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Patent Suit Targets Every Touch-based Apple Product 141

Posted by Soulskill
from the trollin'-trollin'-trollin' dept.
suraj.sun writes with news that a new patent suit has been filed against Apple over all of the company's touch-based products. From the article: "According to the complaint (PDF), Professor Slavoljub Milekic conceived a system that used a touchscreen that allowed children to move virtual objects around the screen, which he used to build interactive displays for the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, KY, in 1997, and filed for a patent on his design that same year. The patent in the suit, U.S. Patent #6,920,619 named 'User interface for removing an object from a display,' was issued by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office in 2005. According to the lawsuit, Milekic formed FlatWorld Interactives in 2007 to 'promote and commercialize' his invention. Curiously, FlatWorld was incorporated on January 2007, just weeks after Apple announced the original iPhone at Macworld Expo. In July 2007, just after Apple shipped the original iPhone, FlatWorld filed a reissue request for the patent, which appears to have been done in order to modify some of the patent's dependent claims."
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Patent Suit Targets Every Touch-based Apple Product

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  • by InvisibleClergy (1430277) on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:49PM (#39775709)

    ...it's lawsuits like these which make me want to get out of programming as a profession.

  • Seems to me... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sparks23 (412116) on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:53PM (#39775743)

    ...that this would affect a lot more than just Apple if upheld. I understand Google's got a small interest in touch-based devices, too, and I seem to recall that Microsoft's considering maybe supporting some of this 'touch' stuff in Windows 8. (Sarcasm tag heavily implied there, which was hopefully clear.)

    Seriously, I feel that patents have become sort of like nuclear weaponry; you either try to amass enough weapons in your patent portfolio that the other side won't launch, as with mutually assured destruction between the big companies, or else you get held hostage by patent-troll terrorists who get ahold of a weapon and threaten to take out everything they can unless you pay them. Maybe we need the patent law equivalent of Jack Bauer to deal with patent trolling. :P

  • by devjoe (88696) on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:56PM (#39775777)
    Yet another variation of the popular patent "do something we already know how to do, but on a computer". Now it's "do something we already know how to do on a traditional computer with mouse, but on a touchscreen". It's not like there weren't touchscreens before Apple's products of the last few years. There are even older Apple touchscreens [wikipedia.org], so old in fact that their patents have expired or are about to do so. The previous generation's touchscreens didn't catch on because the devices were too limited. They've overcome that now.
  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@hacki s h . o rg> on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:56PM (#39775779)

    Obviously he isn't claiming to have invented a touchscreen, since that long predates him. He presumably can't be patenting the idea of "using a touchscreen by touching it" in general, because that's the only way you can use one. Instead it seems to be an enumeration of lots of ways you can drag your finger along a touchscreen and produce UI events: it can move objects, it can produce zoom events, it can cause objects to disappear, to be replaced by other objects, whatever.

    My first reaction would be that this is a pretty obvious enumeration of things you can do with a touchscreen. But since courts seem to have a strange definition of what would be obvious to a person skilled in the art, a better angle might be to ask: is there video or discussion of someone using a touchscreen for manipulating objects on a screen prior to 1997? It seems the answer must be yes, but I can't find a smoking gun. By manipulating objects I mean dragging/panning/zooming, not interfacing with a "normal" GUI like touching buttons with your finger.

  • by million_monkeys (2480792) on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:56PM (#39775781)

    Patents wouldn't be so bad if everyone who had them cleared their throat from the beginning and got all this out of the way and agreed upon ... right now the patent ecosystem is this mentality of having a huge patent war chest because if you're producing a lot of anything, you're infringing on someone's rights and the odds are you'll pay for it at the time you're making the most money. This is unfair that Apple priced out these devices and sold millions of them with the possibility that they may be paying a hindsight licensing fee for each device.

    Maybe there ought to be a type of statute of limitations on retroactive claims? Something like you've got a year(?) to make a claim between when you know of or should know of the infringement. If you don't, then you're assumed to have granted a royalty free license. If at a later point you do want to assert your patent, you can't make claims for any past infringement and are required to provide a royalty free grace period for usage of the patent.

  • Re:Seems to me... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Monday April 23, 2012 @05:06PM (#39775875) Homepage

    Yup. Every single Tablet made cince 1992 Starting with the Dauphin DTR-1 and all products made by Fujitsu in their stylistic line.

