Apple lawsuit wrap-up for December 2011

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Apple iOS Japanese emoticons

Read about some of the more important lawsuits involving Apple during the month of December 2011, with links to more information.

  • Erik Cherdak is suing Apple, Nike, PhatRat, and Curtis Rock over patents relating to Apple’s Nike + iPod products. As Patently Apple describes it, the reason for the lawsuit is that “Apple and Nike have either licensed certain patents or were assigned certain patents from PhatRat to legally protect the Nike + iPod product lines, but that PhatRat deceived the USPTO during a patent examination in gaining the patent grants.” There’s a lot more to the lawsuit, so be sure to read the rest of the article for further detail.
  • Apple bought the rights from the wrong company and lost the iPad name in China. Then Apple lost their lawsuit after refusing to pay the company which rightfully owns the iPad name additional money and will likely be sued in return.
  • eBizcuss, an Apple reseller in France, is suing Apple over unfair business practices. CEO François Prudent claims that Apple is making it hard for his business to compete by not providing enough products to sell and undercutting his proposals to businesses by selling products at a lower cost than what he could buy from Apple.
  • Even though Apple said iOS 5 doesn’t use Carrier IQ software anymore and it will remove all vestiges of it in future patches, it’s still being sued over it. The lawsuit was filed in Delaware by three local law firms and accuses T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint, HTC, Samsung, Motorola and Apple of violating wiretap and computer fraud laws when they included Carrier IQ software on their phones.
  • You may remember patent troll Lodsys mailing out cease and desist letters to independent iOS app developers over their in-app purchasing patent. Apple responded saying since it already pays to use this technology then the developers are covered as well. Since then Lodsys has expanded their lawsuit to Android developers and even gaming companies, including Square Enix and Electronic Arts. In response, iOS and Android developers came together and fought back by starting the Appsterdam Legal Defense Team. You can read more about what they’re doing and what they hope to accomplish here.
  • Did the current lawsuit war between Apple and Samsung have to happen? Maybe not; according to The Verge, Apple offered to license some of its patents to Nokia, IBM, and Samsung. For whatever reason, Samsung declined, but at least Apple offered a peaceful way to end the conflict.
  • Cequint Inc. is suing Apple over two patents it has regarding Caller ID. Patent 6,353,664 enables a way to “identify a city and state location associated with the incoming telephone number” and Patent 7,200,212, covers “advanced determination and display of geographic information to a called party.” It’s uncertain as to whether Cequint has a case as the iPhone only shows information about callers if they’re already in your address book and might not be using Cequint’s technology at all. For more information on the lawsuit, you can read it here in PDF format.
  • Both the European Union and U.S. Department of Justice are investigating whether Apple, Hachette Livre, Penguin, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holzbrinck are engaging in ebook price fixing. Apple has been the target of a number of class-action lawsuits for this very reason.
  • Apple may have transferred some of its patents to Digitude and then licensed them so that they can avoid being sued while many of Apple’s competitors are. In this case, Apple would be aiding a patent troll to fight on its behalf. People seem to be divided on whether this is a good strategy or makes Apple no better than patent trolls.
  • A class-action lawsuit was filed in Santa Clara, California against Apple on behalf of their at-home call center employees who answer calls from customers in regard to billing questions and provide technical support. Apple classifies these employees as independent contractors in order to, according to the lawsuit, “avoid laws involving payroll taxes, minimum wage, overtime pay and workers’ compensation insurance – all in an effort to gain an unfair advantage on the competition.”
  • Kodak has to wait until September 21, 2012 to find out the results of its lawsuit against Apple and RIM.
  • In Germany, Apple is likely to win its lawsuit against Motorola and earn an injunction against Motorola products that use EP2059868, which describes a method for flipping pages in a photo gallery. The goal is to gradually prevent Apple’s competitors from using interface and design elements that are considered uniquely Apple.
  • However, Apple lost a lawsuit against Motorola in Germany which could lead to iPads and iPhones from being sold in Germany if Motorola posts a $133 million bond. Apple has pledged to fight back because it considers the patents in question to be FRAND (fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory), which means the owner of the patent is required to license it to other companies for a fee. However, Apple has not paid the license fees and refused to pay past-due amounts, which is why the German court sided with Motorola.
  • Apple got slapped with a $1.2 million fine in Italy for failing to inform Italian consumers of their EU-mandated two-year warranty; instead, they try to sell AppleCare which overlaps part of the free warranty period. Apple was also ordered to have AppleCare packaging reference the free two-year warranty. However, Apple is going to appeal this ruling to avoid having to pay the fine.
  • There have been a lot of back and forth in the Apple vs. Samsung war. Apple sued Samsung over their copying Apple’s iPad and iPhone case designs. Samsung responded by suing Apple over its use of smilies; specifically, Japanese-style emoticons. Apple has won some battles including stopping Samsung from blocking iPhone 4S sales in France. Samsung also dropped its iPhone 4S lawsuit in Germany after discovering Apple’s licensing agreement with Qualcomm. Despite these losses, Samsung isn’t giving up and is planning even more patent lawsuits against Apple in 2012.
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