Apple lawsuit wrap-up for April 2012

Sections: Apple Business, Originals

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iBooks on the iPad

April 2012 saw a variety of lawsuits ranging from the usual patent trolls to Apple being sued by the United States to a bunch of people who found suing easier than calling customer service.

  • The biggest lawsuit in April was the United States Department of Justice suing Apple and five publishing houses over allegations of colluding to keep the prices of ebooks artificially high. Apple’s official response says that the iBookstore is the opposite of a monopoly, and “fostered innovation and competition, breaking Amazon’s monopolistic grip on the publishing industry.” Three of the book publishers (HarperCollins, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster) settled with the DOJ immediately, with Apple, Penguin Group, and MacMillan fighting the charges. Forbes has a great overview of what was happening in the book publishing world and why they decided to go with the agency model for their ebook pricing, and the Guardian UK talks about what could happen if Apple loses the lawsuit. Fortunately Apple isn’t backing down and has asked for a trial to defend themselves with the next hearing taking place on June 22, 2012.
  • To make matters worse, other countries are looking into Apple’s ebook practices. The EU is investigating anti-competitive practices in the ebook market, Australia may sue Apple over price fixing and has been urging retailers to file formal complaints, and there are three class-action lawsuits in Canada, all seeking monetary compensation.
  • You may recall Lodsys suing a bunch of iOS developers over a patent they were supposedly violating, with Apple arguing they were covered under Apple’s licensing agreement. Lodsys persisted in trying to get the developers to pay them, and finally Apple has been granted limited permission to intervene in the lawsuit.
  • If you live in Germany, you don’t have access to iCloud or MobileMe due to a Motorola victory in a patent lawsuit that requires Apple to “refrain from offering push email in the country and that the company pay unspecified damages to Motorola.” Even though Motorola is under investigation for using standard-essential patents in its lawsuits against Apple, they’re still trying to ban all Apple products from being sold.
  • There are many games sold in the App Store that are free but that sell in-game items for real money. What happens when a parent gives an iPad to their child and forgets to give that child a separate account or do anything to prevent him/her from spending hundreds of dollars? If you said class-action lawsuit you’d be correct, as a federal judge allowed one to continue, despite Apple’s call for the case to be dismissed. What happened to personal responsibility?
  • Have you ever bought something online only to click the purchase button twice and get billed for two items when you only meant to buy one? That happened to Phoebe Juel who filed a class-action lawsuit over accidentally buying two copies of a song on iTunes. The lawsuit says “Apple has made millions of dollars it was not entitled to receive,” but I’m pretty sure that most people would just contact customer service and get their money back.
  • While most lawsuits covered in this column are absurd or stupid, this is one that seems to be valid. A blogger sued Apple to cover the repairs of his MacBook Pro that suffered from an Nvidia graphics card failure and won. What’s strange is that Apple refused to repair the laptop even though it wouldn’t have cost them anything as Nvidia was covering the cost of the defective card. Why Apple would go to such lengths to try and not repair this laptop is a mystery. Hopefully Apple will pay the settlement and the blogger won’t have hurt feelings over how he was treated.
  • Days after Apple was granted a patent for the iPad Smart Cover, they were sued by Colorado resident Jerald Bovino who claimed that it violates patent 6977809 he holds that describes a “portable computer having an integral case.”
  • Apple will have to wait until July to find out if it can proceed with its antisuit lawsuit against Motorola. Their argument involves patents with both sides, and since everything is closed to the public, we’ll probably never find out what exactly happens.
  • Stop me if you’ve heard this before; someone forms a company that doesn’t actually make anything, buys a patent, and then sues a company for damages. This happened to Apple, as they’re being sued over accusations that their entire line of touch products violates a patent that covers “a testing tool with a touch screen programmed to allow children to directly manipulate or move objects on the screen, and ‘hide’ them behind other objects”. Maybe if patents couldn’t be sold or purchased, that would reduce the number of companies who acquire them as means for lawsuits.
  • The anti-poaching lawsuit against Apple and six other companies who agreed to not poach each others’ employees will continue, as a judge didn’t dismiss it.
  • On May 21st, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook and Samsung’s CEO Gee-Sung Choi will meet and have court-moderated, patent-related settlement talks which may or may not affect the lawsuits between the two companies. To stay up-to-date on the lawsuits between Samsung and Apple, go to FOSS Patents who has made a handy list with all of the lawsuits and information on who’s suing who and why.
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