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June 19 2013


Apple's head of Patent Licensing & Strategy departs for calmer waters

Apple's head of Patent Licensing & Strategy departs for calmer waters

The man in the unenviable position of being deeply involved with Apple's ongoing patent infringement litigation with a number of companies has left Apple. AppleInsider reports that Boris Teksler, formerly Apple's head of Patent Licensing & Strategy, has taken a new job as president of the Technology Group at Technicolor.

Teksler testified on behalf of Apple in its US patent infringement suit with Samsung last year, revealing that he warned Steve Jobs and Tim Cook in 2010 that a number of Apple patents might have been infringed upon by Samsung. Teksler outlined the potential infringements to the Apple execs in a presentation showing that "rubber-banding," gesture heuristics, and e-mail threading were all appearing on Samsung products.

As a result of Teksler's presentation, Jobs and Cook met with Samsung executives in an attempt to reach a licensing agreement. That fell through, resulting in the patent battles still going on worldwide.

Teksler has a tremendous history in the world of intellectual property. Before working for Apple, he co-founded HP's Intellectual Property Licensing business while working at the venerable Silicon Valley company for 16 years. At Technicolor, Teksler will help the company in making the most of its intellectual property assets.

Apple's head of Patent Licensing & Strategy departs for calmer waters originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Wed, 19 Jun 2013 12:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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September 01 2012


August 24 2012


Breaking: Apple wins patent claims against Samsung, damages pending appeal

The jury has reached a verdict in the “trial of the century” between Apple and Samsung.

Final update: Apple won a clean sweep. See the following for details:

Update 1: Reports say that several Samsung devices violate Apple’s 381 “bounce-back patent.” However, the question of invalidity is still to be determined.

Initial reports suggest Apple is cleaning up. But we have yet to learn whether the jury will also find the patents invalid — if so, the infringement doesn’t matter.

Most court watchers predicted the ruling would not come until next week because of the case’s complexity. We will update as more information comes in.

Here’s what will happen in the weeks after the verdict come in:

  • Apple and Samsung will almost certainly ask Judge Lucy Koh for a “judgment notwithstanding verdict” — basically asking her to replace parts of the jury’s ruling with her own.
  • After this process is over, Judge Koh will enter the final verdict. When this occurs, the parties can then appeal the ruling to the U.S. Circuit Court for the Federal Circuit (the patent appeals court in Washington, D.C.).

August 21 2012


The next phase of the Apple Samsung case: straw polls and sandwiches

Lawyers will make closing statements today in what has been dubbed the technology trial of the century. The epic dust-up between Apple and Samsung is far from over, though. Here is a plain English guide to how the jury will decide the verdict, how the judge can overrule them and what happens next.

What exactly is going on today?

After almost a month long trial, this is the finale for Apple and Samsung lawyers. Each side will sum up for the jury why their opponent ripped off their technology, and why the other sides’ patents are not valid. The judge will then give instructions to the jury and tell them to complete a 22-page form that will provide the answers.

The form makes an IRS look simple by comparison. It requires the jury to say if a dozen or so Samsung-related products like the Droid phone and Galaxy tablets violate patents for the iPhone and the iPad. Likewise, jurors will have to say whether Apple’s products infringed the Samsung gadgets. If the jurors find infringement, they will also have to decide if the copycat did it on purpose and how much they should pay. And there is more. They will also have to plumb other arcane corners of intellectual property law like “trade dress” and “prior art.”

To get a flavor of what the jury will face, here are sample questions from the proposed jury form:

What will the jury do then?

Possibly as soon as today, the nine jurors will march off to the jury room to hash things out. Typically, they begin by electing a foreman although there is no requirement for them to do so. (Alas, there is no “hipster juror” like the one who provided laughs in a recent New York trial.)

Will they just dive right in or take a straw poll first?

