Apple sued over iPhone browser

Mon, Nov 24, 2008

Legal, News

The Wall Street Journal reports:

For those who thought Apple invented the iPhone, Elliott Gottfurcht of West Los Angeles has a surprise. The West Los Angeles real estate developer contends that he, not Apple, is responsible for technology behind some of the popular gadget’s fancy touch-screen and Web navigation tricks.

And now he wants Apple to pony up. In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, EMG Technology LLC–a new firm that has Gottfurcht as a managing member–said it was seeking unspecified damages and an injunction against Apple, basing its case on a patent it was just granted in October.

EMG is just the latest company to go after Apple, whose 3G iPhone has been enormously successful, selling 6.9 million units in the most recently reported quarter, which ended in September. But the case also shows how the patent system has evolved, making it easier for plaintiffs to file a claim.

According to Stanley Gibson, a lawyer for EMG and partner at Jeffer, Mangels, Butler & Marmaro, the original patent was filed in November 1999, but EMG itself was established only this month and has no other business besides the patent at issue.

Mr. Gibson was one of the lead trial attorneys in a patent case against medical device maker Medtronic Inc. that yielded a $1.35 billion settlement for his clients. He said EMG did not approach Apple and offer to license its technology for a fee before filing the lawsuit, a tactic that often precedes patent litigation. It also has not approached other companies to license the patent.

IPhones are known for an interface that allows users to double tap on a Web page to zoom in, reformat the screen and bring it into focus. EMG’s patent covers “the simplified interface of reformatted mobile content to provide optimum viewing and navigation with single touches on a small screen,” according to Mr. Gibson.

He said EMG currently has no plans to sue other smartphone-makers. “We’re just focused on the iPhone now,” he said. “That’s the one we’ve analyzed.”

We’ll have more on this as information becomes available, but the patent trolls are sure out in full force recently.



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