On Apple, Lawsuits & iPhones in Space

Mac OS KenMore lawsuit shenanigans, Apple’s retail boss is headed to the mall, Wall Street analysts, iPhones in orbit… It’s like everyone is going out of their way to give Mac OS Ken’s Ken Ray something to talk about this week.

All Your Patents Are Belong to Us
Remember Lodsys and its plan to squeeze patent licensing fees out of iThings app developers? Fortune ran a piece last week that said Apple was looking to intervene on behalf of iOS and Mac developers. The filing has Apple moving “to intervene as a defendant and counterclaim plaintiff” in cases brought by Lodsys against seven developers.

The filing has the company saying, “Apple seeks to intervene because it is expressly licensed to provide to the Developers products and services that embody the patents in suit, free from claims of infringement of those patents.”

Something else weird happened around Lodsys last week. iPodNN says a Michigan-based company called ForeSee Results filed for a declaratory judgment against the company, looking to have four of its patents declared invalid.

Neither ForeSee nor its clients had been sued by Lodysy, but clients including Adidas and BestBuy had received the same sort of strong-arm letters received by the iOS developers saying, “Hey license our patents or we’ll sue you.”

Does ForeSee foresee the patents actually being invalidated? Tough to say… though that may not have been the point of the suit.

iPodNN says, “The new lawsuit was notably filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois…” not the patent-holder friendly federal court in the Eastern District of Texas. By filing first and far away, ForeSee should be able to have any ensuing suit transferred to Illinois since it filed its suit first.

Lodsys did, by the way, file suit against Adidas and Best Buy, as well as Sam’s Club, Best Western, Black & Decker, the Container Store, the Teaching Company, Vitamin Shoppe, Vegas.com, and CVS.

So now we’ll see if the ForeSee maneuver pays off.

And trolling may not be working out as well for the troll as the troll had hoped.

Electronista says the New York Times Company and OpinionLab have both started legal actions to have patents held by Lodsys invalidated.

Just like the ForeSee suit, the two new suits each seek a declaratory judgment nullifying the Lodsys patents and, just like the ForeSee suit, both NYT and OpinionLab say either they or their clients have received the now famous Lodsys patent infringement claim letters that were received by a number of iOS and Android App developers, as well as big-name companies such as BestBuy and Adidas.

If the Lodsys approach seems fairly shotgun, we’re hearing a bit more today about why that may be. OpinionLab notes that the patents pointed out in the claim letters it received are set to expire in a little over a year, leading them to think that Lodsys is basically trying to get what it can while it can get anything.

Quoting the OpinionLab filing:

Because Lodsys seeks to maximize its investment in the purchase of these patents and due to their imminent expiration, Lodsys has engaged in a calculated, widespread, and improper course of conduct in attempting to extract as much revenue as possible from purported ‘infringers,’ even though Lodsys could not possibly believe, in good faith, that the allegations of infringement were proper or justified.

Everyone Wants some iCloud
Apple did something fairly unApple before announcing iCloud: it bought the domain name iCloud.com off the company that owned the domain name and the associated trademark. And yet it’s being sued for trademark violation.

I don’t understand either, except what I’m piecing together from pieces in AppleInsider and Engadget.

They’ve got iCloud Communications filing a lawsuit against Apple, saying the Cupertino-company has infringed on its trademark, which it’s been using to do something very similar to what Apple plans to do with iCloud since 2005.

Never mind the fact that what they actually seem to do is sell Voice over IP gear and services. They say in their suit that they use the iCloud trademark for “identical to or closely related” stuff, and they’re hoping that’ll be good enough for the courts.

Or — more likely — good enough to get Apple to pay them, what to them, would be boatloads of money… and what, for Apple, would be money left in the change dish by the front door.

Also, forget the fact that Apple has applied for the iCloud trademark, while there’s no indication that iCloud Communications has done the same.

The suit says Apple has damaged its trademark, and is seeking “all profits, gains and advantages” … “all monetary damages sustained,” and it wants Apple to quit using the iCloud name. And it would like Apple to “deliver for destruction all labels, signs, prints, insignia, letterhead, brochures, business cards, invoices and any other written or recorded material” with the iCloud name.

Probably gonna happen. Except for the probably part.

Mac App Store: Retail Killer
At least one analyst thinks that that Mac App Store only model may be bad news for retailers other than Apple. Macworld has Stephen Baker of the NPD Group saying while selling the OS through the Mac App Store won’t hurt Apple’s bottom line, it could take its toll on others.

Quoting Baker:

The Best Buys, the Staples, the PC Connections, they all still have a decent Mac software business… This will have an impact on all those guys. [The release of an OS upgrade] is always a good opportunity for them to connect to customers, get them into the store and thinking about upgrading their devices.

The software business is in the throes of significant changes, and [Apple’s move] is a part of that,” says Baker. “The whole business is clearly changing how operating system developers deliver upgrades.

Up in the Sky! It’s Steve Jobs!
Do you like Steve Jobs? Do you like comic books?

Do you see where this is going?

CNET says Bluewater Productions will put out the comic book biography, “Steve Jobs: The co-founder of Apple.”