    There is more prior art on this than anything else. This guy is about to get pounded hard in the taint by Apple and the Courts.

  • by Man On Pink Corner (1089867) on Monday April 23, 2012 @05:06PM (#39775881)

    When the larger companies realize that they have far more to lose from patents than they have to gain.

    I hope this guy takes them for $20 billion.

  • by Man On Pink Corner (1089867) on Monday April 23, 2012 @05:17PM (#39776009)

    Ignoring whether the patent is valid or not (seems quite trivial to me) how is this "something we already know how to do, but on a computer"?

    Because it's obvious to the first engineer who actually encounters the problem in the course of day-to-day work. Consider the Apple swipe-to-unlock patent, or Amazon's patnet on one-click purchasing. The only "innovation" in either case was the original idea... and you're not supposed to be able to claim ideas. The actual teachings of those patents are obvious to any undergraduate compsci student or interested amateur, much less someone skilled in the art.

    I haven't read the claims, but this patent sounds very similar. If the summary is accurate, then it is a typical USPTO rubber-stamp job... a patent on an idea, written to cover all practical implementations of said idea. Nobody wins but the lawyers when such patents are issued... and gee whiz, look who runs the country.

    IMHO successful patent prosecutions should be based on the plaintiff's ability to show willful infringement. Otherwise, patents are literally a (civil) instance of thoughtcrime.

  • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Monday April 23, 2012 @05:18PM (#39776031) Homepage

    ... and into the legal services industry ?

    Yes, I too hate that paper-pushing assholes are harassing every great mind into catatonic, stunting progress at every opportunity and forcing humanity into intellectual stupor.

    The problem isn't the practice of law, the problem is money. All this bullshit exists to protect and/or subvert wealth. If it weren't for money, nobody would give a flying fuck about patents and the thrill of creation would be sufficient reward to an inventor.

  • Re:Seems to me... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday April 23, 2012 @05:23PM (#39776091) Journal

    But he shouldn't just be pounded hard. His lawyer should be disbarred. I'm thinking if you started tossing lawyers, you'd see a lot of less of this, from the big guys as well as the small.

    "Sure I'd love to defend your claim to have patented the lead or graphite filled stylus, but you see, I'll be disbarred for fraud and lose my livelihood, so take your pencil and shove it up your ass."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @05:28PM (#39776165)

    Well, Apple had its most profitable quarter, a good indicator that a lot more people have been recently exposed to infringing apple products. Maybe one of them was Slavoljub?

    From the complaint:

    Slavoljub ("Slavko") Milekic, Ph.D. ("Professor Milekic"), is Professor of Cognitive Science & Digital Design at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    Are we meant to believe that somebody who is a professor at a school right in the middle of the fifth-largest city in the United States has never once heard of the iPhone or an iPad or an iPod Touch, or seen them in action, until this last quarter? Someone who has a patent on touch devices and would therefore be interested in such things?

    Bullshit.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @05:54PM (#39776439)

    (Std. disclaimer: I am a registered patent attorney, but I'm not your attorney. If you need legal advice, find an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.)

    The independent claims of this patent appear to focus on touching an item on the screen and "throwing it away" by moving it fast. Despite the hyperbole in other comments here, it doesn't claim all touchscreen systems.

    Can anyone think of a system that allowed deleting items from a touchscreen by "throwing them away" before June 12, 1997?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @06:28PM (#39776759)

    Not at all, nor is it needed since this is not a trademark case this is a patent case. It is completely legal to wait until the infringer is making the most money to sue. It is also strategically intelligent.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @07:08PM (#39777075)
    No, there isn't. We also don't know if he has been trying to get them to buy a license and being blown off for several years.
  • by Tastecicles (1153671) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @04:37AM (#39779925)

    it's not about winning in court, it's a war of attrition. When a small company/startup/individual runs out of money to fight the behemoths like MS in court over some ambiguous patent claim, then the guy with the larger coffer wins by default.

    Is this familiar to anybody: "To no man will we sell or deny justice"?

    It SHOULD BE for EVERYONE. It was one of the founding principles of one of the oldest legal documents in existence. What it means is that these legal wars of attrition are UNLAWFUL.

    I could rant all day about how the system favours the guy with more money, but none of you fuckheads listen. Just remember when you find yourself at the blunt end of Microsoft Justice: the cunt on Slashdot was right!

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