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Apple Sued Over iPhone Browser 225

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the just-this-once-then dept.
SpuriousLogic writes "A Los Angeles real estate developer is suing Apple for patent infringement over the way the iPhone navigates Web sites. The suit, which was filed on behalf of EMG Technology, seeks unspecified damages. EMG Technology is a company that holds the patents of Elliot Gottfurcht, the real estate developer, as well as Marlo Longstreet and Grant Gottfurcht. The company claims that the iPhone infringes on patent 7,441,196 — a patent that was approved only last month, after a filing process that began on March 13, 2006. That patent is for an invention that displays 'on-line content reformatted from a webpage in a hypertext markup language (HTML) format into an extensible markup language (XML) format to generate a sister site.' This sister site is a simplified version of the original site that is then displayed on any number of devices — including cell phones, EMG says."
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Apple Sued Over iPhone Browser

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  • by Dekortage (697532) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:56AM (#25899515) Homepage

    Safari doesn't create a different version of the web page. It shows the original HTML version, just graphically scaled down. So EMG should be suing all the other cell phone browser companies. As the article notes:

    Now, it seems to me that this is a description of what every single mobile phone on the market does. Every mobile phone EXCEPT the iPhone, that is. Remember all those commercials touting how the iPhone doesn't display a simplified Web site, but the full Web page? ... The press release issued by EMG claims that the iPhone uses the same method as their invention. So, doesn't every other mobile phone do this as well? Should a patent granted last month hand over intellectual property rights for every single handheld device that accesses the Web?

  • by CubanCorona (759226) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:02AM (#25899571)
    Unfortunately, this patent contains apparatus claims as well as method claims.

    The Bilski decision was limited to method claims, and so it won't apply without a fairly liberal extension of that holding.
  • by ergo98 (9391) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:23AM (#25899785) Homepage Journal

    So- they essentially patented WAP?

    No, it's worse than that. They basically patented XSLT, and the application of it to target different devices.

    Another completely retarded patent.

  • by lieuwen (1417741) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:28AM (#25899819)
    The patent examiners seems to have missed all the prior work at WWW. For instance,
    Juliana Freire, Bharat Kumar, Daniel F. Lieuwen: WebViews: accessing personalized web content and services. WWW 2001: 576-586
    Anyone reasonably skilled in the art could have gone from my paper to that claim without much trouble---we use htmltidy to turn html into xml and used xpath to extract pieces out of it which we could transcode in various ways including in voicexml. We built a system that did just that. And thats just one paper. WWW had a number of papers, any which of them should have killed this patent if the patent examiner had done the proper due diligence.
  • by truthsearch (249536) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:36AM (#25899897) Homepage Journal

    4) They are going after Apple because its the "hot" thing with lots of money to go after (likely)

    "We haven't looked at anything other than the iPhone," Gibson told Reuters [reuters.com]. "That was the device that we looked at. Obviously it's very popular."

  • XSLT is the key (Score:4, Informative)

    by Vapula (14703) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:49AM (#25900035)

    Easy prior art :
    <xsl:stylesheet xmlns:xsl="http://www.w3c.org/1999/XSL/Transform" version="1.0">

    </xsl:stylesheet>

    XSLT clearly existed in 1999... And if you use an empty stylesheet, you get a (very) simplified document which only contains the text nodes, without any HTML (or other) tags...

    That can easily be displayed on text-only devices.

    If you add a

    <xsl:template select="a">
        <xsl:copy-of select="." />
    </xsl:template>

    The links are preserved (but are the only kind of formatting preserved)... That's basic XSLT and I guess that many teachers who give XML lessons have used similar examples...

  • There's prior art (Score:5, Informative)

    by TeXMaster (593524) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:57AM (#25900159)
    Opera has been doing this kind of stuff (the specific things discussed in the patent, I mean, not the patent trolling itself) since they got heavily into the mobile business anyway. Opera Mini [wikipedia.org], specifically, was officially launched on 2006-01-24, which is before that patent was filed. Earlier releases, which already used methods and apparati addressed by this patent, were already deployed in 2005.
  • by Teilo (91279) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @12:06PM (#25900265) Homepage

    Apparatus claims are not sufficient to get around In re Biski. Simply adding the words "On a computer" or "On a handheld device" (or long drawn-out complicated descriptions which equate to the same), to a process that is, in itself, purely algorithmic or an abstract process that could equally apply to any number of pre-existing machines, does not rise to the level of the machine requirement in In re Biski.

