Apple Sued for Not Including Patented Technology in iPhone

2 minute read
| Editorial

Apple is being sued by a family after the tragic loss of their daughters. According to Patently Apple, James and Bethany Modisette have sued Apple for not including a patented technology on iPhones that could keep FaceTime from being used by a driver.

Apple with a big pile of moneyTragic Loss

The lawsuit was filed after the Modisette’s two young daughters were killed by injuries sustained in a car wreck. The person who rear-ended them was talking on FaceTime on his iPhone at the time of the accident. That’s according to his own statement to police and to a police report that said FaceTime was still active when they arrived on the scene.

The couple is suing Apple because of a 2014 patent (filed in 2008) for a method capable of, “disabling any function of a handheld computing device that may interfere with the safe operation of a vehicle by a driver.”

The family believes Apple is culpable for not including that method/technology in its iPhones, and that if Apple had, this accident wouldn’t have happened.

Let me crystal clear on this: the family’s loss is tragic. That two young girls were killed by a driver because he was FaceTime video chatting while driving is tragic. I can’t imagine their loss.

Accountability

But that loss isn’t Apple’s fault. It’s the fault of the driver who hit them. There is such a thing as personal accountability. Or there should be.

Some brief notes:

  • Patenting a method doesn’t necessarily mean a technology is shippable
  • Or foolproof
  • While drivers shouldn’t video FaceTime or text, I would be shocked if any company was close to being able to limit drivers without also limiting passengers
  • To that end, screw any lawsuit seeking to shift all personal accountability onto companies that make products rather than the people who use them
  • For the love of all that is remotely sane, don’t text, Waze (unless you’re using it hands-free), video chat, or play Doodle Jump while you’re driving

I get it. It’s human nature to look for someone to blame in the wake of tragedy. There are plenty of times when companies are responsible for tragic events, on a large and small scale. There are plenty of companies who have acted irresponsibly, or even been criminally negligent. I’m in no way defending such things.

But this isn’t one of those times. The idea of a company being sued for not shipping a patented method because a person was irresponsible is philosophically repugnant to me.

Your mileage may vary.

Not a Lawyer

Lastly, Patently Apple took a detailed look at the patent in its coverage, including examining the wording. Though the lawsuit specifies FaceTime, the patent doesn’t specify FaceTime. As usual, I’m no lawyer, but I can’t imaging the merits of the case will center on that specificity or lack thereof. Hopefully it will center on whether a company has a legal obligation to ship patented methods. Spoiler: no, they don’t*.

*I’m still no lawyer.

13 Comments Add a comment

  1. MuppetGate

    Don’t blame the parents. Blame the scumbag lawyers who pursuaded them to file a lawsuit. I find it hard to believe that the parents came up with this idea on their own so soon after such a devastating loss.

  2. As MuppetGate said, this is probably a lawyer trying to capitalize on his client’s loss and grief to get his 5 minutes in the spotlight going against the “big bad corporation”.

    It’s a tragic, sensless loss of two young girls, but it’s the driver’s fault, 100%.

    Cheers

  3. With apologies to Douglas Adams:

    Lawyers: “a bunch of mindless jerks who were the first against the wall when the revolution came.”

    Ambulance chasers should be shot on sight !

    How could an iPhone know who using it when it’s travelling at more than a snail’s pace ?
    Disabling features based on velocity would be a pain for folks on planes, trains, trams, busses.
    (of course none of these ‘users’ should be in charge of a moving ‘vehicle’)

  4. Another possibility is that the family is suing in hope that Apple will add this functionality to the iPhone to help prevent future tragedy. But please, continue to make it about blood-sucking lawyers and greed.

  5. Apple is not at fault, and in no way should bear responsibility for how people use their phones. I don’t take issue with that. But I do take issue with their arbitrary, politically motivated and cynical “safety” concerns. Such as replacing the pistol emoticon with a toy ray gun.

  6. @xmattingly:

    You have no idea what the reason was for replacing the gun emoji. It could’ve simply been because they wanted it to be about fun as with all the new fun features added to iMessage.

    I also don’t remember anyone being upset with Microsoft when their gun emoji was a toy ray gun.

  7. You aren’t alone, it’s philosophically repugnant to me, too. Even worse is the lawyer that thought it was a good idea, and further, if it indeed occurs, the judge that is actually willing to take it seriously.

    People’s sense of personal responsibility and accountability seems to die a little more with every passing day.

  8. PS: DHP – it isn’t Apple or any other company’s responsibility to arbitrate a matter like this. I doubt very much it would even be a legal possibility. Whether one likes it or not, the responsibility and subsequent consequences for our own bad choices in life fall squarely on our own shoulders. It’s a very sad incident, but laws don’t exist for the purpose of placating people.

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