Apple Inc. was sued Tuesday by EZ4Media, a wireless entertainment device company who is accusing Apple of violating four of its patents with the Apple TV. The company acquired the patents from Universal Electronics (UEI) in March of 2008, the same place Apple hired three engineers, two of whom worked on the Apple TV, according EZ4Media.
The lawsuit, which InformationWeek first reported, said that Nick Kalayjian, Bruce Edwards, and Wendy Goh all left UEI in 2005, approximately one year before the Apple TV was released.
"Each of these employees had access to UEI's confidential and proprietary information and left UEI for Apple within 30 days of each other in the second quarter of 2005," EZ4Media said in its complaint. "Apple TV was commercially introduced in September 2006."
Two of the patents in question (7,130,616 and 7,142,934) were filed in 2001 by UEI and granted by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office in 2006. The other two patents (names t7,142,935, and 7,167,765) were filed in 2004 and granted in 2007.
All four patents deal with audio converter devices and methods for using those devices. Apple TV is settop box that allows users to gather and organize media from the Macs on their networks and display that media on a TV. It will also connect directly to the iTunes store for watching movie trailers, renting movies, and more.
One of the engineers, Nick Kalayjian, told InformationWeek that he was not involved in the development of the Apple TV, but declined to say more. Mr. Kalayjian has since moved from Apple to Tesla Motors, a Silicon Valley automobile company developing all-electric cars.
Apple has been beset by a number of patent violation lawsuits during the past year, but InformationWeek noted that one of the differences in this suit is that EZ4Media is an actual designer and producer of devices, whereas most of the other suits have come from patent holding companies whose business model is to acquire patents and then litigate them into licensing fees.