Apple Sued—Apple TV Accused of Violating Four Patents

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Apple TVApple 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.

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5 Comments Leave Your Own

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

The disturbing thing about this kind of lawsuit is that it’s not even about the patent. It’s about the people and restricting employee’s rights to make a living. They can’t prevent it with non-competes, so they try doing it with patents. What this should do is prompt employees to demand a premium and an explicit contract when working on IP covered by patents, whether the patents are applied for in house or acquired from a third party. And we’re not talking a small premium either. If working on a project for two years at one company effectively precludes your employment in an emerging market for 2 to 5 years, $200K of earnings ought to turn into $1 Million. Or you shouldn’t do the work.

I hope Nick, Bruce, and Wendy tell EZ4Media where it can stick its allegations. Talk about a loser company run by losers.

Tiger

Well considering the AppleTV hasn’t turned into the cash cow they expected, it’s time for Apple to dump it altogether, pay a settlement and move on.

There are too many alternatives to Apple TV already to make it viable. It’s like creating a Zune in an iPod world.

iVoid

Audio conversion devices? The only audio conversion the Apple TV does is to convert the digital audio in the music and video files into analog audio (and I guess into the digital out as well).

And it uses the same hardware and software that the Mac does to do this. So why just target the Apple TV? I fail to see how these employees would have brought that kind of expertise to Apple, when Macs have done that for… um… 25 years?

Photodan

Forget my post.

I misunderstood just which company acquired the patents in question. I thought it was saying Apple owned them.

It’s curious that nobody was attempting to defend those patents until they changed hands.

-Dan

fultonkbd

“There are too many alternatives to Apple TV already to make it viable.”

I am looking for a solution to stream (or be able to access) my iTunes library to my TV without out using AppleTV. Can you list some of the alternatives?

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