Elan Sues to Ban Apple Multitouch Products in U.S. — Even the iPad


Elan Microelectronics filed suit against Apple with the U.S. International Trade Commission today, alleging that certain Apple (s aapl) 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 (s syna). 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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You are saying you wish Elan would lose the suit that is not fair to say so. I’d hope the U.S. International Trade Commission would stick to its cause to make a fair judgement.


You are saying you wish Elan would lose the suit with regard to Apple’s infridgement in Elan’s patent that is not fair to say so. I’d hope the U.S. International Trade Commission would
stick to its cause to make a fair judgement.

Rudolf O.

So they’re the jerks that force the disabling of Synaptics two-finger scroll stuff?? I hope they screw Apple.


Congress should overhaul the patent system and legislate patent trolls out of existence. Patent trolls cost US consumers and businesses billions of dollars every year.


Somehow one suspects that HTC may have ALREADY
licensed these patents, and that APPLE’S suit
may be in very muddy water.

Alexander Munday

The iPad has landed. It may be time to hijack a delivery truck or perhaps pay BestBuy a very late night visit.

3 more days of anxiety.


Fingerworks – the company that Apple bought – surely their patents trump Elan’s?

Kevin C. Tofel

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.


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.

Gavin Miller

Expect to see the first reviews by Customs Officers today!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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