According to the piece, “The comic book biography promises to give readers “unique insight” into (the) Apple CEO’s “legendary drive to the top and his continuing fight to stay there.”

Bluewater president Darren Davis says of Jobs, “His innovations command front page news, speculation of his health affects the stock market. Not bad for a college dropout. His story, and that of Apple, is epic. I’m surprised it took us this long to publish a proper, balanced biography of him.”

The proper, balanced comic biography will run 32 pages, which isn’t even enough to provide a proper, balanced telling of his tumultuous time in the Justice League if you ask me.

Slacks: Better than Apple
Welcome friends to Bizzaro World, where Apple VP of Retail Ron Johnson is leaving the Cupertino-company’s selling machine to head up JC Penney. Really.

The Wall Street Journal had the story early on Tuesday saying that the 52-year old Apple exec would be joining Penney’s as its new president and eventual CEO.

Johnson comes from retail, having been a bigwig at Target before joining Apple and its then non-existent retail arm, and JC Penney could be an interesting challenge for him.

To the left there’s Macy’s, to the right there’s Kohl’s, and in the middle there are 1,100 Penney stores in need of something between a revitalization and a complete reinvention.

In its own press JCP announced that Johnson will take the CEO position from current CEO Mike Ullman on November first, with Ullman stepping up to the executive chairman position. Johnson will also get a seat on Penney’s Board of Directors beginning August first.

Says Ullman of Johnson:

He is widely recognized and highly regarded in the retail industry for his creativity and innovation, his commitment to empowering employees to deliver an unparalleled customer experience, and to making stores exciting places where people love to shop. His tremendous accomplishments at Apple and Target speak to his great consumer merchandising, marketing and operational talent.

I’m not trying to undersell what Johnson has done at Apple. The stores are truly wonderful things and Apple’s retail offensive over the past decade has been masterful. At the same time, he had iPods, MacBooks, iPhones, and iPads to sell, which has to have made his job a bit more sexy than selling… say… “Kiss the Cook” aprons and polyester knits, right?

Not that I’m not interested to see what changes he brings to the malls of America — and Johnson is too. He’s quoted in the press release saying, “I’ve always dreamed of leading a major retail company as CEO, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to help J. C. Penney re-imagine what I believe to be the single greatest opportunity in American retailing today, the Department Store.”

Are we sure this isn’t a joke?

Who’s taking over for Johnson at Apple? Heck it could be you. BusinessInsider cites some Bloomberg alerts that say Apple is “actively recruiting” for a Johnson replacement.

You know in another context that could be dirty… and along those lines, there’s a representative from New York who may be looking for work soon. Still I think YOU should apply.

Seriously. you’ve got some good ideas.

Analysts, Damn Analysts
There are plenty of times that I just don’t like us as people.

It’s not you. It’s not me. It’s us.

Well, analysts, so maybe it’s them.

CNET has Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster looking at NPD numbers related to Mac sales, and he seems disappointed.

Why? Because Mac sales were only up 15-percent in April and May. “A relatively sluggish start” by Mr. Munster’s reckoning.

Yes, in a time when most PC makers are seeing somewhere between considerably smaller growth to no growth whatsoever, only growing 15-percent is disappointing.

And you see why — sometimes — I don’t like us.

Add in June and Munster seems to sort of expect Mac sales to grow 22 percent worldwide for the third quarter of fiscal year 2011. Not quite as impressive sounding as the third quarter of fiscal year 2010 when Mac sales grew 33-percent — unless one takes into account the fact that that 22-percent growth for this year is on top of the 33-percent growth from last year. And by the way, PC growth for most other companies is still sucking wind.

Quoting Mr. Munster’s note, “Despite the slow start to the quarter, we believe it is too early to make a call; that said, we believe it suggests Mac sales are tracking in line with Street expectations (factoring in international), in the range of 4.1 million to 4.3 million.”

What will Wall Street do if people really take to this “cut out the computer” idea Apple indicated would be fine with it at last week’s Worldwide Developers Conference keynote?

Up in the Sky! It’s iPhones!
And finally this week, what’s better than an iPhone? Two iPhones. And what’s better than two iPhones? Two iPhones in space.

You probably thought I was going to say three iPhones but that would be silly. Chances are you’ve got two hands. Maybe less. Seriously what are you going to do with a third iPhone?

Where was I? Right. iPhones in space.

BusinessInsider says NASA is sending two iPhones beyond the atmosphere on July 8th: launch date of the very last space shuttle mission.

According to the piece, “Odyssey Space Research, a Houston-based tech and research firm, has developed an iOS app called Spacelab that will be loaded on these phones.

“The app takes advantage of the iPhone’s hardware to estimate altitude, attempt to read QR codes in zero gravity, calculate position in space, and measure radiation.”

The app, called SpaceLab for iOS, is available in the App Store for $0.99. Now all you need’s a ride to space!

By the way, if anyone wants to test The Secret Crypto Wonder Badge in space, that would be cool, too. On the space shuttle… at the international space station… whatever.

Let me know if you do. Pictures or I won’t believe it.