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Iphone Patents Transportation Apple

Family Sues Apple For Not Making Thing It Patented (nymag.com) 455

An anonymous reader writes: A lawsuit filed against Apple last week argues that, by not actually making a product that it patented, the company is partly responsible for an automobile accident. According to Jalopnik, James and Bethany Modisette are suing the tech company after a car crash two years ago that killed one of their daughters and injured the rest of the family. The driver of the car who hit them had been using Apple's FaceTime video chat at the time. The patent in question was first applied for in 2008, and describes "a lock-out mechanism to prevent operation of one or more functions of handheld computing devices by drivers when operating vehicles," such as texting or video chatting. The complaint cites Apple's "failure to design, manufacture, and sell the Apple iPhone 6 Plus with the patented, safer, alternative design technology" -- in other words, lack of the program's inclusion -- as a "substantial factor" in the crash.
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Family Sues Apple For Not Making Thing It Patented

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Then I could rope emotionally distraught people into my lucrative lawsuits, and give them nothing in return.

  • by mutantSushi ( 950662 ) on Monday January 02, 2017 @09:27PM (#53595161)
    This is fucking awesome... using patent system against it's own masters. Yes, patent is proof of substantial invention, so it was conscious choice not to use it as described.
    • by ahabswhale ( 1189519 ) on Monday January 02, 2017 @09:33PM (#53595185)

      Yes, it's awesome a company is being sued because some idiot was video chatting while driving.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 02, 2017 @09:41PM (#53595223)

        Sueing Apple for using the patent system to block others from implementing this particular technology and deciding to not implement it themselves seems to be at the heart of this. Yes the idiot driving while video chatting is primarily to blame but when you block other companies from implementing a safety type device, are you not somewhat liable for situations happening because the technology is not allowed to be used?

        • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <(markt) (at) (nerdflat.com)> on Monday January 02, 2017 @09:56PM (#53595277) Journal
          Since the idiotic driver that caused the accident was using Apple's own Facetime video chat at the time, how does Apple blocking others from implementing this technology come into play here?
          • If Skype implemented it, Apple would have to implement it too due to customer pressure.

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by mark-t ( 151149 )
              Perhaps, but this story has nothing to do with skype... the driver that caused the accident was using Apple's own technology... so any notions of Apple blocking other people from implementing the tech are inapplicable to the repercussions of this story. I'm unsure why my remark was tagged as flamebait... perhaps it was because I expressed a sincere sentiment about my estimate of the intelligence level of someone that would try to use a video chat system on a hand-held while they are supposed to be concent
              • by guises ( 2423402 )
                The point that the parent was making was that Apple did more than just choose not to implement this feature themselves. If it were as simple as Apple making a choice about what features to include in their product then you would be right, Skype would have nothing to do with it. Apple, however, took it a step further and went out of their way to prevent Skype from implementing this feature.

                I'm not going to go down the chain of events that it would have taken for this action to have made a difference in th
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Who says others were blocked from implementing it ?
          Ever heard of licensing ?

          And as for "primarily to blame", the driver is TOTALLY to blame in this crash. Nobody forced the driver to use a mobile phone while driving, he/she made that concious decision to do it despite the well publicised dangers and laws against doing so.

          But hey, it's good to try and pass the buck and sue someone with more money.

        • by epyT-R ( 613989 ) on Monday January 02, 2017 @10:00PM (#53595291)

          No. This is a clear cut case of irresponsibility on the part of the driver who was driving distracted. The problem with blame-chain games like this is that they are too easily weaponized to target specific links that happen to be political/corporate competition. The end-game is a society completely risk adverse to rocking the boat or trying anything new from fear of completely manufactured legal attacks.

          • by CaptainDork ( 3678879 ) on Monday January 02, 2017 @10:14PM (#53595329)

            No.

            The end game is to get a piece of 618 billion dollars in cash.

          • This is a clear cut case of irresponsibility on the part of the driver who was driving distracted.

            Right, and in that sense the crash is not, even in a small way, Apple's fault. None of this changes the fact that a useful safety feature is being kept from the public because the patent holder is a NPE (for the purpose of this patent, anyway).

            If there was another way to get the message out, that would be good, obviously. But in America, it usually takes a lawsuit.

            • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

              Maybe the answer is just to tear down the cell towers along roadways.. People will just work around whatever limiters are put into the phones.

