Patent Troll Scores $24.9M from Apple over Siri

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Marathon Patent Group just scored US$24.9 million from Apple in a patent infringement lawsuit settlement related to Siri voice control on the iPhone and iPad. If you aren't familiar with MPG, they're a non-practicing patent holding company representing the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In other words, a patent troll.

Apple to pay out $25M for Siri patent infringementApple to pay out $25M for Siri patent infringement

The patent in question, 7,177,798, describes a system for "processing natural language input," and dates back to 2000. It also covers using natural language to process database queries, all of which sounds a lot like what Siri does when you say, "Call my mom."

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute decided it wanted to monetize the patent, so it turned to Dynamic Advances, which later became part of MPG. The company's only target to date has been Apple, according to Ars Technica.

About half of the money from the settlement will go to MPG, and the rest will go to RPI, an unnamed exclusive licensee, and the legal team handling the case. RPI doesn't, however, seem pleased with the settlement because the related court filing also stated, "Dynamic Advances believes RPI has unreasonably withheld its consent to the reasonable royalty rate set forth in the settlement agreement between Dynamic Advances and Apple, and that issue may have to be resolved in arbitration."

It looks like the big winner here is MPG because it gets to walk away with about $12.5 million, while the school has to split its share with the legal team and prior licensee.

Since Apple was willing to settle the case instead of going to trial, we can make one of two assumptions: Apple's legal team knew MPG would win in court, or Apple felt it was more cost effective to settle than pursue a legal fight. Either way, the patent troll wins at everyone else's expense.

For MPG, that win has the potential to get even bigger. MPG said it has plans to go after other companies, too, and it'll no doubt make sure everyone knows Apple already agreed to pay up.

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One is tempted to wonder whether or not the recent reverses of judgment against Apple (including the recent decision of the US Supreme Court to not hear Apple’s book publishing case) is blowback from the company being painted as obstructionist of law enforcement and justice, tax-avoidant and perhaps even unpatriotic (moving jobs overseas - to China no less).

In the current US political climate of rational discourse, even-tempered debate, and optimistic global perspective, such speculation is wild, at best.


This seems like a bogus patent to me.  IBM developed a voice recognition system in the early seventies, as did a co-worker of mine, now a professor at UNC-Wilmington.  We used my co-workers system to provide a voice and VR shop manual for an M1 tank, which is clearly a DB.  The IBM system, call VR-DECK (Virtual Reality Distributed Environment Construction Kit), was designed to navigate an image DB.  I believe the former DB was a SQL-type DB and the latter a graphics DB.  This was in the early 90’s.

More to the point, Apple has had voice recognition for a similar length of time.  Once you have voice recognition for X, then it falls out naturally to have voice recognition for Y.  I don’t see how they won that case unless Apple uses the specific technique that RPI developed.


Read their patent, then take a look at this, from 1998:

Note that this work started years earlier from Prof. Guinn’s doctoral thesis.


Every time Apple gets sued and loses the drones whine Patent Troll.
How ironic. Samsung is laughing. The Surface designers are laughing, too.


It’s kind of silly to whine “patent troll” in this case. RPI initiated the action and they own the patent. The fact that they’re using a third party doesn’t make this trolling, IMO.

Just like Apple being part of a consortium that holds patents with other companies doesn’t make the consortium a troll.

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