When Steve Jobs takes the stage, hyperbole is often the name of the game. Products are typically described as ‘amazing’, ‘magical’, and ‘beautiful’, just to name a few adjectives. And while part of Jobs diction is pure showmanship, he more often than not truly buys into his own hype. One such feature that Jobs was particularly enamored with is Cover Flow, which lets users scroll through their iTunes library by looking at album artwork, an effect which attempts to emulate the experience of looking through an actual CD collection.
Now not everything Apple comes up with was developed in Cupertino, and Cover Flow is no exception. In fact, Cover Flow was ostensibly created by artist Andrew Coulter Enright and Mac developer Jonathan del Strother. Cover Flow quickly attracted the attention of Steve Jobs, and Apple subsequently purchased the technology in 2006 where it was quickly integrated into iTunes. Now, you’d be hard pressed to find an Apple product that doesn’t feature Cover Flow in some form or another.
Well now it turns out that Apple may have to pay a helluva lot more money for Cover Flow than it bargained for. Apple recently found itself on the losing end of a lawsuit against Mirror Worlds, a company alleging that Apple’s Cover Flow, Time Machine, and Spotlight features all infringe on their patents.
The lawsuit stems from patents originally filed in 1999 by Yale professor David Gelertner who described software which created “streams” of documents sorted by time. Allegedly, Cover Flow, Time Machine, and Apple’s Spotlight feature all infringe on Gelertner’s “lifestreaming” patents.
Closely held Mirror Worlds, founded by Yale University computer-science Professor David Gelernter, sued in 2008, claiming Apple’s iPod music device, iPhone and Mac computers infringed its patents for a way documents are displayed on a computer screen. Apple challenged the validity of the patents and whether they were infringed, according to court records.
Each patent violation brings with it damages of $208.5 million, and taken together, all 3 patent violations may end up costing Apple $625.5 million. Apple, not surprisingly, is challenging the court’s ruling, while also claiming that it shouldn’t be made to pay thrice for what essentially amounts to a single patent violation. Apple now has plans to appeal the judgement, which checks in as the fourth largest patent verdict in U.S. history.