According to Brad Lyerla, a senior patent attorney with Jenner & Block, the first thing most juries do is take a straw poll about the verdict. Lyerla says jury research shows that the outcome of this initial poll will almost always reflect the final verdict — even if that straw poll produces a tight 5-4 vote. What this means is that a majority of the jurors will have already made up their minds and will eventually persuade the others to join them.

Does the jury have to be unanimous?

In this court, yes.

What if they can’t reach a consensus?

If they can’t agree on anything, that means a mistrial and back to square one. But there are dozens of issues to decide in this case and the jury will almost certainly come to a decision on most or all of them. Those decisions will stand and a failure to reach agreement on some questions will not derail the whole case.

How long will it take the jury to reach a decision?

“There are many claims and different issues of law. This is not an up-or-down, yes or no type of verdict. It will be a matter of days. It won’t be less than a day,” said Peter Toren, a veteran IP litigator with Weisbrod, Matheis & Copley.

Will there be any clues ahead of time?

“The jury room is sacrosanct,” said Lyerla. Lawyers might hear rumors from a bailiff that the jurors were yelling but otherwise the process is secret. The jury may also send out a question to the judge. “People like to read those questions like the entrails of a goat.”

Does the jury get to leave? 

If Judge Lucy Koh orders them to remain in the courthouse, the court will pick up the tab for a lunch order. “One day it’s pizza day, or hamburgers or sandwiches .. It’s not lavish,” said Lyerla. “It’s like an office setting where you’re having a meeting at lunch time.”

Is it the end when the jury finally issues a verdict?

It’s the end for the jurors but, for Apple and Samsung, it’s more like the end of the beginning. Both Toren and Lyerla say the companies will likely ask for a “judgment not withstanding verdict,” a request for Judge Koh to replace the jury’s conclusion with one of her own. She can do this if she concludes no “rational jury” would have come to a particular decision. Once the final verdicts are entered, the companies can then appeal. “This could go on for a year,” said Lyerla.

(Images by Everett Collection and Alita Bobrov via Shutterstock)

August 01 2012


July 29 2012


Judge in Apple-Samsung case says patent drawings can ‘speak for themselves’

A judge sided with Apple on Friday, saying she would not provide detailed  instructions to a jury about how to interpret patent drawings that lay out claims to the iPad and iPhone. Instead, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh said it would be up to the jurors to use “the eye of an ordinary observer” to decide if Korean phone maker Samsung copied the drawings.

The ruling represents one of the final skirmishes before a closely-watched trial set to kick off Monday in San Jose near Apple’s headquarters. The California trial is the biggest showdown yet in a global struggle in which Apple is carpet-bombing Samsung with intellectual property claims in the hopes of removing Samsung products from store shelves and forcing it to pay massive damages.

The decision that the drawings can “speak for themselves” is significant because it means the judge will not, as Samsung had hoped, provide detailed legal instructions about how to decipher the patents. Instead, the jurors will be asked to base their decision on the overall design and to give “such attention as a purchaser usually gives.”

The drawings in question are from four Apple design patents. Each patent contains between two and 48 drawings that are used to illustrate how Apple owns features like the shape of the iPad and the black-colored surface of the iPhone (the three iPhone-related patents can be found herehere and here while the iPad one is here ). Here are some examples of the drawings the jurors will consider (note that the judge will, however, instruct them that the dotted lines indicate that Apple is not claiming that part of the design) :

The ruling that the jurors’ should decide based on the overall impression of the drawings may strengthen Apple’s case that Samsung copied its designs. But if they do find copying, Samsung could still be off the hook if the jury (again acting as an “ordinary observer”) decides the patents are obvious based on earlier tablet and smartphone designs. For instance, Samsung is arguing that Apple itself lifted design ideas from these Sony prototypes:

The design patent dispute is just the most high profile part of a case that also features a complicated mix of other intellectual property claims such as utility patents, trade dress and more. The trial, for which jury selection is to begin on Monday, will also address whether Apple infringed Samsung’s patents. Apple claims Samsung’s claims fail because they are based on so-called FRAND patents which companies must license because they part of an industry standard.

