Kindle Fire Hit With Patent Suit

Amazon’s new tablet won’t be available until November 15, but it’s never too early to file a patent suit. Smartphone Technologies LLC, which has already gone after Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), Research in Motion (NSDQ: RIMM) and others, claims the Kindle Fire also infringes on four of its patents.

Smartphone Technologies used some of the same patents to file lawsuits last year against other big names in the industry. It is owned by Acacia Research Corp, a publicly traded firm that collects patents and then licenses them through dozens of subsidiaries.

Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) announced the Kindle Fire two weeks ago. The device, priced at $199, is expected to sell millions and to emerge as a potential competitor to Apple’s iPad.

The patents in the new Amazon litigation appear to cover commonplace features used on many tablets and smartphones. U.S. Patent No. 6,956,562, for instance, seems to describe the act of tapping an icon in order to instruct the device to perform an action:

According to the method, a graphical feature having a surface area is displayed on a touch-sensitive screen. ..To control software executing on the processor, a user-supplied writing on the surface area is received and the software is controlled responsive to the writing.

Acacia says the Kindle Fire is also infringing on a patent issued to Palm (NYSE: HPQ) Inc in 2002 for a “System And Method For Displaying And Manipulating Multiple Calendars On A Personal Digital Assistant.” The court filing accuses the Kindle Fire of infringing on four patents and says the new “Kindle 3G + Wifi” infringes a fifth one.

A review of the lawsuits filed by Acacia in March and October of last year shows that Apple and the other defendants have so far refused to settle and are instead digging in for a drawn-out court battle.

Patent litigation has become a staple of the smartphone industry as entities like Acacia, often derided as patent trolls, collect patents in order to extract lucrative licensing settlements such as the $612 million that Research In Motion was forced to pay in 2005. Critics say that the software-related patents that form the basis of much of the litigation are of dubious merit and should be invalidated