    I like to put it his way (though this is overly simplified, perhaps): If you come up with a novel way to use a screw driver, you cannot patent your method, because you didn't have to invent the screw driver to do it. The screw driver already existed.

    In this patent, you could substitute the words, "web page displayed in a browser, running on a hand-held computer with a touch screen" for the bulk of the claim copy. Well, none of that qualifies a process as unique to a specific machine. The fact that there are many different devices that meet his description, devices that are in no way intrinsically linked to this patent, brings this into direct conflict with In re Bilski.

  • Hmmm. (Score:5, Informative)

    by hey! (33014) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @12:37PM (#25900601) Homepage Journal

    The patent doesn't claim that representing a web site in XML is original. Instead, it seems to be claiming patent rights on a caching mechanism somewhat like the tiling scheme used in Google maps, except that instead of converting a map into a series of image tiles, they convert a web page into a series of tiles on the server. In Google Maps, this allows a huge document, if you will, to be served in bandwidth efficient chunks to support a responsive user interface.

    This tiling strategy is clearly not original, so the claim is for a mechanism for doing this by converting a web page, server-side, into an XML document, portions of which can be fetched (in cases of adjacent tiles preemptively) from the server, updating the display using DOM style manipulations. The HTML->XML transformation is used to try to convert a number of common practices, inventions:tiling and caching content, displaying advertisements in response to web page navigation events, doing said things on the server side or client side, doing it on mobile devices and set-top devices; doing it in response to voice command, doing it in response to keyboard entries, doing it in response to mouse clicks; allowing the user to zoom in on a tile, etc.

    The supposed secret sauce is converting an HTML web site into geometric tiles represented by XML. That's what's supposed to make this thing stick when thrown against the wall. Everything else in the patent is there to maximize the size of the blob sticking to the wall. Oh, yes and mumbo jumbo that makes the idea sound a lot more mysterious than it really is.

    I'm guessing that what they are going after is Apple's implementation of something analogous to tabbed browsing on the iPhone, an interface that has a coverflowish feel. The patent claims rights to using zooming/magnification with three dimensional representations of web sites created with their secret XML sauce. You can sort of imagine confusing the Safari interface with this if you had never seen it in action, but the inexplicable thing is that Apple isn't using the secret sauce of HTML-XML conversion to produce their interface. You can sort of imagine going after low end phone news and messaging browsers that use WML as looking something like the secret sauce in that it uses HTML to XML conversion, but it doesn't use it in the way specified by the secret sauce. And it's prior art.

    Basically, this is a worthless BS patent. Even if this were not BS, what it describes doesn't apply to the iPhone browser. They don't have any chance at all. So I can only speculate they're trying to hype the value of their "property" to attract stupid investors.

  • Re:XSLT is the key (Score:3, Informative)

    by DrXym (126579) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @12:38PM (#25900611)
    XSL wouldn't work on HTML because generally speaking it isn't well-formed. Not even a XHTML DTD ensures well-formedness because browsers are far too forgiving.

    Anyway this patent is bullshit. If the iPhone were transforming the site in some meaningful way, it would be guaranteed to break any JavaScript in the page. That code calling document.getElementById("foo") would break when "foo" wasn't there or was rearranged. Safari might scale images or reflow the content, or ignore certain style rules but nothing that hasn't been done numerous times in space-confined browsers - Pocket IE, Opera, Netfront, Minimo, Lynx etc.

  • Re:Oh, well... (Score:5, Informative)

    by UnknowingFool (672806) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @12:43PM (#25900681)
    True. Ideas can come from anywhere. While Nikola Tesla first invented the frequency hopping that later became Spread spectrum [wikipedia.org] technology, it was refined in part by Hedy Lamarr, a Hollywood actress in the 1940s.
  • Re:Patent reform (Score:4, Informative)

    by Simon Brooke (45012) <stillyet@googlemail.com> on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @12:58PM (#25900835) Homepage Journal

    We need some serious patent reform. Patents are good and necessary in general...

    I seriously doubt this. The claim for patents is that they protect the 'useful arts' by offering inventors a limited-time monopoly on whatever they have invented - provided that the invention passes some test of non-obviousness and utility.

    However, if you look back in history to periods in which some countries had patent systems and some did not - the United Kingdom and Germany in the nineteenth century, for example - it's clear that lack of a patent system did not in the least hold back inventors in Germany from inventing and developing new technologies. On the contrary. So the intellectual justification for having a patent system in the first place looks a bit thin.

    I think we'd all - drug companies included - be better off if there were no such things as patents.