Koh on Claim Construction
(Image by nokhoog_buchachon via Shutterstock)

February 14 2012


US Dept. of Justice approves Apple's purchases of Nortel, Novell patents

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division closed its investigations into three major acquisitions that were pending, opening the door to completion of these acquisitions by the companies involved. For Apple, the acquisition of patents from Nortel Networks Corporation and Novell Inc has been green lighted, clearing the way for the company to finalize the purchase of intellectual property.

Apple, Microsoft, RIM and some other players had joined together as "Rockstar Bidco" to acquire patents at the June 2011 Nortel bankruptcy auction. Nortel had a portfolio of approximately 6,000 patents and patent applications, including many "standard essential patents" that the new owners will be able to license to other "industry participants." What makes standard essential patents so valuable is that they become part of industry standards (e.g., 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi) and must be licensed by manufacturers who wish to create compatible devices.

Apple is also acquiring patents that were formerly owned by Novell and were acquired on behalf of Apple, Oracle, and EMC Corporation in April of 2011. It doesn't appear that Apple will be able to pull in license fees for these patents, as Novell had committed to cross-license the patents on a royalty-free basis for use in the "Linux system."

A third part of the DOJ announcement could affect Apple indirectly. The DOJ has now cleared the way for Google to acquire Motorola Mobility, which not only manufactures smartphones and tablets but also holds a portfolio of "approximately 17,000 issued patents and 6,800 (patent) applications." Once again, there are hundreds of "standard essential patents" that Google will be able to license to other companies.

US Dept. of Justice approves Apple's purchases of Nortel, Novell patents originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Tue, 14 Feb 2012 13:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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February 10 2012


German court has dismissed Motorola's patent lawsuit against Apple

In the slugfest between Apple and Motorola Mobility, the Cupertino company has won a round in the German courts. A judge in the Mannheim Regional Court dismissed the Motorola Mobility (MMI) lawsuit against Apple over a patent considered essential to the 3G/UMTS standard.

In a typically well-written and extremely detailed look at the case by FOSS Patents, intellectual property analyst and blogger Florian Mueller noted that MMI didn't present conclusive evidence for its contention that Apple was infringing on a key 3G/UMTS patent. MMI's argument has been that "any implementation of 3G/UMTS must inevitably infringe this patent claim," rather than demonstrating that Apple's infringing products actually use the invention.

MMI didn't show that Apple was using any actual implementation of the patent; instead, they argued on the basis of the specifications of the standard. MMI declared the patent to be essential, while the court found it to not be essential, meaning that the judge thinks that Apple could be able to implement the standard without infringing on the patent.

MMI isn't worrying too much about this specific patent lawsuit, though. They have other similar lawsuits that are still making their way through the court system, and have won other patent claims. Mueller notes that "it takes only one bullet to kill," and that winning a key patent infringement lawsuit could still force Apple and other manufacturers to pay the 2.25% of net selling price "ransom" that will fatten MMI owner Google's pockets over time.

To see more detail about today's win and the complex set of lawsuits that are churning through courtrooms around the world, check out the original FOSS Patents post here.

German court has dismissed Motorola's patent lawsuit against Apple originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Fri, 10 Feb 2012 14:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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January 31 2012


January 09 2012


September 14 2011


Apple files countersuit against Samsung in the UK

Apple has fired back against Samsung in the UK, where the Korean company originally filed suit against the iPhone maker back in June. The specific patents in the cases have yet to be identified, but Samsung claimed in its original complaint that Apple’s iPhone and other devices infringe on intellectual property owned by Samsung. In a new countersuit (via ZDNet UK), Apple argues that Samsung’s Android tablets and smartphones actually copy aspects of its iPhone and iPad designs.

