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Patents Apple

Multi-Touch Tech Firm Seeks iPad Sales Injunction 148

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the good-luck-with-that dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Taiwan-based Elan Microelectronics just filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission alleging that Apple is infringing on its patents and violating the Tariff Act, and is seeking a ban on imports of the iPad as well as an order to stop selling the mobile device along with iPhones, iPods, and Macs. The move was taken as a 'continuation of our efforts to enforce our patent rights against Apple's ongoing infringement,' the company said." Considering many iPad pre-orders have tracking #s already, I suspect it might be a little late.
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Multi-Touch Tech Firm Seeks iPad Sales Injunction

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  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @12:29PM (#31673898) Homepage
    'Don't touch me there' in Chinese?
  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot AT hackish DOT org> on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @12:30PM (#31673920)

    They sued Apple a year ago [washingtonpost.com] with essentially the same complaint about the iPhone, iPod Touch, and MacBook.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      Oh, I guess the article already says what came of it: it's still being litigated, as Apple was granted an extension to respond to it.

      • by iamhassi (659463)
        "Apple was granted an extension to respond to it."

        Which I don't understand, because Apple already owns a patent on multi-touch [uspto.gov], how can you sue the patent holder for infringement of their own patent?

        Apple's patent:
        "A computer-implemented method for use in conjunction with a computing device with a touch screen display comprises: detecting one or more finger contacts with the touch screen display, applying one or more heuristics to the one or more finger contacts to determine a command for the device,
        • You can have multiple overlapping patents, for example MP3. Something like 13 different entities patented various overlapping chunks of MP3. The way patent extortion works here is that you have to license all the patents to avboid being sued. In general, companies pay off the top few leeching extortionists and ignore the rest for mp3, sometimes leading to suits.

          This i sjust one more piece of how patents are a minefield for legitimate innovators.

          • by dfghjk (711126)

            Perhaps this is an example of how patents are a minefield but there's no example here of a legitimate innovator suffering. Apple uses its patents to implement as aggressive a "minefield" for others as anyone in the industry and, in this case, Apple's patents were purchased. It did not create the innovation itself.

            • You do have a point wrt the hypocrisy, but as I see it, the innovation is the product itself, not the idea. Anyone can come up with an obvious idea like multitouch but integrating it into a good product, as several companies incl Apple have done, that's what I'd call innovation. Or figuring out how to actually make it instead of just patenting the idea.

          • This i sjust one more piece of how patents are a minefield for legitimate innovators.

            How can you be an innovator if you're just implementing something that someone else has already done?

            • * Do it better
              * Do it in a new way
              * Don't know that someone else already did it
              * Integrate it better into an overall system

              All I got off the top of my head.

          • by perlchild (582235)

            The more I think about it, the more I think the current legal climate(extra penalties for checking for existing patents, almost wilful neglection of prior art, etc...) is a deliberate attempt to skew the patent system towards large companies holding portfolies of defensive patents so broad and vague they are a revenue stream for those companies(think ibm), and the "patent trolls" are actually just small remoras hanging on to the big sharks. The innovators work for neither, the innovators are the enemy of t

        • by raynet (51803)

          I recall that Apple only has method patent for multi-touch, they don't have hardware level patent for it. Maybe this other company has something of that sorts.

    • by C_Kode (102755)

      It's ongoing. Which is why with the release of the iPad they are seeking an injunction against the sale of their products. They aren't suing them again, they are trying to stop the sale of the products to apply more pressure to Apple.

  • Wait... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AequitasVeritas (712728) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @12:31PM (#31673936)
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but isnt Apple suing HTC over, among other patents, multi-touch? Now Apple is being sued over the same thing?

    So who actually owns this patent?
    • Re:Wait... (Score:4, Funny)

      by oldspewey (1303305) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @12:37PM (#31674036)
      I am secretly hopeful that this will eventually turn into a great big litigation circle-jerk.
      • Are you a patent attorney?
      • Secretly? ...k, I won't tell nobody either, man.
      • by mgblst (80109)

        Very funny, it is patents all the way down.

        But the fact is, to the surprise of all, THERE IS MORE THAN ONE MULTITOUCH PATENT. Amazing I know, how can there be more than one patent on any particular subject, but there is. (this is directed not at you, but at the moron you replied to).