        • Does Apple's patent enable the distinction b/w a driver and passenger? Or does it disable FaceTime period when in motion? As others have mentioned elsewhere, the lawyers are going after Apple b'cos they are the deep pockets here, not the stupid driver who was busy FaceTiming. But if that person was a passenger in the car, instead of driver, and someone else who was NOT FaceTiming was driving, that girl would still be alive. So Apple is not the one to blame here: the driver is!!!

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 02, 2017 @09:59PM (#53595283)

        Apple isn't accountable for his driving, they are accountable for not enabling a feature they patented for whatever reason (will be interesting to know) that would have prevented idiots like that driver. They also at the same time denied others the right to use this safety feature and similar features to prevent accidents.

        I.e. Volvo patented the safety belt, they implemented it and let all use it royalty free for the betterment of humans, as safety first. Apple patents a safety feature, refuses to implement it and refuses to let anyone else implement said feature so that small girls can be killed by idiot drivers.

        • by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Tuesday January 03, 2017 @05:04AM (#53596443)

          I.e. Volvo patented the safety belt, they implemented it and let all use it royalty free for the betterment of humans, as safety first.

          You can not patent "the seat belt". You can, however, patent a certain way of making seat belts, e.g. the locking mechanism that stops the belt when it's pulled quickly. Other manufacturers are free to implement a different version of the seat belt, such as the one used on airplanes for example.

          Your example is more to how horrible software patents are, as it seems Apple patented an idea ("stop certain function driving") rather then a technology (which would be more like "a specific method of recognising someone is driving and using that to block certain functions on the phone"). There may be several ways to detect whether someone is driving (GPS speed, shaking of the vehicle, acceleration, a bluetooth link to the car, whatever) so the patent of Apple shouldn't be able to prevent someone to implement a similar feature, they would only be prevented from using a specific, non-obvious way of detecting whether the phone's owner is driving.

      • by Pseudonym ( 62607 ) on Monday January 02, 2017 @10:55PM (#53595477)

        You say that like the job of the vast majority of safety mechanisms isn't to avoid or mitigate human error.

        • Yep, and on some level it's basically always human error. Driver's fault? Human error. Car's fault? Human designed it, human error. Road's fault? Ditto. Another vehicle caused it? No, its human driver did. And so on, and so on ad infinitum.
      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@@@world3...net> on Tuesday January 03, 2017 @03:53AM (#53596287) Homepage Journal

        TFA is misleading. The lawsuit points out that Apple knew that there was a potential danger here. It knew that people would use the service irresponsibly, and went to the trouble of developing a safety mechanism to counter the problem. I imagine they didn't implement it because it would be hard to differentiate between someone driving and using Facetime and someone in the passenger seat or on a train or a bus.

        Anyway, the fact that Apple knew about it and went to the effort of developing a way to mitigate the danger creates the potential for some liability. There is actually a history of this kind of lawsuit. Years back a guy tried to sue the manufacturer of a table saw for not including technology to stop the blade when it contacted human skin. Car manufacturers have been sued for not including safety equipment or mitigating things that confused drivers like the carpet getting stuck between the accelerator and the brake.

        Personally I don't think it has merit, but the fact that it keeps coming up suggests that there is at least a need for some clarification.

    • by headhot ( 137860 )

      Also, because they have the patent, no other company can make a phone with that feature even if they wanted too (well with out paying apple), thus locking the entire market out from having the safety feature in their phones.

      • Also, because they have the patent, no other company can make a phone with that feature even if they wanted too (well with out paying apple), thus locking the entire market out from having the safety feature in their phones.

        Complete bullshit.

        The patent applies to a particular implementation.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Apple have been known to sue about particular features regardless of the implementation. The chilling effects from their willingness to sue and their deep pockets are real, and a patent they hold will prevent others from implementing similar functionality.

        • by skids ( 119237 )

          Have you ever read a patent? They tend to try to be written to cover almost every practical implementation.

      • Well, not until Apple sued them for violating their patent.

    • by mmell ( 832646 )
      Yes - never mind that Apple didn't drive the car, nor did they actively encourage the car's driver to violate the law and disregard common sense.

