11 Comments

Summary:

It just wouldn’t feel right getting through a month without another lawsuit. Apple is in the firing line this time from Online News Link, which claims Apple infringed on patent No. 7,508,789. Ah yes, good old 7,508,789: “the transmission of digital information through a broadcast channel […]

It just wouldn’t feel right getting through a month without another lawsuit. Apple is in the firing line this time from Online News Link, which claims Apple infringed on patent No. 7,508,789. Ah yes, good old 7,508,789: “the transmission of digital information through a broadcast channel and bi-directional channel.” Or something.

The complaint from California-based Online News Link specifically targets iTunes. The complaint, filed Oct. 8 in the Texas Eastern District Court, claims:

Defendant Apple infringes, either directly or indirectly, through its operation of iTunes and the email and Web-based products, systems, and services offered via iTunes.

Patent No. 7,508,789 describes a system that allows quick search and retrieval of broadcast information via the Internet. It was awarded to Online News Link as recently as March 24.

It’s sometimes hard to know for sure what these complaints are really about, particularly since the descriptions in patents can often be so cumbersome and, too often, frustratingly generic. Here’s an excerpt, courtesy of AppleInsider, of the patent description:

The amount of information delivered is preferably sufficient to satisfy the needs of a large number of subscribers so they do not have to obtain additional information using the bi-directional channel. The broadcast information is stored on fast storage media located at subscriber sites.

Well, to me, that sounds like every commercial online media service that’s ever existed since the late ’90s. But what do I know?

Apple isn’t alone, though, and enjoys some big-brand company in this new lawsuit. Online News Link’s complaint claims some other very big players have committed the same egregious infringement. Dow Jones, Forbes, Morningstar and several others are listed defendants.

ONL adds in its complaint, “Each Defendant has purposefully and voluntarily placed one or more of its infringing products, services, and systems into the stream of commerce,” while MacNN reports that ONL “is asking for a jury trial, with the aim of recouping costs and damages. Many such cases are settled out of court.”

ONL’s complaint adds:

Each Defendant has committed and continues to commit acts of patent infringement, directly and/or through agents and intermediaries, by offering for sale, selling, and distributing certain infringing products, services, and systems in Texas and, particularly, the Eastern District of Texas.

AppleInsider’s Neil Hughes suggests the decision to file the suit in the Eastern District of Texas is of particular relevance, since “complainants often file [there] in hopes of a favorable outcome.”

So, clever legal acumen? Or just very sneaky? I guess it depends on your point of view. I tried to find some information on Online News Link and found no official web site, no business description, just the company registry on the California Business Portal, and endless references to this complaint filing. But I won’t say patent troll if you won’t.

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  1. A while back I quietly patented the process whereby mammals use organs known as ‘lungs’ to breathe in air and filter out the needed oxygen into their bloodstreams. You are all going to be in so much trouble when I sue!

    1. Sorry, I already held a previously existing patent on the movement of molecules along an established diffusion gradient. You will clearly see from my filing (0,000,0001: A System for the Movement and Utilization of O2 in the production of energy) that your patent “The Use of Lungs” is clearly in violation of my intellectual property.

      It is therefore requested that you provide details regarding your mechanism and the appropriate licensing fees. (Defined at $0.01 per O2 filtering entity.) Should you be unable to comply, I will have no other option than to seek legal redress.

  2. Larry Headlund Monday, October 12, 2009

    Patents are referred to by number/? How funny. Shows how ridiculous they are, I guess.
    If you had decided not just to rely on second hand accounts and taken a minute to search on that so silly patent number, you would have found the full text of the patent at http://www.freepatentsonline.com/7508789.html. There you would of seen that it specifically mentions Nexis, Dialog, the WWW and by extension ‘ every commercial online media service that’s ever existed’ as prior art, hence not covered. To infringe on a patent you must use every step and feature; to excerpt one piece to mock is completely inaccurate.
    A quick read of the patent seems to indicate that a specific change between modes of specific modes of communication is covered. If the patent is valid, if any of the parties infringe are complicated questions on which I have no opinion. I do know snark and innuendo add nothing.

    1. “To infringe on a patent you must use every step and feature”

      I am not sure the Supreme Court has decided on this yet. Most recently the Supreme Court in 2002 specifically did not address the issue in 535 U.S. 722. Courts are still struggling today with the “all-elements” test and unfortunately the legislation dealing with patents is not very helpful when sorting out that issue.

    2. I have seen patent cases where the judge ruled that the patent was not infringed because all elements were not used. I don’t know of any cases where infringement was allowed when only a single step out of many was used, but I’m always ready to be educated.

      The case you cite seems to be about doctrine of equivalence and file wrapper estoppal, not about excerpting parts of a patent, but I could be missing something.

    3. Right, the cited case was a situation where in the District Court addressed the issue of excerpting parts then on appeal the Federal Circuit Court intentionally ruled on another aspect avoiding the question of excerpting parts. The Supreme Court then, despite the fact that excerpting parts was raised in the Supreme Court briefs, did not address the issue since it was not on appeal. So sadly the Supreme Court is yet to rule on the issue.

      Right now it is a conflict at the Federal Circuit level since the Patent Act does not require pantentees to separately identify the elements of their claims which causes uncertainty as to what features of the patented invention must be duplicated to cause infringement. So Courts are struggling with this issue right now and hopefully the Supreme Court or Congress sheds light on the issue in the near future.

      My point was right now you can reasonably argue both sides as there is no bright line rule yet.

    4. I see your point but I would still say that to excerpt a part of a patent summary, not even a claim, and then, as the author of the article does, proceed to argue therefore the patent is too broad, obvious or is prior art is not a valid argument in my book.
      If that is fair argument then I am prepared to ridicule any patent ever issued.

  3. Howie Isaacks Monday, October 12, 2009

    This is stupid. Why does our legal system even allow crap like this? If this other company allegedly owns a patent for what iTunes does, then why in the hell did they not develop it, and bring it to market? I’m guessing that the goal all along was to sue someone for infringement instead of actually developing a product. Who in the hell has ever heard of these people anyway?

  4. Why does our legal system even allow crap like this? Because lawyers make the laws. Congress, mostly comprised of lawyers, decide the law, and more lawyers, especially trial lawyers pump millions of dollars to lobby congress to get their special interest agenda passed. Each new campaign claims to abolish this process, only to get voted into office and perpetuate it. Trial lawyers have tried to hide their goal to fleece money from everyone by changing their name from ‘Trial Lawyers of America’ to ‘American Association for Justice’. Truly sickening. They make the cost of every product rise to pay for legal costs.

    http://www.sameleopardnewspots.com/

  5. Congress, per se, doesn’t allow this. What allows this is the Patent Office’s list of allowable degrees for patent examiners, none of which is “computer science” or “software engineering”. Since they are ignorant in the computing arts, they approve patents that should be obviously void for prior art.

    1. Computer Science is 4th on the list of allowable degrees… it even has a big star next to it and a whole paragraph explaining what computer science degrees are allowed. Computer engineering is also an allowable degree.

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