        • by raynet (51803)

          Actually it makes sense to me and I think that is/should be the idea behind patents. You cannot (shouldn't be able to) single idea like 'multi-touch', instead you should be able to patent 'multi-touch that uses capasitive screen technology' and another company can patent 'multi-touch with resistive screeen' and another with 'infrared' and so on. That is how it should be, but with software patents and their like, companies seem to be able to patent 'a method of using device with more then one finger' and tha

    • Re:Wait... (Score:5, Informative)

      by UnknowingFool (672806) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @12:50PM (#31674270)

      It's tricky and unless you know more details about the specific case, it's hard to say who actually owns what. This is what I know from the case:

      Apple bought a company called Fingerworks [wikipedia.org] in 2005. Fingeworks made multi-touch keyboard and mice. Shortly after bought by Apple, Fingerworks ceased to sell or make any products. The best guess is that Apple bought Fingerworks solely for it's patents and technology. As of August 2008, Fingerworks continued to file patents.

      Apple releases the iPhone in 2007. Elan Microelectronics sues them thereafter.

      When looking at these patent cases, there has to be certainty about the specific technology involved. Multi-touch is large collection of differing technologies. MS Surface for example relies on cameras whereas the iPhone appears to use capacitance. The devil is in the details and that's what lawyers are for.

      • Re:Wait... (Score:5, Informative)

        by John Whitley (6067) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @03:16PM (#31676616) Homepage

        The best guess is that Apple bought Fingerworks solely for it's patents and technology.

        There's actually almost zero guessing on this point, although it takes some digging to find all of the facts. Much of the details were posted on the Fingerfans [dreamhosters.com] forum back when the purchase happened. Other useful info may exist primarily in the Internet Archive at this point.

        Synopsis: Fingerworks as a company was a young venture founded based on Wayne Westerman's Ph.D. work relating to capacitive multi-touch interfaces. Fingerworks was one of the first companies to have useful (awesome, actually) multitouch based products on the open market. These included the GesturePad, a multi-touch pointing device not dissimilar to the recent Wacom Bamboo Touch; and the TouchStream multi-touch keyboard. The TouchStream was pretty cool: max typing speeds were slower than a conventional keyboard, but the whole surface was usable for multitouch pointer input and gestures.

        Apple apparently liked what they saw and bought the company up -- its patent portfolio as well as Westerman and their core R&D team. This was not even remotely public knowledge at the time. To outsiders' view, Fingerworks practically vanished. The release of the first iPhone was the coming-out party for this technology at Apple. Westerman and his team have continued to do multi-touch research at Apple, issuing a variety of patents under the auspices of their new company. I recall a few of those being mentioned on Slashdot in the past, specifically one about ongoing work to improve haptics (touch feedback) for multi-touch keyboards.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by msauve (701917)
      I believe that Apple is suing HTC over gestures which use multi-touch.

      The patent in this suit is related to sensing multi-touch, and is therefore a prerequisite to doing multi-touch gestures. Here's the patent [google.com].

      I have no idea of what relationship there is between Elan and Logitech (who was awarded the patent).
      • by dangitman (862676)

        I believe that Apple is suing HTC over gestures which use multi-touch.

        What's your source for this claim? None of the patents [engadget.com] in the Apple-HTC litigation involve multi-touch, let alone multi-touch gestures.

    • Re:Wait... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rolfwind (528248) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @12:58PM (#31674404)

      Apple bought fingerworks in 2005. They have their implementation of multitouch.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FingerWorks [wikipedia.org]

      That doesn't say who owns the patents, but this shows how stupid America pushing IP is... it's just going to bite us back bigtime when India/China compete on the high end.

      • Re:Wait... (Score:4, Funny)

        by Steauengeglase (512315) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @01:05PM (#31674512)

        Because 2,495,510,734 people can't be wrong.

      • Re:Wait... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by mea37 (1201159) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @01:14PM (#31674660)

        "this shows how stupid America pushing IP is... it's just going to bite us back bigtime when India/China compete on the high end"

        So... the argument against an IP framework is that those dern ferners might benefit from it too when they're the ones doing the innovative work? That soudns a bit nationalistic to say the least...

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by rolfwind (528248)

          So... the argument against an IP framework is that those dern ferners might benefit from it too when they're the ones doing the innovative work? That soudns a bit nationalistic to say the least...

          My argument is, with China graduating 1,000,000+ engineers every year, it will be hard to compete in our own existing framework of vague and broad patents because they can certainly write as many or more as we do. Since they also have the manufacturing base, to get anything made, we'll have to fight in their court

          • by Splab (574204)

            Nah no worries there, at that point Apple et. al. moves their R n D department to China, mega corps gets to keep their patents and the rest of us suffer as usual.

          • by rworne (538610)

            And don't forget that China blissfully ignores IP laws when it suits them.

        • There's nothing wrong with nationalism.

