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Patents DRM The Almighty Buck The Courts Apple

Jury Tells Apple To Pay $532.9 Million In Patent Suit 186

An anonymous reader writes: Smartflash LLC has won a patent lawsuit against Apple over DRM and technology relating to the storage of downloaded songs, games, and videos on iTunes. Apple must now pay $532.9 million in damages. An Apple spokesperson did not hesitate to imply Smartflash is a patent troll: "Smartflash makes no products, has no employees, creates no jobs, has no U.S. presence, and is exploiting our patent system to seek royalties for technology Apple invented. We refused to pay off this company for the ideas our employees spent years innovating and unfortunately we have been left with no choice but to take this fight up through the court system." The trial happened in the same court that decided Apple owed VirnetX $368 million over FaceTime-related patents back in 2012.
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Jury Tells Apple To Pay $532.9 Million In Patent Suit

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  • by halivar ( 535827 ) <bfelgerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday February 25, 2015 @11:23AM (#49127207)

    Unless the big fish start feeling the pain of the current patent regime. If patent trolls get too greedy, they may undo themselves.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Just wait for the TPP and TTIP... you think it's bad *now*, you have no idea.

      • Just wait for the TPP and TTIP... you think it's bad *now*, you have no idea.

        s'okay, I'm all stocked up for popcorn on that one.

        Although, wouldn't it just save us some time if we just nuked East Texas from orbit?

        • Although, wouldn't it just save us some time if we just nuked East Texas from orbit?

          Why should we limit it to East Texas?

          • Because I want to save a few warheads for parts of California (specifically Sacramento, parts of LA County...)

          • by lgw ( 121541 )

            Don't mess with Texas.

            But I think even Texans will make an exception for ... unfortunate events ... should they occur in a limited portion of East Texas. That might clear the bar on the "he needed killin'" defense.

      • With all the discussions behind closed doors, we literally have no idea.
    • by jythie ( 914043 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2015 @12:34PM (#49128003)
      The big fish in tech would already like to see reform, the problem is other industries. Biotech has a much better lobby, is linked to a less visible but larger industry, and has come out in strong opposition to any changes that might make the system a bit saner. So the patent trolls can pick on tech all they like and not fear policies changing.
      • by Bonzoli ( 932939 )
        I think Apple could get its big boy pants on and fix the patent system. Problem is they used it against Samsung, they do not want if fixed. So its just the cost of doing business for them.
        • I think Apple could get its big boy pants on and fix the patent system. Problem is they used it against Samsung, they do not want if fixed. So its just the cost of doing business for them.

          Um, this is WAY different than Apple v. Samsung v. Apple v. Samsung v...

          That was a classic Patent Infringement suit. Both parties have employees, make and sell products, have R&D Departments, regularly file Patents on innovations (no flaming!) that they at least PERCEIVE in good conscience that they created from their own efforts, and for the express purpose (most of the time, at least) of incorporating into a REAL Product.

          VERY different from a Patent Troll scenario; and it's high time our Patent Sy

          • by Cederic ( 9623 )

            Sorry but abusive litigation based on facile patents is abusive litigation. Doesn't matter whether it's done to or by Apple, the patents are still complete bullshit and their use for extortion is abuse and needs to be derided.

          • To be fair though Apple was doing it because Samsung was succeeding in the marketplace.

            Not because a black squarish phone that you use fingers on the screen was something no one else could think of.

          • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

            VERY different from a Patent Troll scenario;

            This is not a Slashdot-friendly sentiment, and I'm feeling dirty for just suggesting it, but why isn't a patent troll entitled to patent enforcement? The original patent filer sold it. They got compensated. Why is it better if the original patent holder sues another company rather than they sell it to someone else, and that person/company does the suing? The original filer sold the patent and received the value of it, including the value of settlements if another company infringed.

        • by lgw ( 121541 )

          Oh, I think they want it fixed (Samsung makes actual products), they just lack the commitment to the American political system. Apple can afford to be the biggest donor to every Senator and Congressman. Every one, and all their opponents, for that matter. Apple just needs to decide this is important.

      • The question is, saner in what way? Patent law has a considerably different effect on the pharma industry than the electronics industry.

    • by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2015 @12:39PM (#49128047) Homepage Journal

      If patent trolls get too greedy, they may undo themselves.

      Seems to me that if someone were serious about promoting patent reform, they would become a patent troll to undeniably drive the point home. I used to be upset at patent trolls, but now that I've thought about it the problem has never been the people who choose to most obviously abuse the patent system, but rather that the patent system is designed so that such abuse is possible. The real damage is caused not by the patent trolls, but by productive corporations who's random assortment of obvious patents will be used to sue any competitors into oblivion, thus discouraging anyone from even trying.

