A federal judge ruled that a lawsuit against Apple and several other companies can proceed as a class-action suit today after determining that a significant number of employees across the tech industry were hurt by “do-not-hire” arrangements between their employers and other companies. The policies in question were practiced by Apple, Google, Adobe, Pixar, and more as a way of keeping their own employees from defecting to competitors for higher pay. Essentially the agreements barred two companies from offering jobs to competing employees for a higher salary. Because doing so gave employees leverage with which to bargain for higher pay at their own jobs, employers were often faced with the decision to either pay any given employee more to keep them around or lose them to a competitor willing to pay more.
Update: Apple provided a comment to AllThingsD and confirmed it will appeal the decision:
“Apple did not conspire to fix ebook pricing and we will continue to fight against these false accusations. When we introduced the iBookstore in 2010, we gave customers more choice, injecting much needed innovation and competition into the market, breaking Amazon’s monopolistic grip on the publishing industry. We’ve done nothing wrong and we will appeal the judge’s decision.”
Reuters reports that a judge just ruled that Apple conspired to raise the retail prices of e-books and said a trial for damages will soon follow:
The decision by U.S. District Judge Denise Cote[pictured, right] in Manhattan is a victory for the U.S. government and various states, which the judge said are entitled to injunctive relief. The publishers have already settled with the federal government on e-book pricing. Cote ruled after a non-jury trial that ended on June 20.
Apple warned that a guilty verdict in its e-book price-fixing case could have a negative impact on how digital media deals are negotiated in the US and Apple CEO Tim Cook even called the suit ‘bizarre':
The e-book case to me is bizarre. We’ve done nothing wrong there, and so we’re taking a very principled position. … We’re not going to sign something that says we did something we didn’t do. … So we’re going to fight.
The DOJ had argued that Apple had conspired to raise prices with all of the publishers and hurt rival Amazon.
Interestingly, according to the NYTimes, one of the most damning pieces of evidence in the government’s case is the video below of Steve Jobs talking with Walt Mossberg. Per Daring Fireball: Mossberg asks Jobs why someone would buy a book for $14.99 from the iBookstore when they could buy the same book from Amazon for $9.99.
Jobs: Well, that won’t be the case.
Mossberg: Meaning you won’t be $14.99, or they won’t be $9.99?
Jobs (smiling): The prices will be the same.
Apple’s long-running lawsuit against Amazon for its use of the “App Store” trademark might finally be coming to an end as Reuters reports a judge has dismissed the case at the request of the companies. The report claims U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton in California dismissed the case “after Apple issued to Amazon a covenant not to sue, eliminating the need for Amazon to pursue a related counterclaim.”
“We no longer see a need to pursue our case,” Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said. “With more than 900,000 apps and 50 billion downloads, customers know where they can purchase their favorite apps.”
A spokesperson for Amazon said “This was a decision by Apple to unilaterally abandon the case, and leave Amazon free to use ‘appstore’. Read more
Back in May, Apple was attempting to add Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S4 as an infringing device in its ongoing, second major patent dispute with Samsung in California. It was also claiming that Samsung infringed two Siri related patents with the device’s Google Now voice assistant feature. Now, according to a report from Bloomberg, Apple has been denied its request to add the device with U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal claiming it would be a “a “tax on the court’s resources”:
Adding another product to the case is a “tax on the court’s resources,” Grewal said in the ruling. “Each time these parties appear in the courtroom, they consume considerable amounts of the court’s time and energy, which takes time way from other parties who also require and are entitled to the court’s attention.”
Apple lawyer Josh Krevitt claims that denying to add the device in the ongoing patent suit would force Apple to “‘file a new lawsuit’ because the Samsung products covered by the case will be out of date by trial next year.” Read more
Nearly three years after the device first launched, GigaOm points us to a recently filed class action lawsuit that claims Apple’s iPhone 4 has a defective power button. The lawsuit claims that a defective flex cable typically causes the on/off switch to fail shortly after the device’s one year warranty has expired. It also claimsApple is aware of the problem, which is costing users around $149 to fix off of warranty.
Apple of course still sells the iPhone 4 through a number of carrier partners as its low end, $0 down iPhone option.
According to the lawsuit, “thousands of iPhone 4 users have suffered” from the issue that Apple allegedly knew existed before manufacturing and selling the device. The problem has never received a lot of mainstream media coverage or a response from Apple, but the lawsuit notes that a support forum on Apple’s website boasts over 800K views since first popping up in January 2011.
In its ongoing second major patent trial against Samsung, Apple yesterday filed a statement with the US District Court in California claiming that after examining the recently released Galaxy S4 it has “concluded that it is an infringing device and accordingly intends to move for leave to add the Galaxy S4″ to its long list of 22 infringing products. Apple is hoping Judge Lucy Koh allows the S4 to be added, but in line with the court’s request to reduce the number of infringing devices ahead of a trial scheduled for spring 2014, Apple has also agreed to remove without prejudice one of the other 22 infringing devices from Samsung it currently has listed.