          My family, my kind, my countrymen... as for you? Out of sight, out of mind. I make laws to handle disputes among me and my countrymen, not you. I make laws in my own interest, not yours. My laws apply to me, by me, for me, as follows so do the Rights I have on account of those laws; if you want something similar, write up your own laws. My currency better have recognizable faces, those faces must be iconic to some fundamental aspect of my being or allegiance; a fo

      • Eh as much as I hate IP bullshit, what precisely would America export if not IP? Food and weapons aren't going to carry us forever.

      • by mgblst (80109)

        That doesn't say who owns the patents, but this shows how stupid America pushing IP is... it's just going to bite us back bigtime when India/China compete on the high end.

        You have it the wrong way around. Why do you think the US is pushing patent policy ALL AROUND THE WORLD. Because it is all they have, they don't have the manufacturing capacity anymore, the don't have the numbers, all they have is the lead FOR NOW. So they get all the patents on stuff at the beginning, they can keep the money rolling in wh

    • Re:Wait... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mea37 (1201159) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @01:09PM (#31674566)

      This kind of confusion is what comes of seeing a patent that covers a method of doing something that facilitates X, and calling it "the patent on doing X". It's not. There is no such thing as "the patent on multi-touch".

      There can be, and probably are, many patents related to multi-touch. It's quite possible, since there's more than one way to implement multi-touch, that you could own a patent related to mullti-touch and I could make multi-touch devices without licesning or infringing your patent.

    • Correct me if I'm wrong, but isnt Apple suing HTC over, among other patents, multi-touch?

      Actually, none of the patents involved in that suit relate to multi-touch. They are other older, generally more obscure things... possibly even a few "real" patents as opposed to just software patents.

    • Apple's gestures patents that are the issue in the HTC case are incredibly stupid, rivaling Amazon's one-click shopping. I'd say the patents covered here are also amazingly stupid, but they're more reasonable than Apple's patents simply by virtue of being lower level.

    • by dangitman (862676)

      Correct me if I'm wrong, but isnt Apple suing HTC over, among other patents, multi-touch?

      You're wrong. [slashdot.org] The patents Apple is suing HTC over don't deal with multi-touch.

  • Troll Worthy? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ircmaxell (1117387)
    This depends on if they can prove that negotiations have failed. If there were little to no negotiations, then this appears to be nothing more than a Troll looking to strike while the iron's hot (or to hurt when the competitor is weakest). But for all we know, they could have been in negotiations for months/years, which would give them some credibility... But seriously, the iPhone's been out for what, 3 years?

    /me is starting to get sick of all the trolls...
    • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

      These guys have a lawsuit pending against Apple, this is an injunction request to prevent further infringement pending to outcome of the lawsuit.

      On the surface at least, it sounds legit, as Apple has been fighting a number of patent lawsuits regarding their iPhone since its release.

    • Elan make products of their own and therefore can't be described as patent trolls. Patents are also rarely used immediately after a product is released.

  • by Aeros (668253)
    or on the ipod complaint..didnt the ipod come out around 7 years ago?
  • Where are these multi-touch Macs, and where can I buy one?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by javakah (932230)

      The trackpads on the Macbooks are multi-touch.

      • by cynyr (703126)
        as is that new mouse thing they released.
  • Considering many iPad pre-orders have tracking #s already, I suspect it might be a little late.

    If their customs process works like the one in the U.S., they'll just throw all the iPads in a locked room, tell the would be recipients that they are just out the money and that they owe them for the costs of storage, destruction, and disposal and that furthermore, they may feel free to FOAD.

    • by timeOday (582209)
      Does Apple ship products to customers straight from China, or wherever they're made?

      Lenovo does - buy a thinkpad and it arrives in a box with a taiwanese or chinese return address, I forget which. But then, Lenovo has headquarters there.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Am I the only one who is seeing HTC buying this company?

  • Pre-orders (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by Ziekheid (1427027)

    Considering many iPad pre-orders have tracking #s already.. many iPad pre-orders.. who in their right mind would order, let alone pre-order a- hm nevermind.

  • Yes I know that prior art is not a slam dunk defense but with all of the prior art regarding 'multi-touch' I can't understand how these companies
    managed to get it patented.
    It seems that everyone has patented the idea except for the people that had it first!
    And it appears that it was not Apple, Google, HTC, or even these guys....

    I should patent something random and start to sue people myself, obviously someone is making money doing it.

  • Ugh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @01:09PM (#31674576)
    This is why I don't want to take out patents for my invention. They don't seem to actually protect you from litigation, and they hinder the development and deployment of new technologies. Why should I have to wait until some worthless dipshit company's patent expires to buy an iPad? Why should there be a million lawyers involved in developing new technology (about the only people worse for technology than politicians are lawyers). Patents are a terrible idea. All the most successful technology companies simply ignore them (in a practical sense) and leave the issue for their lawyers to deal with.
    • by profplump (309017)

      Patents are worth exactly nothing unless you can pay to defend them, and unless you're the size of Apple you can't.

