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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 neowolf (173735) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:53AM (#25899485)

    So- they essentially patented WAP? I think Apple can come up with enough "prior artwork" for this one. It's unfortunate though that companies like this (EMG) are allowed to even exist. When will it end?

  • Decoding anyone? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Leafheart (1120885) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:54AM (#25899489)
    So they got a patent on decoding and interpreting? Isn't that covered by prior art with things like PDFCreator, or is it enough to change file types to get it?
  • Patent reform (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dogmatixpsych (786818) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:54AM (#25899493) Homepage Journal
    We need some serious patent reform. Patents are good and necessary in general but many of these go too far or are too vague or are not based on working prototypes.

    How long before we see a patent on "a system of placing letters and numbers in sequential order in order to convey something meaningful"?
  • Uh... wrong browser? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Millennium (2451) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:54AM (#25899501) Homepage

    I know Opera Mini and some other mobile browsers do this, but I thought Safari worked on the HTML itself. Wouldn't that render the patent irrelevant?

  • Reformat content? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fermion (181285) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:03AM (#25899595) Homepage Journal
    I thought the whole point of the iphone was to not have to reformat content, the iphone can display it the way it is. I know some sites, like amazon, are so badly formatted that the owners feel the site has to be rewritten for iPhone, but it does not help much. Other sites, like NYT, wrote an app, but that appears to be for ad revenue purposes, as iPhone does not have flash. The same for Youtube.

    So, at the end of the day, I fail to see how this applies to any modern smart phone. Only the older phones, or non-smart phones, can't render HTML as is. Of course most of these problems are caused by graphic designers not understanding HML, and borking the standard so we now have web pages that make no sense in almost an common browser.

  • by powerlord (28156) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:13AM (#25899703) Journal

    Four possibilities:

    1) They wish to claim that "scaled down" is included in their definition of a "Sister site" (absurd)

    2) They believe the Safari browser in the iPhone is not showing the "real" site (uninformed)

    3) They are trying to use Safari as a test case since Apple's best argument is that it "doesn't scale things". Even if they lose, they can't point to this lawsuit and use it as a basis to force other cell phone makers to pay up (since they can't claim apple's defense) (unlikely, but plausible. IANAL)

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

    Anyone have any other ideas? :)

  • Re:Oh boy... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by I cant believe its n (1103137) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:31AM (#25899847) Journal
    "They set up the Campaign for Real Time to try to stop this sort of thing going on. Their case was considerably strengthened by the fact that a week after they had set themselves up, news broke that not only had the great Cathedral of Chalesm been pulled down in order to build a new ion refinery, but that construction of the refinery had taken so long, and had had to extend so far back into the past in order to allow ion production to start on time, that the Cathedral of Chalesm had now never been built in the first place." - Douglas Adams
  • Eh? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:40AM (#25899939) Journal
    I know it is all flashy and high profile and profitable and stuff; but isn't the iPhone a really stupid target for this sort of thing? My impression was that mobile safari behaved almost exactly like desktop safari(in terms of rendering), which means acting pretty much like any webkit based browser. There are phone/mobile browsers that do all sorts of curious chopping and reformatting, possibly event patentable chopping and reformatting; but wasn't one of the perks of the iPhone that it didn't need to?
  • Re:Opera (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SteveRyan (1828) <taketwoaspirin@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:40AM (#25899941) Homepage

    Someplace I have a Handspring Visor with a Xircom WiFi adapter that does this, too; it was from early in 2002. It might even still work, if Palm hasn't unplugged the proxy servers yet.

  • Prior Art (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dragoon412 (648209) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @12:19PM (#25900407)

    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.

  • Re:Prior Art (Score:3, Interesting)

    by immcintosh (1089551) <slashdot AT ianmcintosh DOT org> on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @01:37PM (#25901211) Homepage

    Well, that's fine, but from what I gather this patent has a couple of points against it in that (a) its claims seem quite simple and happen to only encompass a process that has been quite common for several years, and (b) it the iPhone doesn't even implement the process covered by this patent; it doesn't even come close to implementing it, in fact, it's the one phone on the market that is overwhelmingly not covered by this patent, unless I'm vastly misunderstanding the content of this patent.

    Prior art aside, I'm guessing it's point (b) which is going to see this one dead in the water. They chose the iPhone because it's hot and popular, but failed to realize that their patent doesn't even relate to it. I'd think Apple would even be able to pursue something like malicious prosecution charges because of how flagrantly inapplicable this patent is.

  • by pxuongl (758399) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @01:49PM (#25901321)
    they know their patent claim is pretty thin, and that all other cell phones are in themselves prior art as they only filed for this patent last year. sounds to me that they've chosen to target the iPhone because it was only released last year, therefore being least likely for a company to claim prior art
  • I don't think so (Score:4, Interesting)

    by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @02:44PM (#25901811) Homepage Journal

    I'm not a lawyer, or even a law student, but am an engineer who has worked under the direction of patent attorneys to evaluate patents to determine whether or not my employer's work infringed or whether we could demonstrate prior art.

    From my experience, patents consist of a series of claims that are independent and severable, except where they explicitly depend on one another. That is, a patent often consists of claims A, B and C, where B and C are both extensions of the idea in A.

    Each independent claim contains multiple elements, and for prior art to apply, or a technology to be infringing, ALL of the elements of a given claim have to apply. It is not, however, necessary for all of the CLAIMS in the patent to apply. If I have prior art that covers everything in claim C, then claim C is invalidated. Since claim C is an extension of claim A, then the prior art also contains everything in A and it is invalidated. But if B contains elements that are not in the prior art, then that portion of the patent stands.

    So far, this is consistent with what you said, but the point is that if B is the only claim left standing, then ONLY technologies that implement B can be infringing. So even when prior art doesn't completely invalidate a patent, it often dramatically pares down its applicability. Often to the point where it's a trivial matter to sidestep a patent.

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

    True, but don't forget that prior art is often a key part of the settlement negotiations. If the alleged infringer can show prior art that would invalidate a large part of the patent, they can reduce the settlement to almost nothing. It's even been known to happen that in a case where the defendant has been able to come up with not only prior art but also some counter claims, that the plaintiff ends up paying a settlement to avoid having their patent dragged through court and invalidated.

  • by node 3 (115640) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @05:28PM (#25903453)

    It won't cost small companies millions to fight a patent like this, and large companies will not pay millions of dollars if they don't have to.

    Even if both situations may actually happen from time to time, they would only have to not happen once to completely invalidate a patent.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @07:06PM (#25904447)

    Absolutely not. There is no way that one should have to demonstrate FACILITY to implement an idea to patent it - that's just an implementation of the "Rich Man Wins" paradigm. Poor and middle class inventors should also have the opportunity, not just whoever's rich enough to have a factory.

    INTENT to implement, that I can agree with. That way, one still has the option of getting the patent then using that as evidence of ability to produce in order to get investors or loans. It should also be a requirement of a patent that the patent has been implemented in a legitimate design or product within a reasonable time (maybe 2 years?) of the approval.

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