      The real mark of the brokenness of our patent system is not patent trolls, but rather that most engineers are forbidden from looking at patents.

      • by St.Creed ( 853824 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2015 @03:20PM (#49130075)

        The real mark of the brokenness of our patent system is not patent trolls, but rather that most engineers are forbidden from looking at patents.

        Sad but true. The patent system works so much against the original idea behind it, it needs to be taken behind the barn and shot.

        On another note, I find it even more offensive that the best way to write the most patents the quickest is to sit on standardization committees. That's a well-known abuse that's completely ignored by ISO and other organizations. Because getting the big organizations onboard means a viable standard, and they won't come on-board unless they can kill off the competitors who weren't in the room.

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot@wo[ ]net ['rf.' in gap]> on Wednesday February 25, 2015 @12:49PM (#49128161)

      Unless the big fish start feeling the pain of the current patent regime. If patent trolls get too greedy, they may undo themselves.

      Not likely. Patent trolling has been going on for CENTURIES. It's NOT a new thing. in fact, abusing the patent system has been worse in the past than it is right now. Sure it seems like a lot, but remember, you're on a tech website and tech is where a lot of patent fights are right now in the past 30 years. But since the 19th century, there have been tons of patents and patent wars and patent trolls.

      Way back when, it was sewing machines. There were so many patents filed related to sewing machines that it ended up in a stalemate as no one could actually make a sewing machine without violating someone's patent somewhere.

      And yes, many patents overlapped then as well.

      To counter this, a conglomerate went out and bought up many of the patents (eventually becoming Singer) so people could go to one place to buy licenses for a set of patents and make sewing machines. Probably one of the first patent pools around, and this was an era where FRAND didn't exist. So you ended up with a huge corporate entity that basically holds everything sewing machine related to which you paid license fees for.

      Then there were vehicles... the internal combustion engine was highly patented and the current Otto cycle engines we use today was patented, avoided, etc. Then other aspects of the car were patented, avoided, sued over, etc.

      Then there was the case of intermittent windshield wipers (invented about a half dozen times), but the modern version would be by Robert Kearns who did a fully solid-state version, and offered it to the Ford Motor Company who copied the ideas and made their own, resulting in a massive patent litigation that spanned 26 separate car manufacturers and lasted until the mid 90s through appeals and the Supreme Court.

      Yes, you can imagine that in the 90s when intermittent wipers were basically almost standard, patent litigation was STILL going on about it.

      • by mlts ( 1038732 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2015 @04:08PM (#49130599)

        One of the best examples of abuses of patent reform is part of the history of refrigeration.

        Refrigeration, and air conditioning as we know it was locked down for over 25 years because the ice industry was gigantic, purchased patents or had them granted (a metal tube with stuff flowing through it that chances phase, for example), which effectively blocked the refrigerator from becoming a household appliance until after World War 1.

    • I'm not so sure that's true because the relevant laws are set such that the penalties are so light for the wealthy violators and virtually non-existant for the most powerful participants in the system. First, the organization with the most patents is not in a position to "feel pain" as you say; IBM's power is (as they've said long ago [progfree.org]) in cross-licensing. They said they get an order of magnitude more benefit by leveraging the power the patent scheme was built to exert (which is also part of the problem of c

  • Live by the sword... (Score:5, Informative)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojoNO@SPAMworld3.net> on Wednesday February 25, 2015 @11:23AM (#49127211) Homepage

    ... die by the sword. Apple loves abusing patents and is one of the companies behind Rockstar.

    • by darkmeridian ( 119044 ) <william DOT chuang AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday February 25, 2015 @11:37AM (#49127395) Homepage

      Apple files a bunch of crazy patents and design patents (such as for the curves of their phone) but at least they sell products. Trolls that simply buy up patents to sue people with are a much worse problem because they aren't contributing anything to society. They are basically rent-seekers who glom off the efforts of others.

      Just the same, I agree with you 100% that Apple bought into the game, made the game expensive, and then now cannot complain about the game.

      • by spire3661 ( 1038968 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2015 @11:50AM (#49127507) Journal
        The vast majority of Apple's patent s are due to the tech environment ripening, not actual innovation. They are just as much a patent troll as they company they are accusing of being a troll. Just because Apple makes product doesnt make them less so. IN fact the whole 'IP holder must make the product' is shitty reasoning at best.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Penguinisto ( 415985 )

        To be fair, two things:

        1) Most of Apple's patents are on hardware, and design patents aren't uncommon at all among big corps that make and sell tangible stuff (see also the Auto industry).

