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Summary:

Another day brings another multitouch patent lawsuit. This time, it’s Elan Microelectronics Corporation looking to ban Apple’s multitouch products — including the new iPad — in the U.S. Elan is no stranger to such a suit, though. In 2008 it won a similar dispute with Synaptics.

Elan Microelectronics filed suit against Apple with the U.S. International Trade Commission today, alleging that certain Apple products violate a multitouch patent previously awarded to the Taiwanese company. Elan in April of last year filed a related suit with the U.S. District Court in Northern California over the same patent — No. 7,274,353 — which it calls “a fundamental patent to the detection of multi-fingers that allows for any subsequent multi-finger applications to be implemented.”

By going to the ITC in addition to filing a patent infringement suit, Elan seeks to block Apple from importing its products into the U.S. that use multitouch, including the iPhone, iPod touch, MacBook, Magic Mouse and the iPad, which is due for release on April 3. Since Apple products are designed in Cupertino but assembled outside of the U.S., Elan is courting the appropriate trade commission that has authority to stop such products from reaching America’s shores. Notably, any ITC findings will be binding regardless of the patent lawsuit outcome, thanks to a loophole in U.S. patent law. Ironically, Apple is using this same strategy to try and block HTC from importing phones that Cupertino alleges violate its patents.

Elan is no stranger when it comes to protecting its intellectual property — in 2008, the California district courts deemed that some Synaptics touchpads violated this very same patent. The result of that suit was a licensing agreement between Elan and Synaptics. Although possible, I doubt that Elan v Apple will result in a similar deal. I wonder how many of those iPad pre-order customers like myself are hoping the slow delivery boat from China speeds up, just in case of some unlikely quick legal action?

Image courtesy of Apple

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By Kevin C. Tofel

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  1. [...] Apple could be stopped in the U.S. At least Elan Microelectronics thinks so. The Taiwan-based company is suing the Cupertino manufacturer over a multitouch patent. The lawsuit could have dire efects in Apple iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad and Magic Mouse products, all of which are included in the lawsuit. The patent violation hinges on what Elan Microelectronics calls “a fundamental patent to the detection of multi-fingers that allows for any subsequent multi-finger applications to be implemented.” The language looks serious and the choice of forum–International Trade Commission–poses serious trade issues with regards to the aforementioned Apple products. For more details, visit Gigaom. [...]

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  2. [...] TECH LAWSUIT: IPHONE, IPAD MULTITOUCH IN JEOPARDY March 30th, 2010 | Tags: Apple Ipod, Apple Products, Cupertino, Elan Microelectronics, Finger Applications, Fingers, Fundamental Patent, Hinges, International Trade Commission, Iphone, Jeopardy, Magic Mouse, Mouse Products, Patent Violation, Taiwan Apple could be stopped in the U.S. At least Elan Microelectronics thinks so. The Taiwan-based company is suing the Cupertino manufacturer over a multitouch patent. The lawsuit could have dire efects in Apple iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad and Magic Mouse products, all of which are included in the lawsuit. The patent violation hinges on what Elan Microelectronics calls “a fundamental patent to the detection of multi-fingers that allows for any subsequent multi-finger applications to be implemented.” The language looks serious and the choice of forum–International Trade Commission–poses serious trade issues with regards to the aforementioned Apple products. For more details, visit Gigaom. [...]

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  3. If they won against Synaptics it’s conceivable they have a strong case here too.

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  4. DistortedLoop Tuesday, March 30, 2010

    It will be very interesting to see how the Apple fanboys who applauded Apple loudly for filing suit against HTC and it’s “slide to unlock” and other alleged touchscreen related patents react to this news. I’m sure they’ll be the first to scream Elan is stifling competition and holding the industry back.

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    1. Why would “Apple fanboys” do that? If Apple’s violating somebody else’s patents and the patents are valid, Apple needs to license them. If somebody’s violating Apple’s patents and the patents are valid, somebody needs to license it from Apple. There are arguments to be made about the dubiousness of patent law, both US-specific and internationally, but the idea that patents have some value does not strike me as particularly controversial.

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      1. Absolutely! I’m a law abiding ‘fanboy’ it is important to me that these things be resolved fairly and without prejudice, my only problem is the frivolous lawsuits that are intended to seek self-notoriety.

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    2. I don’t know enough about the lawsuit to say, but if they have a fair claim, then yes Apple should liscene it from them (and i guarantee you they’d do that before they pulled their multitouch products) and it’s a fair lawsuit.

      On the other hand, they could just be doing it to drum up publicity. In which case, it’s a bogus lawsuit. I don’t mind people suing when they have a legit reason for it though.

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  5. [...] [...]

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  6. [...] Apple with the U.S. International Trade Commission on Tuesday, GigaOM reports. the lawsuit deals with the use of [...]

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  7. I tracked the 2 ipads i order, they are ALREADY in the US!!!!

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    1. I was being slightly facetious about the boat — I knew the iPads would arrive by plane, otherwise they’d never get here in time for Saturday. ;)

      I also ordered two and according to UPS, they’re already in Louisville, KY being held up to ensure arrival no sooner than this weekend.

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      1. Even though they are in the US (mine is apparently in Alaska right now) it is possible that an injunction could stop their delivery. Failure to deliver on April 3rd would be a huge problem for Apple (maybe even a disaster), so I imagine they are taking this very seriously.

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      2. Expect to see the first reviews by Customs Officers today!

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