Apple Sues Sanho Over MagSafe Patent Infringement

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Apple filed a lawsuit against Sanho, the maker of HyperMac portable battery chargers, for patent infringement. According to the filing, the HyperMac product line infringes on six different patents related to Apple’s MagSafe charger connector, the iPod and iPhone dock connector, and cables.

The complaint against Sanho states, in part, “Sanho, the defendants, manufacture, distribute and/or sell products that infringe patents relating to Apple’s proprietary MagSafe connectors used to connect power adapters and other products to Apple’s portable computers, such as the MacBook.”

Apple’s filing goes on to claim “Defendants also manufacture, distribute and/or sell products that infringe patents relating to apple’s 30-pin connectors and receptacles, used to connect cables to Apple iPod, iPhone, and/or iPad products.”

The HyperMac product line includes several sizes of portable chargers for Apple’s MacBook, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, as well as the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and iPod.

Since Apple’s laptops all use a proprietary magnetic charger connector, Sanho has been collecting and using cables built by Apple in its own products. Apple alleges the company doesn’t have permission to use the cables and MagSafe connectors it culls from other sources.

Apple also claimed it notified Sanho of the patent infringement issues on April 26, May 19 and June 22, 2010.

Apple filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Northern California, and is asking for damages, an injunction blocking Sanho from infringing on its patents, and a trial by jury.

[Thanks to Patently Apple for the heads up.]

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Sanho has been collecting and using cables built by Apple in its own products.

If Sanho has been legally buying Apple made connectors on the secondary market and incorporating them in their own products I don’t see where they would be infringing any more than any other seller of used equipment would be.


Seems more likely that they’d have a trademark case than a patent case. But given the screwed up mess that patent law is, maybe they do. I certainly hope not.

Lee Dronick

Sanho has been collecting and using cables built by Apple in its own products.

Doesn’t sound cost effective, are they buying them used?

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Actually, it’s quite cost effective. They don’t make a replacement power plug priced to compete with Apple’s. They make an external battery that starts in the $200ish range.

This is just plain crappy on Apple’s part. Magnetic connectors have been on deep fryers and crock pots for years. So its originality is questionable from the start. Anyway, next time you pad Apple’s profit margin by buying a $60 - $80 MagSafe power brick for your MacBook, realize that if Apple licensed the adaptor or didn’t have a patent on it, you could get a wonderful, *magical* third-party replacement on Amazon for $15. And you could get external batteries much cheaper too. Their patent games on the periphery of their business are costing you money.

Waiting for Nemo to explain how this is a slam dunk for Apple and how Apple is entitled to rape all of us like this…


So, intellectual property should not be protected, Bosco?
I thought you liked IP because it kept you in business.


Bosco Brad - Get Serious. Apple is and that’s why they are a good investment.

Do I think it’s right that Sanho gets slapped for using Apple manufactured connectors? No, but the suit is also about other issues as well. Apple needs to aggressively protect their IP just like everyone else is aggressively attacking Apple.

That’s business, not entitlement. And rape is a violent act, not a good metaphor.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@brett_x: Look up nuance and we’ll talk. IP is a two way street. It works as a system mostly because it is recognized and respected. Even when not respected (e.g. “Napster”). nobody in their right mind claimed that the disrespect was righteous. When application of IP gets out of hand, radical reforms (e.g. “end patents”, “compulsory licensing”) start to look more reasonable.

I hope Nemo will join in, because even though I’m sure we’ll disagree, it will be interesting to see how a lawyer justifies Apple’s position. If the facts of the case are that Sanho is actually buying legit MagSafe bricks, detaching the connectors (which are covered by patent) and incorporating those connectors into its products (which do not in any way compete against any Apple product offering), Apple is basically looking for European style “moral rights” (which are a copyright issue) enforced in the US via patent.

A hypothetical… If Apple prevails, could they not also sue Fox News Channel if FNC incorporated the iPad into the set design of the Glenn Beck show? I’m an ESPN honk, so I have no idea if FNC does that already. But Apple could claim that FNC is using Apple’s patented design to sell FNC’s product (Glenn Beck Show) without license to do so.

IP protection is about commerce. Sanho did some commerce with Apple relating to the IP in question. Now, if Sanho is getting these connectors without paying Apple, they have a bigger hurdle of invalidating the Apple patent, which wouldn’t be a bad thing, just messier and costlier for Sanho. But it’s not good to give anyone post-sales control of a patented widget. Apple needs to accept that if it’s going to sell stuff, some people who just aren’t worthy in Apple’s eyes of using or adapting its *magical* products are going to do that.

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