Apple is facing the most stunningly amazing patent infringement lawsuit ever: the iPhone's ability to be used as a phone. The patent holding company Corydoras Technologies filed its lawsuit in the Texas Eastern District Federal Court, which is known for favoring patent trolls.
Apple hit with patent lawsuit over iPhone phone call support
The lawsuit states in part,
Apple's Accused iPhones and Accused iPads are capable of voice communication. For example, the Accused iPhones are made and sold with the capability to be used in telephone calls and FaceTime Audio calls. By way of further example, the Accused iPads are made and sold with the capability to be used in FaceTime Audio calls.
The lawsuit names the iPhone 4 and newer, and every iPad since the iPad 2 was launched. Those happen to be all the models that include a front-facing camera. The fourth generation iPod touch, which also includes a front facing camera, wasn't included in the lawsuit.
Considering the both the iPad as well as fourth generation and later iPod touch models support FaceTime audio calling, it's interesting the iPod touch was excluded from the lawsuit.
Other novel features targeted in the lawsuit include sending and receiving email, call blocking, and wirelessly transmitting data. You know, the sorts of things that Alexander Graham Bell, Ray Tomlinson, and Guglielmo Marconi had a little experience with—and also the sorts of things that help establish prior art.
The patents in question include 7,778,664, 7,945,236, 7,945,287, 7,996,037, 8,024,009, and 8,731,540, and are surprisingly vague. Instead of describing a process or technology for handling calls and email, the patents seem to target more the ideas, which existed long before 2006 when they were filed.
The patents were purchased by Corydoras Technologies and the company says they're "presumed valid." That may be the case, but they underly an ongoing problem with the U.S. patent system: frivolous-looking patents are constantly snapped up by patent trolls who strong arm or sue companies as a revenue generating scheme. These lawsuits ultimately cost companies loads of money that could've gone into developing new products, overload the courts with cases, and waste taxpayer money.
The United States has been working to cut down on patent troll lawsuits, but clearly still has plenty of work ahead of it. Until then, we can expect to see more lawsuits targeting deep pocket companies for amazingly unique ideas like answering the phone.
[Thanks to Patently Apple for the heads up]