        2) Apple got this way because they were IP-raped pretty hard in their early years (with Microsoft being among the more notable thieves).

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

          Most of Apple's patents are on hardware

          Most of Apple's hardware designs are ripped off from other places. Slide to unlock is centuries old and other phones did it first on a touch screen. Their tablets look almost exactly like Samsung photo frames released years earlier. Much of their other hardware looks like Braun products from the 70s and 80s, the kind of stuff Jobs would have lusted after when he was young.

          Apple got this way because they were IP-raped pretty hard in their early years

          We have all hard Steve Jobs talk about how Apple used to shamelessly stead good ideas. That's the way it should be. Apple, and Jobs in pa

          • Apple doesn't hold patents covering slide-to-unlock, but rather a certain way to do slide-to-unlock. My Nook and my Nexus 7 both slide to unlock, but in ways that don't infringe Apple patents. Apple's patent covers a way to do something, not the thing itself, and that's the sort of thing that is patentable in other contexts, no problem. I don't think it should have been awarded a patent, for several reasons, but you're seriously misinterpreting the patent system here.

            I don't remember Samsung photo fra

        • So MSFT going to Apple and saying "We'd like to buy a license to some of your IP" and Apple responding by saying "Sure! It'll cost you X amount" and MSFT paying it equals....thievery?

          That word...I don't think it means what you think it means.

      • To be clear, from TFA, the patent developer founded Smartflash as a holding company for his patents. So although Smartflash technically had "no employees..." It wasn't a troll in the clearest sense.

      • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2015 @01:03PM (#49128313)
        The reason they and every other company file all of these crazy patents is because it's much, much harder to sue them if they can pull out their own patent in the trial. At that point the other company now has to prove that a patent granted by the patent office, which basically says that this patent is a unique and different implementation than any other existing patented implementations, is somehow invalid. Good luck with that.

        There is no buying into the game or not. Either you play it with a good strategy or you get rolled over and learn to play smarter the next time if you don't want to lose. Agreeing or disagreeing with the rules won't change them, and since next to no politicians really care about patent reform or have any understanding of it at all, it would take a lot of money to lobby for a reasonable change, which assumes that anyone opposed won't spend just as much if not more to make your efforts useless.
        • In that case, we need to come up with a way to patent campaign financing and how their votes go. Throw in their extra marital affairs and we could have a winner.
        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

          No, Google uses patents defensively. Apple uses them offensively, to attack other companies and get their products either banned or crippled.

          • No, Google uses patents defensively. Apple uses them offensively, to attack other companies and get their products either banned or crippled.

            Well, absolutely. Google is good and Apple is evil. Therefore any patents that Google uses are to fight evil and therefore good, while any patents that Apple uses are evil. That's the logic, isn't it?

            Now explain to me the four billion dollar lawsuit that Google lost against Microsoft. Was that defensive?

      • Regular patents and design patents are two different things. Don't confuse them. Design patents are more like trademarks, and trademark law and patent law are separate things.

    • Apple has $130 Billion in the bank.

      They don't care. And this isn't causing them pain. And they are probably happy, because it validates their patent portfolios ability to snuff out competitors.

      Patent judgements don't hurt large companies. Patent judgments are accomplices to supporting large companies.

      Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook don't care about $500m dollars.

      If you think this is live by sword, die by sword ... then you must define "die by the sword" as a paper-cut.
  • by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2015 @11:27AM (#49127253)
    Time to fire that judge.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Every patent troll suit happens in texas, a place where the school boards oppose evolution in textbooks.

      • That's because thinking a female mosquito developed a dozen different traits that all work together for a new method of reproduction in the same generation that a male randomly developed a matching trait that worked with it is complete fantasy. As a current total solution, evolution is massively flawed and unproven. There's actually more evidence that the universe is a simulation.

        If you step back and look at the opposing viewpoint logically, if Jesus turned water into wine and handed the wine to scienti
        • There's no evidence that the Universe is a simulation, just interesting speculation. There's plenty of evidence in favor of evolution.

          The fact that you think it requires multiple interlocking mutations happening simultaneously means that you don't know how evolution is thought to work, and you're attacking a straw man.

          Miracles are, by definition miraculous. They are divine violations of the laws of the Universe. If they could be explained by scientific means, they wouldn't be miracles.