  • Re:Prior Art (Score:4, Informative)

    by Fzz (153115) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @01:02PM (#25900877)
    Actual prior art, which would be sufficient to legally defeat a patent, must read on all of a patent's claims.

    I'm not a lawyer either, but I have successfully contested several patents in court (one European, one US case), and had them invalidated. Your statement is not quite correct.

    Usually a patent has a series of independent claims. A piece of prior art must read on all the elements of a single claim to invalidate that claim. However you can use different pieces of prior art to invalidate different independent claims.

  • by CubanCorona (759226) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @01:37PM (#25901217)
    From a completely subjective point of view, the thrust of your argument makes intuitive sense--why should a method that is not patent eligible be able to skirt this result by reciting a general purpose machine for its execution?

    Unfortunately, in the legal world, intuition must sometimes give way to legal formalisms.

    In this case the formalisms are the statutory categories of invention. Processes (methods) constitute one distinct statutory category, and machines (apparatuses) another.

    Getting back to your point, you are correct to say that, after Bilski, a method (process) claim that is otherwise not patent eligible may not become eligible by simply providing that the disclosed method is executed on a general purpose machine (computer).

    HOWEVER, an apparatus claim is separate and distinct from a method claim that is tied to an apparatus.

    So while it is true that tying a method claim to a general purpose computer is not sufficient to overcome Bilski's machine requirement, it remains true that the holding of Bilski DOES NOT APPLY TO APPARATUS CLAIMS.

    As an example, consider the following:

    Method claim: "A method of ... comprising the steps of ...."

    Method claim tied to a general purpose computer: "A method of ... executed by a computer processor, comprising the steps of ...."

    APPARATUS claim: "A computer readable storage medium containing instructions, when executed by a computer processor, operable to ...."
  • Re:There's prior art (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @02:13PM (#25901519)

    Right (except for the XML part, that is, I really don't think Opera Mini would receive the reformatted pages as *XML* of all things -- this piece of specify is enough to make the patent apparently not appliable, BTW). Funny thing is, iPhone *doesn't* do this, it's browser does no reformatting, it shows the page just as a desktop browser would, except that it's miniature and you have to zoom in. The lawyers probably got confused by sites that detect iPhone and serve simplified pages...

  • by dgatwood (11270) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @02:25PM (#25901659) Journal
    Absolutely correct. The iPhone browser is a different UI built on top of a tweaked WebKit. It does not use XML or page simplification techniques in any way. I'm pretty baffled by this suit. About all I can imagine is that some web site served a simplified site to this company's iPhone based on a browser match and these folks with their complete lack of technical knowledge assumed that the iPhone did the simplification, which couldn't be farther removed from reality without talking about Internet gnomes sending messages through a series of tubes....
  • Re:Prior Art (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @02:40PM (#25901787)

    First off, IANAL. I am a law student with IP and patent law classes under my belt, but I'm still just a law student. Take the following with a grain of salt.

    In a lot of the patent articles on Slashdot, where someone will ask "Isn't X prior art?" Often, even though it seems intuitively that it should be, it's not.

    Actual prior art, which would be sufficient to legally defeat a patent, must read on all of a patent's claims. Assume the patent in question has claims (basically, technical description of features) A, B, and C. You research patents, and you find older patents:

    Patent 1 has claims A and B.
    Patent 2 has claims B and C.
    Patent 3 has claims A and C.

    None of those will defeat the patent in question on prior art grounds, because none of them include all of the claims A, B, and C.

    What you may have at that point is an obviousness objection. You could argue that because there are patents 1-3 exist, that combining them to create A, B, and C was so obvious to someone skilled in the art that the patent should be invalidated for failing to be non-obvious. But that's different than prior art.

    Having a patent invalidated for prior art is actually pretty uncommon. Obviousness issues are more common, but often, it's cheaper to just settle.

    I think you may be confusing anticipation with prior art. Prior art can be anything that teaches an element of a claim. The combination of prior art makes an invention obvious. A single piece of prior art renders it anticipated. Iaapl (I am a patent lawyer).

  • by egghat (73643) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @03:17PM (#25902127) Homepage

    I' quite sure they mean websites like this

    Top 10 iPhone Optimized Websites [theappleblog.com] or 20 Websites Optimized for the iPhone [mashable.com]

    While this is no rewriting/transformation it could be considered as some kind of "sister site".

    I'd still consider their claims "wobbly" and hope that they'll fail.

  • by johanatan (1159309) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @02:54AM (#25906753)
    Exactly. They could've picked any number of other [less popular] devices which do this, but they chose the one single device (or at least first) which displays the entire unedited page [elegantly]. Pure ignorance!

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