Anyone following the slugfest by and against Apple may need a scorecard to keep up with the play, if not the players. To wit:
- • Apple has settled an iPad trademark suit brought on by Proview over alleged infringement of the iPad trademark in China. The settlement amount was $60M, according to Reuters. Apple had claimed that it was the legal owner of the iPad trademark after buying naming rights from Proview in 2009 using a shell company. Although Apple has insisted its deal included the transfer of naming rights in mainland China, Proview asserted default control of the iPad name in the region.
- • Chinese company Zhizhen has sued Apple over a Siri-like patent. The Shanghai-based voice activation developer has filed suit against Apple for allegedly infringing a patent related to an invention called Ziaoi Bot, a type of instant messaging chat bot system. Apple allegedly failed to respond to Zhizhen’s requests for dispute mediation in May, and the company filed suit in a Shanghai court on June 21. Reports state there may be little similarity between Siri and Ziaoi Bot, and there could be prior art to Siri’s origin in CALO (Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes), an artificial intelligence project originally funded by DARPA that ran from 2003 to 2008. A Zhizhen representative said that if the court agrees with the infringement, the amount of compensation is hoped to exceed the Proview iPad trademark settlement.
- • Apple has just sued HTC in the US, alleging that the company is abusing standards-essential patents and FRAND licensing agreements. Apple has brought similar charges against Samsung and Motorola, and is enjoying wide support from other players in the technology and electronics sector.
- • Separately, handset maker HTC has scored a victory against Apple, with a normally reticent London court ruling three Apple patents invalid, and HTC not infringing. HTC had brought the case defensively, hoping to get a ruling on four user-interface patents that Apple was asserting.
- • A U.S. judge recently rejected Samsung’s appeal of a preliminary injunction against U.S. sales of its Galaxy Tab 10.1, brought about by an Apple assertion of its design patent covering the "look and feel" of the iPad. Samsung has appealed the injunction, and although Apple has posted a $2.6M bond to initiate the injunction, that doesn’t necessarily mean sales of the tablet will immediately cease in the U.S. (A quick jump to online stores shows the unit is still available.)
- • Separately, a US District Court has cleared Apple of a Samsung charge of infringement of a UMTS patent, a third generation mobile cellular technology for networks based on the GSM standard. The ruling was a victory for Apple, as well as for its position that FRAND-eligible patents shouldn’t be used as legal weapons.
- • A U.S. has dismissed a patent suit consisting of claims and counterclaims from both Apple and Motorola of patent infringement, saying that both sides had failed to prove that they had been materially injured or could formulate alleged damages. The dismissal, also regarding UMTS patents, was done "with prejudice," meaning both companies are prevented from re-filing claims.
Companies typically use patents in a number of legal ways: to defensively block competition, to get license revenue, or to avoid assertion by competitors by cross licensing. Very often, companies will engage in legal fisticuffs in order to drive ongoing negotiations regarding component pricing, too. What seems to be emerging is a growing interest in protecting one’s turf, and the deep pockets are well equipped to do so. Alas, for Apple, as the world’s largest company: Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.