          The bible ha

  • by sasparillascott ( 1267058 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2015 @11:33AM (#49127333)
    VirnetX, whom Apple lost a patent case to previously, had direct ties to the intelligence community of the U.S. Government - they sued to prevent Apple from using point to point encrypted communication with no encryption keys going to Apple (for their Facetime and iChat products - if memory serves)...afterward Apple was forced to change to a client server client model (where the encryption keys were held on Apple's servers - reachable via NSL's - the goal).

    VirnetX also sued Microsoft and Cisco on these same patents. Just the NSA arranging the board so they could run it going forward. Software shouldn't have patents IMHO...simply because of the documented abuse of the U.S. government's proxy in these matters. Supposedly the NSA has other proxy patent holding companies as well.
    • by tgeller ( 10260 )
      {Citation needed}
    • Since no on knows who owns VitnetX, it would be surprising if you did. The Technology appears to have been developed by SAIC under govt contract and has been licesenced to Microsoft and others. Now that jury award has been nullified on appeal. So either by liscening or not, there doesn't seem to be anything stopping people from using the technology. So if that's the NSA objective here it seems to have not succeeded or perhaps there nver was an NSA agenda and it was simply about making money off invented

  • Ooops... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Theaetetus ( 590071 ) <theaetetus,slashdot&gmail,com> on Wednesday February 25, 2015 @11:34AM (#49127339) Homepage Journal

    Another Apple lawyer, Eric Albritton of the Albritton Law Firm in Longview, told the jury there was no reason for Apple to pay royalties on the price of a phone when the dispute is over a single feature.

    “It doesn’t make a lick of sense that one person would buy an iPhone and not make calls,” he told the jury. “People do not buy cell phones for the sole purpose of using apps.”

    In related news, iPod Touch sales are apparently nonexistent.

    • by Enry ( 630 )

      In related news, iPod Touch sales are apparently nonexistent.

      Outside of kids, that's probably true.

    • Another Apple lawyer, Eric Albritton of the Albritton Law Firm in Longview, told the jury there was no reason for Apple to pay royalties on the price of a phone when the dispute is over a single feature.

      “It doesn’t make a lick of sense that one person would buy an iPhone and not make calls,” he told the jury. “People do not buy cell phones for the sole purpose of using apps.”

      In related news, iPod Touch sales are apparently nonexistent.

      IPod Touch sales would have gone up when Apple dropped the iPod classic (160GB) if there was a 128GB or 256GB version and if it was priced reasonably. Instead, Apple left iPod classic users high and dry....

      The 5th Gen is about 3 years old and the 6th Gen is expected by March or April of this year and supposedly will include a 128GB model.

  • by bjdevil66 ( 583941 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2015 @11:37AM (#49127383)

    Yes, this is a patent troll, but Apple's been on both ends of these cases.

    Case in point: A few years back, Burst.com had them by the short hairs over video streaming patents - probably worth billions today - and Apple got off with only paying $10 million [pbs.org].

    You win some, you lose some...

  • Companies ask for it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sir Holo ( 531007 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2015 @11:46AM (#49127461)

    I am an independent inventor (and Uni. scientist by day). I have tried to sell a basket of CMOS-related patents for 10 years. All I ever hear is "not invented here."

    Now, the big Corps. are suddenly "discovering" what I already patented 10 years ago. I have no choice but to sue, sue, sue.

    They bring this on themselves.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by spire3661 ( 1038968 )
      List your patents so that we may evaluate your claims.
    • Were your ideas relevant 10 years ago? Or did you perceive some problems which are only becoming relevant now?

      • by dj245 ( 732906 )

        Were your ideas relevant 10 years ago? Or did you perceive some problems which are only becoming relevant now?

        Maybe he invented a "better way to do things", which was ignored for some time because changing would have required breaking the inertia of proven technologies. Then when companies today are trying to shave 0.2s from boot times, or improve performance by 3%, they see the value in doing things differently. I could easily see that happening.

      • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2015 @12:59PM (#49128279) Homepage

        Better yet, if people are re-inventing your work why do you even think you should be granted ownership of it? Chances are that you contributed nothing to the state of the art. You didn't publish anything that's actually useful. Patents are rubbish as documentation. So if that's all you've contributed to the world, then you didn't contribute anything really.

        The fact that ANYONE could "re-invent" your stuff means the patent should be tossed.

        Patents are evil that way. They allow patent holders to claim ownership of the work of others. It's legalized theft.