      Better they should sue the car manufacturer, for not installing a cutoff device to detect when the driver is distracted and summarily shut down the vehicle (possibly requiring service at an authorized dealer center to reactivate the vehicle?). I know - maybe they can sue Colt, Smith & Wesson and Charter Arms for not sending someone to shoot the registered own

    • This is fucking awesome... using patent system against it's own masters.
      Yes, patent is proof of substantial invention, so it was conscious choice not to use it as described.

      Except, no, a patent does not give you the right to manufacture something. It's a right to exclude others from manufacturing your invention (or selling, or using, or importing it). For example, say I get a patent on a chair - seat, 4 legs, and a back. I can sue you if you make a chair. But can I make one? What if some AC has a patent on a stool - seat, 4 legs? I can't build chairs without infringing his patent. So my patent doesn't give me a right to make anything.

      Apple's patent doesn't give it a right to make a lockout system, just prevent others from doing so - not that they've done such. So, no, the family has no claim whatsoever. This is just a money grab by some lawyer who thinks he can make headlines to extort a big settlement.

    • Nope. IF it was legal to drive while facetiming this would be true. There was a shoert period when it was but that was many years ago. Apple probably dropped development after it became illegal to text and drive.

      The guy driving while playing with his phone was breaking the law and is solely liable. This is nothing but a nuisance lawsuit designed to extort a few bucks from apple, of which the plaintiffs will see next to zero.
  • by chiasmus1 ( 654565 ) on Monday January 02, 2017 @09:28PM (#53595165) Homepage
    It seems to me that if more people sued when patents were not implemented, we might have less patents out there making every developers life worse. Patent trolls might think twice before setting up shop.
    • >"It seems to me that if more people sued when patents were not implemented, we might have less patents out there making every developers life worse. "

      1) Most software patents are bogus, almost completely. This would be one of those. They really shouldn't exist in the first place.

      2) I do agree, however, that patent holders should attempt to actually use and create with their patents in a "reasonable" timeframe or automatically lose them.

      3) Suing companies for NOT doing something to make up for stupidit

  • Primary factor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JBMcB ( 73720 ) on Monday January 02, 2017 @09:31PM (#53595177)

    I would say that someone choosing to video chat on their phone while driving a car is 99% the main factor in that automotive crash.

    • Re:Primary factor (Score:5, Interesting)

      by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Monday January 02, 2017 @09:55PM (#53595275)

      I would say that someone choosing to video chat on their phone while driving a car is 99% the main factor in that automotive crash.

      If a manufacturer patented the concept of a safety preventing a fatal accident, then failed to implement it resulting in the exact fatal flaw it was designed to protect, I could easily see fault lying with the patent holder.

      Let's understand the REAL issue here; the PATENT prevented everyone else from implementing a safety.

      • This motion-inhibiting implementation is very similar to the litigation trajectory that gave us fire codes, fire exits, occupancy limits, fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, sprinklers, and no-parking red fire zones.

        That shit came to pass after the cost of litigation exceeded the cost of compliance.

      • > Let's understand the REAL issue here; the PATENT prevented everyone else from implementing a safety.

        Clearly Apple's patent didn't cause Apple to not implement it, so what do you think caused that? I would think that customers want to use their phones while riding in cars, buses, etc. Customers won't buy buy a phone that locks itself when moving.

        Suppose Apple tries to get really clever and try to guess whether the person using the phone is the driver or a passenger, and they advertise this "safety fea

      • by pz ( 113803 )

        Let's understand the REAL issue here; the PATENT prevented everyone else from implementing a safety.

        (Hyperbolic emphasis removed.)

        I presume you mean "safety feature." In that case, you need to also understand that the fellow was using Apple's products and functionality, so their electing to implement or not implement the feature and thus blocking anyone else from developing the same has no bearing. You might also want to look at other instances where one company has patented some feature or product and that did not block other companies from producing highly similar features or products based on alterna

    • I would say that someone choosing to video chat on their phone while driving a car is 99% the main factor in that automotive crash.

      Absolutely, and Apple is being sued because it has a bigger pocketbook than the video-chatting driver or his family.

    • yes but that driver and his measly liability policy doesn't have the deep pockets that Apple has.

    • Driver error/stupidity is the main factor in the vast majority of automotive crashes in which seatbelts and airbags save lives. That doesn't mean that seatbelts and airbags should be kept from public use by non-practising patent trolls.