This latest action adds to the many ongoing suits between the two companies worldwide. Cases span the globe, active in courts in the U.S., Germany, Japan and Australia, to name a few. Recently, Samsung received a major blow when the preliminary injunction against its Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet was upheld by a German court in Düsseldorf. Samsung will appeal that ruling to a higher court, which should take at least a couple of months to issue a decision.

Apple’s move to countersue is not unexpected, as it has been on the offensive in most other markets, and it was always likely to want to defend its intellectual property holdings in the UK, too. Samsung has countersued Apple in a number of cases, including in South Korea, Japan and Germany, but it actually withdrew its countersuit against the Cupertino-based company in California, citing a desire to “streamline” its legal proceedings.

This is bound to get messier before it gets better, and some have wondered whether it might extend to Samsung’s newly announced Windows 8 tablet efforts. We’ll be sure to keep watching to let you know how this ongoing intellectual property drama between what are arguably the two most important mobile device makers in the world plays out.

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September 07 2011


Google inches closer to patent showdown with Apple

Google is apparently putting its new Motorola patents to work, transferring some of them to HTC, which has turned around and sued Apple for patent infringement. The move by HTC, first reported by Bloomberg, escalates the fighting between the Appleand HTC, who have sued each other over patent claims. But it marks a more aggressive stance by Google, which is applying its growing patent strength in an effort to shore up the larger Android ecosystem.

In its case filed in federal court in Delaware, HTC cited four patents, which came from Motorola. The Taiwanese device maker also amended its infringement case against Apple with the International Trade Commission to include three patents from Openwave and two that were originally issued to Palm. Bloomberg said Google, which obtained the patents within the last year, transferred the patents to HTC on Sept. 1. It’s unclear, however, how exactly Google obtained the patents.

The move increases the likelihood of an eventual Apple-Google showdown. So far, Apple has chosen to file cases against Android manufacturers including HTC, Motorola and Samsung and not directly against Google. Now, it may just be a matter of time before the two go head-to-head.

Patent expert Florian Mueller writes that it initially appears Google is trying to shore up HTC, which hasn’t had much luck in fighting Apple or getting to a point where it can force a cross-licensing agreement. He said the more advanced state of HTC’s fight with Apple and the likelihood it might lose may have prompted Google to act. The ITC in July preliminarily sided with Apple saying HTC infringed on two Apple patents. The patents appear to be based on software built into the core of the Android operating system, which could have spelled trouble for Google and all Android manufacturers.

By working with HTC to sue Apple, it looks like Google is working toward a broader defense of Android. It’s unclear how successful HTC and Google will be, however. A number of observers have not been impressed with the strength of Motorola’s patents, and Apple knew about Motorola’s patent portfolio and still sued Motorola. But it shows that Google is wading deeper into this fight, as it probably has no choice now. If Apple keeps up the pressure, the patent claims could undermine a lot of the gains Android has made in the U.S. and abroad.

Image courtesy of Flickr user U.S. Army. 

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September 02 2011


More legal trouble for Apple with WiLAN patent claim

It seems Apple can’t even go a full week without being targeted with a new patent violation claim. Friday, patent-holding firm WiLAN, which does little beyond seek licensing fees for its 800 wireless tech patents, announced that it had begun the process of litigation against Apple, as well as Dell, HP and others, for infringing on two of its patents related to CDMA, HSPA, Wi-Fi and LTE technologies.

WiLAN filed its claim with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, which is generally a go-to court for patent claims because it has a track record of favoring plaintiffs, with 88 percent of rulings siding with those laying claims, vs. a nationwide average of only 68 percent. WiLAN, an Ottawa, Ontario-based company will employ the services of McKool Smith, one of the best U.S. intellectual property law firms, and one with ample experience arguing cases in East Texas.

WiLAN has a history of pursuing claims against Apple, including in a suit related to Wi-Fi tech in 2007, and in a 2010 case over Bluetooth. Some companies have settled with WiLAN in these cases, Intel among them, but otherwise, they remain ongoing. Most recently, it was in the news for its ongoing attempts to acquire another patent-holding firm, MOSAID, through a hostile takeover bid. MOSAID has recently added more than 2,000 patents to its portfolio in a deal with Nokia.

