patents of this kind, it's not overly broad - a rectangle with rounded corners is pretty explicit.

RE: Invalid??
By Cheesew1z69 on 12/20/2012 10:08:39 AM , Rating: 2
a rectangle with rounded corners is pretty explicit.

RE: Invalid??
By Cheesew1z69 on 12/20/2012 10:13:38 AM , Rating: 2
Rectangle with rounded corners.. .

It's been done, it's nothing new or novel and pretty fucking obvious.

RE: Invalid??
By Solandri on 12/19/2012 4:12:29 PM , Rating: 1
Yeah, gotta agree. If the patent is that loosely worded, it deserves to be smacked down.

RE: Invalid??
By drycrust3 on 12/19/2012 5:07:07 PM , Rating: 2
the issue is that the "sensor" is not adequately defined

Good, now we know the standard. So a "sensor" isn't good enough, apparently we needed to state specifically "light sensor".
I'll have to remember this when Samsung's $1B case is appeal is heard.

RE: Invalid??
By foolsgambit11 on 12/21/2012 8:19:09 AM , Rating: 2
It looks pretty clear to me from the patent wording that a proximity sensor was the intended sensor, not a light sensor. Besides, a light sensor would turn off the touch-sensitive interface in the dark. Now if Apple used a touch-sensitive sensor rather than a proximity sensor, that would be a different method of implementing the same concept, albeit less effective in real-world usage, since not everyone puts their ear to the phone in the same place, or even at all.

Still, I'm okay with this patent being invalidated for being obvious, or maybe for being overly broad, as long as a similar standard is upheld in all cases. I'm just not confident that that will happen.

"My sex life is pretty good" -- Steve Jobs' random musings during the 2010 D8 conference

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