      So getting patents is not really about protecting your use of the technology, it's about giving you something to fight back with if another big name ever tries to sue you for use of their technology. When you're fighting the little guy you just plan to outspend them (or if necessary, to buy them).

      • by mosb1000 (710161)
        But the justification given for patents in the U.S. Constitution is basically that they "promote innovation". Large companies don't even need patent protection since they have the funding to develop new technologies. And yet, due to the expense of patent litigation, large companies are the only parties that generally benefit from patents. This situation is unacceptable, to say the least.
        • by mattack2 (1165421)

          So what if they have the funding to develop new technologies. They shouldn't be able to profit from their work just because they're a "large company"? (It's not impossible that a competitor could make a different product that infringes.. in your scenario, the big company just gets screwed.)

          • by mosb1000 (710161)
            Not at all. But a company that is already in a position to leverage it's invention will be able to make plenty of money off of it before a competitor is able to get something out the door. Also, being the first to market gets your name associated with the technology, automatically giving you an advantage over your competitors. You don't need a monopoly to benefit from being the first to market. That's what I mean when I say they don't need patents.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Colonel Korn (1258968)

      Why should I have to wait until some worthless dipshit company's patent expires to buy an iPad?

      Apple's patents aren't stopping you from buying an iPad now.

    • by Abcd1234 (188840)

      Why should I have to wait until some worthless dipshit company's patent expires to buy an iPad?

      Because that worthless dipshit company may have spent years and millions of dollars developing that technology, and the US was held, as a principle for a very long time, that such investments should be rewarded by a temporary monopoly so that one can benefit from those efforts?

    • Why should I have to wait until some worthless dipshit company's patent expires to buy an iPad?

      I don't know anything about the patent in question, how obvious it is, whether it's software, etc. However, the general answer seems to be: because that "worthless dipshit company" invested time and resources into researching and developing the concept that they had patented, and because Apple used that concept in their device without paying the inventors their fair share.

      - yours, Captain Obvious

      • by mosb1000 (710161)
        That's all well and good, but it seems that Apple has spent quite a lot of time and money on the technology as well. Not to mention they've done more than anyone to popularize it. It doesn't make sense to say that Apple shouldn't have a right to sell it, patents or not. You know something's wrong when the "solution" is actually perpetuating the problem it was intended to solve.
        • It doesn't make sense to say that Apple shouldn't have a right to sell it, patents or not.

          So far as I can see, the company holding the patent would very much like Apple to sell it - provided that they pay the fair share for the patent. They prevent Apple from selling it now because Apple wants to sell it without paying for their use of patented tech - it's a way to force Apple into paying, not an end in and of itself.

  • Elantech makes the multi-touch trackpads in the eeePC.
  • by rivertripper (1093277) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @01:34PM (#31674952)
    I have been following this story since April of 2009. This link http://www.billbuxton.com/multitouchOverview.html [billbuxton.com] is the best explanation of how multi-touch technology was created.
  • 1) Bit misleading IMO to talk about this in terms of a "multi-touch tech" company using "their" patents. The patent in question was granted in 1998... to Logitech (it was applied-for in 1996). The patent has changed hands since then. This company didn't acquire the patents in question until something like 2008.

    2) Having read the patent, I don't think the iPhone and iPad infringe. Go read the actual text. Looks to me like it actually relates to touchpads attached to computers, used in an environment tha

  • by earlymon (1116185) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @02:18PM (#31675586) Homepage Journal

    According to TFA, the patent in question is US Patent No. 5,825,352. According to the US Patent and Trademark Office, Steven Bisset and Bernard Kasser are the sole inventors (filed 1996) of the multi-touch tech - and Logitech was the assignee as of 1998.

    According to this link, Elan was launched to do semiconductor R&D in 1994, per http://www.computex.biz/elan/ [computex.biz]

    SO - unless Elan bought this Logitech something's terribly wrong with the article. Can anyone help me with this?

    Elan is winning local awards, see - http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-200983370.html [highbeam.com]

    but the idea that they themselves invented the tech on the patent in question is not accurate. Here's their list of their achievements - http://www.emc.com.tw/eng/about_elan1_3.asp [emc.com.tw]

    I'm a little confused here. Nothing wrong with selling technology and if Logitech did that, fine - but this sure seems like there's a lot more to this than "Apple rips off Taiwanese firm" - in my opinion.

  • I hope that apple will lose this battle if only to force them to pay license fee's for tech. They so often expect to walk over people due to their size and the little guys tend to loose thanks to a heavily bias legal system which requires large sums of money to fight your corner.

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