Typically, companies like WiLAN just want to extract licensing fees from the companies involved in the suit, so you seldom see an actual verdict in these cases. You can see why, in the face of constant attacks from companies like WiLAN, Openwave and Lodsys that Apple and others would want to build deep patent portfolios. There’s also the motive of being able to hamstring your closest competitors through patent litigation, of course.

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August 29 2011


July 26 2011


HTC wants to talk but will Apple listen?

HTC said it’s open to negotiating with Apple to settle a pitched patent fight between the two companies but it’s unclear how willing Apple is to talk and how much HTC can extract from negotiations. HTC’s chief financial officer Winston Yung told Bloomberg that the Taiwanese company is open to discussing a deal that would resolve the legal issues that have embroiled the two manufacturers.

Apple on July 15 won an initial victory at the U.S. International Trade Commission when a judge ruled that HTC had infringed on two of Apple’s patents that appear to be related to HTC’s use of the Android operating system. A full commission will decide in December whether to confirm the ruling and potentially ban the sale of HTC products in the U.S. On July 1, the ITC also ruled in favor of S3 Graphics, saying that Apple infringed on its patents. HTC, less than a week later, bought S3 in a bid to give it more patent leverage.

“We are open to all sorts of solutions, as long as the solution and the terms are fair and reasonable,” Yung said. “On and off we’ve had discussions with Apple, even before the initial determination (against HTC) came out.”

Now settlements and cross-licensing deals are usually the norm in patent fights and it’s not unreasonable for HTC to assume that it can win some kind of deal from Apple. But I think it’s presumptuous that Apple is interested in following the normal rules of protocol in this case. Unlike Microsoft, which seems more than happy to force Android licensees to pay over royalties to use its patents, Apple seems more intent on stopping the use of its IP. Only in situations where it absolutely has to, such as the recent settlement with Nokia , will it strike a deal. And that was against a company with a huge trove of patents.

With HTC’s recent S3 pick-up, it will have more leverage against Apple, but it still doesn’t have a strong patent position. And it’s unclear what Apple will do. It could try to work around S3′s patents or buy chips from manufacturers that already have a license from S3. Or as patent expert Florian Mueller points out, perhaps Apple just offers a partial license that doesn’t completely cover HTC:

I could imagine a situation in which Apple might agree on a partial cross-license that would grant Apple access to all of HTC’s and S3′s patents while HTC would get access to only some of Apple’s patents: maybe just enough so that HTC can at least continue to sell Android-based products of some kind, but those products could be limited and there might be substantial degradations of the user experience.

If Apple comes to the negotiating table, that to me sounds like the most likely outcome. Apple is not interested in money at this point, and it’s only affected by patent strength. It has a lot to protect in the iPhone and iPad, which are now its dominant businesses, and so it will do whatever it takes to protect its edge. The fact that it plunked down $2.6 billion for the Nortel patents shows that it’s serious about bulking up even more on that front and you have to wonder what other patents it can toss into the HTC fight if it wants more leverage. It already filed a second complaint against HTC with the ITC and who knows, it could pile on more if it looks closely enough.

“We want people to invent their own stuff,” said Apple COO Tim Cook, during last week’s quarterly earnings call. “We’re going to make sure we defend our portfolio from everyone.”

A complete cross-licensing deal to end a patent fight is a last resort for Apple, I imagine. What Apple wants to do is either stop these Android devices that infringe on its IP from even hitting the market or force them to undergo crippling work arounds that degrade the experience. It’s not looking for a payout. So unless HTC can bring more heat to bear with the S3 patents and Apple can’t figure a way around them, I don’t see Apple making a big effort to talk at this point. Yes, they’ve chatted before. And they may talk some more. But the question is how cooperative will Apple be. My guess: not very.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Pfau.