    • by jythie ( 914043 )
      I have found that when companies start 'discovering' things 10 years later, it is because the earlier 'paper only' work would not actually work at the time and probably should never have been granted in the first place. You have plenty of 'choice', but sitting and waiting for someone to actually do the work and make a success out of something then springing your patents on them and trying to cash in... yeah.. you are not likely to get much sympathy for your forced hand.
      • You have plenty of 'choice', but sitting and waiting for someone to actually do the work and make a success out of something then springing your patents on them and trying to cash in... yeah.. you are not likely to get much sympathy for your forced hand.

        In a world where ideas are a dime-a-dozen, execution ability is the real currency.

        So obviously those with no execution ability should use the government to force people to pay them for ideas they could not figure out how to make money on themselves.

        IP.

        • by jythie ( 914043 )
          On the other hand, there are entities out there who's entire business is R&D who then license their work to companies that build actual products. It is important to keep these types of entities in mind since their specialization on IP is a net benefit and they depend on patent law to keep their customers honest.
    • I am an independent inventor (and Uni. scientist by day). I have tried to sell a basket of CMOS-related patents for 10 years. All I ever hear is "not invented here."

      Now, the big Corps. are suddenly "discovering" what I already patented 10 years ago. I have no choice but to sue, sue, sue.

      They bring this on themselves.

      This is a legit question, did you actually contribute anything when you made your patents? The 10 year lag suggests they weren't ripping off your original patent or sale proposal, though maybe they're using your academic publications the patents are based on, more likely these were simply problems they weren't interested in yet.

      Not knowing anything about your patents in particular I suspect that most patents are fairly obvious once you start addressing the problem in question. But the idea that you can addr

  • The patents (Score:5, Informative)

    by Art3x ( 973401 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2015 @11:48AM (#49127487)

    The patents:

    - 7,334,720 [uspto.gov]
    - 7,942,317 [uspto.gov]
    - 8,033,458 [uspto.gov]
    - 8,061,598 [uspto.gov]
    - 8,118,221 [uspto.gov]
    - 8,336,772 [uspto.gov].

    • Re:The patents (Score:4, Insightful)

      by gnupun ( 752725 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2015 @01:00PM (#49128289)

      Looks like 7334720 is just applying DRM "over the internet," using a portable computer. How can anyone be granted such wide patents?

      • Looks like 7334720 is just applying DRM "over the internet," using a portable computer. How can anyone be granted such wide patents?

        There is the remote possibility that such a patent wasn't obvious many years back when it was granted. There are now new rules, where combining existing prior art is obvious and cannot be patented, unless the effect of the combination is something unexpected.

        If you think that a patent should be valid for a shorter time than normal if the general progress in knowledge has made it obvious, then I would agree.

        • by tricorn ( 199664 )
          Many years back is 9 (when that particular patent was filed) or 16 (based on the priority date, though I'm unclear what that priority date is based on). Buying things over the Internet wasn't some stroke of genius, and couching things in standard patent-speak doesn't make it any more innovative. Makes me want to file a patent on "A Method and System of Using A Computing Device", put in all sorts of vague claims with "data means" and "storage means" and "communication means" and "user interface means", inc
      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        Looks like 7334720 is just applying DRM "over the internet," using a portable computer. How can anyone be granted such wide patents?

        The same way someone is granted a patent on using rounded corners or scrolling on a mobile device.

        The patent system is horribly broken and now only works for money (you pay, you get patent).

        • Nobody got a patent on rounded corners. Apple got a design patent, which is more of a trademark, on a certain design that had rounded corners as a design element. I'm not sure about any "scrolling on a mobile device" patents, but your "rounded corners" reference makes me think you're taking patents to be far more sweeping than they are.

      • The claims are what are important. Were all of them allowed? Claim 1:

        A method of controlling access to content data on a data carrier, the data carrier comprising non-volatile data memory storing content memory and non-volatile parameter memory storing use status data and use rules, the method comprising: receiving a data access request from a user for at least one content item of the content data stored in the non-volatile data memory; reading the use status data and use rules from the parameter memory

    • by tricorn ( 199664 )
      I read a few of them. They appear to be continuations of continuations of continuations based on a foreign application of a continuation of .... Trying to figure out what was ACTUALLY claimed to be innovative a the priority date of 1999, and what was added since the iPod and other systems supposedly infringing came out, is pretty difficult. Indeed, trying to understand the claims themselves doesn't really tell you much, and I fail to see how ANY jury, with anyone with a hint of software knowledge exclude
  • And the subject was IP law, so we automatically know it was a junk decision.

  • Given Apple's own abusive patent behaviour over the years, I can't help but smugly thinking "That's Karma, bitch!"

    • Not to mention Apple's violation of patents. Apple has a double standard on patent infringement (but, then, I'd suspect everybody has).

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