Immersion Sues Apple, AT&T Over Haptic Feedback Patents

Apple and AT&T have been hit with a lawsuit by Immersion over claims that Force Touch, 3D Touch, iPhone vibrating ringtone patterns, and the Apple Watch's Taptic Engine infringe on patents it owns. AT&T was named in the case as well because the company promotes and sells Apple's iPhone line.

Apple hit with patent infringement lawsuit over haptic feedback featuresApple hit with patent infringement lawsuit over haptic feedback features

Immersion named the Apple iPhone 6, Apple iPhone 6 Plus, Apple iPhone 6s, Apple iPhone 6s Plus, Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport, and Apple Watch Edition in its lawsuit. The company named U.S. patents 8,619,051 "Haptic Feedback System with Stored Effects," 8,773,356 "Method and Apparatus for Providing Tactile Sensations," and 8,659,571 "Interactivity Model for Shared Feedback on Mobile Devices" as the infringed intellectual property.

The lawsuit calls out the vibrating feedback from taps and pressing on iPhone and Apple Watch displays, and different responses from the devices based on how firmly users press on the display. In this case it's more than just vibrating feedback; it's the different patterns users feel in response to specific actions.

"While we are pleased to see others in the industry recognize the value of haptics and adopt it in their products, it is important for us to protect our business against infringement of our intellectual property in order to preserve the ecosystem we have built and the investments that we have made in continuing to advance haptic experiences," commented Immersion CEO Victor Viegas in a statement. "We will vigorously defend the intellectual property we have developed when it is infringed."

Immersion is asking for a court order to stop Apple from infringing, and is seeking damages. The company also filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission asking for an exclusion order preventing Apple from importing and selling infringing products.

Force Touch, 3D Touch, and the Taptic Engine are big features in the iPhone and Apple Watch interfaces. Apple no doubt wants to protect those and will throw its legal team at the issue in a big way.

The company filed its infringement lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Delaware. Apple hasn't commented on the case, but it's likely we'll see a response filed with the court soon.