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July 15 2011


Apple wins initial patent victory against HTC

The U.S. International Trade Commission has ruled that Android manufacturer HTC has infringed on two Apple patents, handing the iPhone maker an early victory that could have large implications on HTC’s business in the U.S. in the worst case scenario and potential impacts on the overall Android platform. The ruling issued today by an ITC administrative law judge is an initial determination and is being appealed to the ITC’s six commissioners, HTC said in a statement.

The judgement could lead to a ban of the sale of HTC products in the U.S. if it’s upheld or if HTC is unable to find a way to work around the disputed intellectual property. Or HTC could seek a settlement from Apple — that is, if Apple is willing to provide a license. If Apple does license the IP, it will force HTC to pay more royalties for its use of Android, on top of licensing fees it is paying Microsoft for every Android device it makes.

Apple’s win could deal an even tougher blow to the Android platform because one or both of the patents in the dispute appear to be based on software built into the core of the Android operating system, said Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents. He said they are also at issue in the Apple’s case against Motorola. That could lead to more headaches for other Android manufacturers, who could face similar suits from Apple and the threat of an ITC ban of their products.

The latest ruling comes from Apple’s initial complaint, which the ITC staff had recommended against. But the case has turned around for Apple, which also filed a new case against HTC with the ITC this week on five additional patents that were not part of Friday’s ruling. HTC might have bought some defense for itself by recently acquiring S3 Graphics. The ITC previously determined that Apple infringes on patents owned by S3.

Android continues to be a world beater and is now being activated on 550,000 devices a day, according to Google. But it is increasingly under siege by Apple, Oracle and Microsoft. Oracle is directly suing Google for alleged infringement of its Java patents while Apple has sued Android manufacturers. Microsoft, meanwhile, has lined up licensing deals with manufacturers and seems intent on milking Android’s success.

It’s unlikely that any one action can undo the success of Android but there are growing concerns about the price manufacturers will have to pay for supporting the platform, which is ostensibly free. If Apple can get a ban of Android products in the U.S. or force Google to engage in severe workarounds that hobble the platform, however, it could overturn a lot of the success of Android. Again, there is a lot that still needs to happen but this is another bad sign for Android.

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July 11 2011


Apple keeps the pressure on HTC with new patent complaint

Apple is ratcheting up its patent war against HTC, filing a new complaint with the International Trade Commission seeking the ban of more “personal electronic devices” including tablets. The new filing comes after an initial complaint lodged against HTC last year and a similar case filed last week by Apple against Samsung.

It shows that Apple is keeping up the pressure on Android manufacturers and is intent on pursuing its claims, even in the face of setbacks. The ITC staff recently recommended denying Apple’s first complaint against HTC though a final ruling is expected Aug. 5. The ITC has 30 days to decide whether to investigate Apple’s latest complaint.

The latest skirmish raises the stakes for HTC in particular and Android manufacturers in general. This is, according to patent expert Florian Mueller, the 48th lawsuit or complaint against an Android maker and there’s little sign that the claims won’t keep coming. As we’ve discussed recently, there is a full court press on against Android being pushed by companies like Apple, Microsoft and Oracle that could have serious implications on Android if the separate intellectual property claims start to pile up.

The dispute between Apple and HTC has taken on a new dimension with HTC’s announced purchase of S3 Graphics. The ITC determined that Apple infringes on patents owned by S3, which helps improve HTC’s previously weaker IP standing. HTC has also countered Apple’s complaint last year with a case of its own with the ITC that sought to ban iPhone, iPad and iPod touch sales. But with HTC releasing more devices including the Flyer tablet, it’s given Apple another chance to assert new patent claims against the Taiwanese manufacturer.

Apple may be giving up on its first complaint and is hoping to do more damage with a second case against HTC. Or it could be that Apple needs to keep up the pressure in light of the S3 ruling. But either way, it means the patents wars show no signs of letting up and Apple in particular could be ramping up to go after more Android makers.

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June 29 2011


June 22 2011


June 17 2011

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