∞ Apple faces patent infringement lawsuit over iPhone

Apple is being sued for infringing on a patent held by California-based NetAirus Technologies. Filed in the Central District of California Western Division, NetAirus claims that Apple’s iPhone infringes ’380 patent. The patent issued on September 5, 2006 and held by NetAirus describes a “Wireless Handset Communication System.”

Unlike some patent lawsuits that claim part of a company’s product infringes on its patent, NetAirus seems to claim the entire iPhone concept is infringing on its patent.

The patent reads:

A small light weight modular microcomputer based computer and communications systems, designed for both portability and desktop uses. The systems make use of a relative large flat panel display device assembly (2), an expandable hinge device (10), battery power source (9), keyboard assembly (16), and wireless communications devices (32, 51). The systems are capable of bi-directional realtime communications of voice, audio, text, graphics and video data. Both wire-based or wireless communications methods and devices are implemented. Wireless communications devices may include one or more telephone-like handsets (14) and/or earset (34). The wireless communication devices may include one or more antennae (32). Systems can be configured in a portable arrangement similar to conventional notebook computers, but can be quickly and easily disassembled and re-assembled for office desktop uses. Systems may consist of a base computer unit (100) comprising wireless communication devices may act as a relay station relaying voice and other data between the handset or earset and external wide area communications networks. The system may be capable of performing, personal digital assistant (PDA), cellular telephone, conventional notebook computer, desktop computer functions.

NetAirus claims that the iPhone, iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS all infringe on this patent.

The lawsuit is asking the court to stop Apple from making the iPhone and cash damages.



  • http://intensedebate.com/people/jdalrymple Jim Dalrymple

    Apparently so.

  • http://www.basilweb.net Walt

    I think that just about covers all smartphones, no?

    • Lucas

      Indeed. and perhaps cell phones themselves.

      Also, where's the tech. without some tech this is a patent of an idea and could be dumped by the courts, which are less and less supportive of such patents as they stifle the creation patents were meant to support and protect.

      also I wouldn't be surprised if there's a whole lot of 'prior art' that would blast apart this patent. Apple's own Newton might finally be of some real value

  • http://www.buzzbooks-online.com David J

    Sheesh, and I was writing about such concepts as far back as 1976.

    Writing about, whether in fiction, futurology, or patent description, is very different indeed from taking dream to reality.

    Let's trust that the judge heaves this nonsense far and fast to where it belongs.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/opposite opposite

    This guy is nuts. You can't file a patent on general terms like a "wireless communication mechanism". The whole idea of a patent is that you have to describe in exhausting detail HOW you will build the device, and HOW it will work, exactly. The patent office clearly should never have granted this patent and I suspect it will be reversed.

  • AnotherJim

    This seems to describe the early Handspring Treo devices, which I believe predate the patent issue date by a few years. Even the Handspring Visorphone was available around 2002, which would also fit this patent description. I suspect this is one reason they didn't also sue Palm. I doubt most of the smartphone manufacturers are very concerned about this suit right now.

  • Guest

    expandable hinge device keyboard assembly

    I don't recall seeing those on any iphone.

  • Wickund

    Are they going to sue the Star Trek franchise as well?

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/ydfeed ydfeed

    prior art — Nikola Tesla predicted mobile phones in 1909http://recombu.com/news/nikola-tesla-predicted-mo

  • Eric

    This doesn't pass the smell test. It's way to obvious, and way too inaccurate in so much of its description. I think this will be a slam-dunk for Apple – as long as they can keep it out of that Texas county of metnally impaired jurors and jurists. xD

  • George

    Post the claims or at least the patent number!

  • BlueMeanie71

    At the time the patent was filed there were a lot of rumors concerning the new Apple smartphone. The people that filed the patent are just a bunch of boneheads with dollar signs on their eye balls. They just described what a iPhone might look like and waited patiently until Apple made a lot of money with it so they could get a piece of the pie.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/deanlewis Dean Lewis

    Back in the first days of the Patent Office, didn't an applicant have to send in a working prototype of the invention with the application? Maybe we should go back to that before someone can claim they've invented something. That'd cut out patenting DNA sequences someone didn't actually create themselves, too, and probably cut down a lot of other bull. And, if they need space to store all this great stuff, I saw this show about a Warehouse 13 that is apparently bigger on the inside. Should have plenty of room.

  • hodas

    Let me start by saying that I have ABSOLUTELY no connection to this lawsuit on either side, but I am a patent litigator representing both inventors (Plaintiffs) and accused infringers (Defendants) in technology and software patent cases.

    Unfortunately this article seems to be based on a significant lack of understanding about patents and patent law, of a sort that is pretty common.

    The lawsuit relates to US Pat No 7,103,380. (The article did not even provide this much info. I had to dig out the actual complaint on the court website.) You can read the whole patent on patents.google.com, and I encourage you to do so.

    The first thing to understand is that, although the patent was issued in 2006, its effective application date was in 1999. So you have to judge its legitimacy based on that date.

    More importantly, The text from the patent included in the article is NOT what they claim to have invented and not what they are suing for infringement over.

    That text comes from the SPECIFICATION/DESCRIPTION portion of the patent, and just describes one example of how the patented invention might be implemented (called the "preferred embodiment"). The quoted paragraph is just a very small part of that description.

    To understand what Netairus is actually suing over, you need to look at the CLAIMS of the patent. This patent's claims are actually about a fairly specific idea for how a wireless device might seamlessly communicate email over two different alternative wireless technologies. Presumably they are thinking about the way the iPhone uses both WiFi and 3G for email functions.

    Whether the patent is any good will have to be seen. (But remember that the validity of it has to be determined as of its priority date, which is in 1999, not 2006.) Whether Apple actually infringes will also have to be seen after a court determines how to interpret the words in the claim language.

    For reference, I suggest reading the actual patent. I have, however appended the language of the first claim below.

    1. A method for handset unit communication comprising the following steps in any order:

    a) transmitting first data via wireless communication to a 50 local area communication base unit a relatively short distance away;

    b) receiving second data via wireless communication from the local area communication base unit a relatively short distance away; 55

    c) using said handset unit to communicate, selectively, the first and second data to and from the local area communication base unit and to communicate third and fourth data to and from an external wide area network, wherein the communication of the first, second, third go and fourth data are not necessarily performed simultaneously, and wherein the transmit power level of the handset unit when transmitting to the local area communication base unit is lower than when transmitting to the external wide area network; and 65

    d) wherein the first and second data include data formatted for computer e-mail.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/deanlewis Dean Lewis

    Back in the first days of the Patent Office, didn't an applicant have to send in a working prototype of the invention with the application? Maybe we should go back to that before someone can claim they've invented something. That'd cut out patenting DNA sequences someone didn't actually create themselves, too, and probably cut down a lot of other bull. And, if they need space to store all this great stuff, I saw this show about a Warehouse 13 that is apparently bigger on the inside. Should have plenty of room.