MONKEYmedia Hits Apple with Summary Service Patent Lawsuit

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MONKEYmedia filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Apple on Thursday alleging the Mac and iPhone maker’s Summary Service feature in Mac OS X steps on three patents it owns.

The patents in question describe a process where information can be summarized by an application, and the amount of detail included in the summary can be controlled by the user. MONKEYmedia pointed specifically to the Summary Service feature in Mac OS X, as well as the RSS features included in the Safari Web browser.

“We can sit by and watch Apple continue to use our patented inventions without paying, or we can do something about it,” said MONKEYmedia CEO Eric Bear, mimicking a statement Apple previously made regarding plans to actively protect its iPhone-related patent portfolio.

The company describes itself as “a privately held user interface design studio turned intellectual property licensing boutique.”

MONKEYmedia filed its patent lawsuit against Apple in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas’s Austin Division. The company is asking for an injunction blocking Apple from infringing on its patents, along with monetary damages and legal fees.

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Better sue all of the RSS aggregators too.

This is getting ridiculous.


Ah Spring
The time of year when the lawyers fly back to Cupertino

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

When the history of the early 10’s is written, it will show that the so-called “patent trolls” actually kept the peace within the industry since the mid-90s. When the big players weren’t suing each other left and right, the “trolls” could get no traction. But when the big players got into it, the “trolls” could be recruited to pile on.

It’s very similar to Psystar if you think about it. Simple asymmetric warfare. It costs Apple far more to deal with one Psystar than the damage Psystar actually does. So what happens if 1000 Psystars bloom? What happens if 1000 patent holders get bold or get recruited to get bold?

Copying Steve’s quote was a great touch. I bet we see a lot of these do just that in the coming months. That’s your sign that it’s probably coordinated grin. Who do you thing the evil patent puppet master is?

Ref Librarian

I think it is a sign that Apple is far out in front of other companies in development and those other companies are panicking, looking for any way to slow down Apple so that they can catch up. It is hard to see the cards Apple is laying on the table and know that you cannot match them.

Dean Lewis

Asymmetric warfare is another word for terrorism, isn’t it? There are laws/rules governing frivolous lawsuits and wasting the courts time. If these are such, I hope the people bringing suit are punished for it. If they do have some sort of patent, then hopefully this will help tighten up the patent office on everything from computer-related patents with no real proof of their concept to discovered (not created) gene sequences and more.

As for these particular patent, it’ll be interesting to see if the court discovers Apple already had prior art/work on this considering this type of thing was built into Mac OS 8 with Apple Data Detectors (allowing for summarizing info across documents, finding based on selected text, etc.) And data mining has been done via machine since the 1950s.

I suspect the courts are going to get tired of cleaning up after the patent office’s messes and we’ll see the PTO ordered by the President or Congressional action to clean itself up.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@Dean, you can call it terrorism if you like. However, the realty of the patent landscape mess is that whatever software or hardware product a company large or small creates today, there is likely some patent out there that has been issued by the patent office which covers some functionality in the product. The bigger the product, the greater the number of likely infringements. It is just unavoidable. There is nothing frivolous about suing to protect a patent. It’s one of the privileges patent holders get with their government granted limited monopoly.

Nor is there anything frivolous about, let’s assume, a company like Nokia or HTC, with billions of dollars at stake in nuclear patent war with Apple, investing lawyer time scouring for patents held by small players and either purchasing the patents or assisting the holders to bring action.

Nor is there anything frivolous about independently piling on. Maybe you figure that if you sue Apple in a vacuum, they can focus their best resources defending against you. But if you see that their best resources are consumed against bigger adversaries or many adversaries, you see it as a more opportune time to demand a license and sue to enforce your rights.

It’s all hypothetical, of course, but Apple’s belligerence isn’t sitting well in a lot of quarters. It’s disruptive to an industry that has been relatively free of such behavior through its explosive growth. If someone crowded you out, it was always easier and more profitable to find another growing field than fight. Maybe that is changing. And maybe some innovation is going on in how companies fight.

And BTW, I’m totally with you on patent reform. But it doesn’t get Joe Blow excited and carries too many negative incentives for Congress to get on it. Patent litigation will never be like the BP oil spill. Voters will never see the effect washing up on beaches. They won’t know what they’re missing because of the costs the current system imposes. But I am an observer and an admirer of how people and companies adapt to weirdly designed environments like conflicting legal requirements though. And it’s interesting to me to watch how patent holders play their cards.

John Dingler, artist

They’re trying to catch up to Apple’s perspicuous way of composing a public stance, even copying Apple’s wording. “Little people; little minds.”


intellectual property licensing boutique

aka “patent troll.”

I wonder when they got the patent. File summarizing has been around for decades (didn’t Sherlock and Watson do this in Mac OS 8?).



MacOS 8…  AppleScript 1.3…  keyword “summarize”

Oh, and a whole host of little scripts to summarize web pages, pasteboard contents, Office docs, and so on.

That shipped in 1998, and was in internal use in 1997, prior to the original NYU patent filing, and years before Eric Gould’s 2001 follow on, or MonkeyMedia’s 2001 and 2002 filings.  Remember that US law is first-to-invent, not first-to-file, though.

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