      In civilised countries, this is what a coronial inquest is for. The coroner would probably recommend that the patent be implemented or opened in the public interest, and the company holding the patent would be shamed or regulated into submission. But this is the good ol' USA,

  • by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Monday January 02, 2017 @10:22PM (#53595349)

    Good luck to them. On my 15 mile commute to/from work literally every day I see multiple retards driving and texting at the same time, often not keeping in their lane, or even looking where they're going, even on the freeway.
      I also see at least one accident every day where someone has driven into the back of someone else. Obviously self-regulation isn't working. It apparently accounts for so many accidents that it boggles my mind how using a cellphone while driving isn't already illegal here in AZ.

    • Instead of building the limiting technology into the telephone, build it into the car? A gradual power-down to halt (like a bait car) might cause some problems, but not as much as a full-speed MVA, and (to my mind) the technology ought to be no more difficult to develop - and we can limit it to the vehicle operator.
      • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

        Nah they're already proven dumbasses so they probably wouldnt pull off the road when the car was powering down, theyd probably just keep driving, so there would be road blockages everywhere.

  • Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vadim Makarov ( 529622 ) <makarov@vad1.com> on Tuesday January 03, 2017 @12:14AM (#53595777) Homepage

    Hope this gets thrown out in the court. It is driver's responsibility not to use distractions while driving. He used the gadget / app at his own discretion. I would not want gadgets to start being overly smart over what humans can decide.

  • There is one reason and one reason only for including Apple in this lawsuit, they have deep pockets. The family is after cash, period.

    They are either hoping Apple will settle or, because of the way the US legal system works, if it goes to court and Apple is deemed even slightly at fault they will be responsible for all of the award the other responsible party(ies) can't cover.

    see: Joint and several liability

  • There is no available mobile technology that can distinguish between a passenger operating a phone and the driver. So this lawyer is just looking for an easy settlement.
    • by Sabriel ( 134364 )

      From the article summary, "a lock-out mechanism to prevent operation of one or more functions of handheld computing devices by drivers when operating vehicles," Apple apparently disagrees?

      Yes, you and I both know the reality. And I'd be ecstatic if the entire patent system disappeared up its own hypocritical butthole and never returned. But if Apple wants to make such claims then they can have their day(s) in court to explain how their patent claim isn't actually claiming what it says it claims while still

  • Only in America (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lisandro ( 799651 ) on Tuesday January 03, 2017 @05:50AM (#53596553)

    So, a guy crashes because he's videochatting while driving, and sues Apple for not developing a patent which would've prevented him from being an imbecile?

    We're overdue for a meteorite and a start over.

    • Not quite.

      A guy crashes because he's videochatting while driving, and the family who he crashed into sues Apple for not developing a patent which may have prevented him from being an imbecile.

      Agreed on the meteorite though.
  • by thesandbender ( 911391 ) on Tuesday January 03, 2017 @06:30AM (#53596659)
    I've seen so many comments on here and other blogs about how Apple is to blame because they're "blocking" other's from using the technology. Or it's Apple's fault for not implementing it in their phones.

    First, the idea sounds simple in concept until you actually look at the implementation. Can my wife not FaceTime/Skype while I'm driving? Can I not use it on the bus, taxi or train for work (which I do frequently... well, I try to avoid the bus)? How do you handle rare occasions where you can't get a consistent fix on the phone's location? If Apple could think of a good, reliable way of implementing this without regularly interfering with legitimate operations I'm pretty sure they'd be all over it because they have a PR department on steroids.

    Second, this is against the law in California... so why isn't the California Highway Patrol being sued for not enforcing the law? Why isn't the car manufacturer being sued for not having a safety device that requires both hands on the wheel (there are practical problems with as well, I'm just using it as an argument)? Why aren't they required to have safety radars on all their cars (the recent Tesla video shows it might have prevented this accident)? Why isn't the cellular provider being sued for providing data service to a customer that they can tell is traveling over a certain speed? (same practical problems apply here).

    Finally, almost anything can be deadly or can lead to deadly consequences. If you drop M&M's in your car and bend down to pick them up while speeding down the freeway and kill someone it is NOT M&M's fault for having a poorly designed bag. It is your fault for making a stupid, reckless decision. Period, end of story.

    I want to believe this is a case of grieving parents being maneuvered by an asshat lawyer but who knows.

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