Patent troll hits Apple for using headphones

Norwegian Troll

Editor’s note: This story originally contained a reference to Intellectual Ventures that could not be substantiated and did not belong in the report. We have removed that reference, and apologize to readers.

The head of the U.S. Patent Office last week told critics of the patent system to “give it a rest already,” and said the system is working. If only it were so. The latest lawsuit against Apple shows the system may be more broken than ever.

In a complaint filed in California, a shell firm wants the iPhone maker to hand over $3 million for daring to include headphones with its phone devices. Intelligent Smart Phones Concepts LLC points to U.S. Patent 7,373,182 titled “Wireless Mobile Phone Including a Headset” to argue Apple must pay up.

Despite its fancy name, the plaintiff doesn’t make or do anything, meaning that it’s not vulnerable to a counter-attack from Apple. And, in case you’re wondering, its marvelous invention is depicted like this in the patent:

Contacted by telephone, the shell company’s lawyer, Sepehr Daghighian declined to comment or explain who his client is. But we can make a guess.

A search of the USPTO patent transfer database shows a number of connections to the Seattle area. And one of the named inventors, Peter Zatloukal, is a former Microsoft employee.

USPTO director, David Kappos, who is leaving his job in January is well-liked and highly respected by both academics and the patent bar. But his defense of the status quo simply does not hold up. At this rate, his agency risks teaching a generation of young innovators to hold the entire system in contempt as a vehicle for destructive lawsuits and parasitic opportunists. Enough is enough.

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