Apple’s current list of infringing Samsung products include Admire, Captivate Glide, Conquer 4G, Dart, Exhibit II 4G, Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy Note, Galaxy Note 10.1, Galaxy Note II, Galaxy Player 4.0, Galaxy Player 5.0, Galaxy Rugby Pro, Galaxy SII, Galaxy SII Epic 4G Touch, Galaxy SII Skyrocket, Galaxy S III, Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus, Galaxy Tab 8.9, Galaxy Tab 2 10, Illusion, and Stratosphere.
The filing also highlights a disagreement in which Samsung believes each carrier variant of a specific device should be counted separately. For example, “the Galaxy Nexus activated on Sprint must be counted separately from the Galaxy Nexus activated on Verizon; and the Galaxy Nexus operating on Sprint running Android version 4.0 must be counted separately from the Galaxy Nexus operating on Sprint, but running Android version 4.1.” Apple, however, claims that Samsung has not itself applied this logic: Read more
Bring your faulty iPhone into your local Apple Store and probably the first thing the technician behind the Genius Bar troubleshooting your device will do is check the status of Liquid Contact Indicator, which signals excessive exposure to water.
This hidden tape strip reacts to moisture and can be found in your device’s headphone jack and charging port. The status of your warranty coverage depends on its color: if it is white, you pass, which means you are probably not responsible for replacement costs; if it is pink, your warranty is void, which can lead to expensive repair costs.
Apple’s practice of not honoring its hardware warranty based on this practice led to a class action lawsuit against the company in California.
Apple has reportedly agreed to pay up to the tune of $53 million in a settlement, nearly $16 million of which will go toward the legal counsel of the plaintiffs, and should be filed in a San Francisco federal court in the coming days, according to Wired.com.
Apple’s decision to disable VPN on demand functionality on iOS due to the virnetX lawsuit isn’t the only patent related Apple news today. Head below for a roundup of Apple’s court woes and wins from earlier today:
Samsung infringes key text-selection patent: Reuters reports that the International Trade Commission has handed down a preliminary decision ruling Samsung infringed on an Apple patent related to a text-selection feature. However, the courts also ruled Samsung didn’t infringe another patent related to detecting when other devices are plugged into a microphone jack. If the text-selection decision is upheld, the result could be a U.S. import ban on Galaxy, Transform, and Nexus devices: Read more
AFP reported Apple is in court in Shanghai, China again today, but this time it’s over a lawsuit alleging the company copied components of Siri’s speech recognition software. According to the report, Shanghai-based Zhizhen Network Technology Co. claimed in pretrial proceedings that Apple infringed its patent related to voice recognition technology via Siri. While the suit notes that development of Siri began in 2007, there is no mention of Nuance. Apple currently partners Nuance with to implement the speech recognition component in Siri, and it is also a market leader that presumably has its own arsenal of speech recognition related patents.
Zhizhen says it patented its “Xiao i Robot” software in 2004, while Apple’s Siri, which made its debut with the release of the iPhone 4S in 2011, was first developed in 2007.
“The company will ask Apple to stop manufacturing and selling products using its patent rights, once Apple’s infringement is confirmed,” Si Weijiang, a lawyer representing Zhizhen, told AFP.
“We don’t exclude the possibility of demanding compensation in the future,” he added.
The company is behind Siri-like software called ‘Xiao i Robot’ that it claimed was first developed before Siri in 2004. The technology is apparently available on some smart TVs and enterprise applications, but it doesn’t appear to be available as a consumer-facing app for smartphones or tablets. The video below appeared online when the company originally filed suit against Apple last year, and it shows the Xiao i Robot software running on a Lenovo smartphone:
A police officer in the U.K. named Doug Crossan reported his own 13-year-old son for fraud after Apple refused to refund £3,700 that the child ran up playing freemium App Store titles on his iPad. DailyMail has the story:
Cameron then racked up more than 300 purchases on games such as Plants vs Zombies, Hungry Shark, Gun Builder, Nova 3. Many of them are free to download but users can buy in-game extras – in one game Cameron had purchased a virtual chest of gold coins costing £77.98.
But the technology company has refused and his only way of recouping the money is to report the purchases as being fraudulent. So Mr Crossan, of Clevedon, North Somerset, has shopped Cameron to the Action Fraud helpline – meaning his son could face arrest and questioning by the his father’s colleagues. He said: ‘I am sure Cameron had no intention to do it, but I had to have a crime reference number if there was any chance of getting any credit card payments refunded.
We reported last week that Apple was adding a new “offers in-app purchases” warning in the App Store to better inform consumers downloading free apps that additional content will require a fee. The move followed a settling a class action lawsuit that alleged children were able to rack up thousands of dollars through the iOS freemium model, i.e. in-app purchases, with both parents and children under the impression that the games were free. Apple is refusing to refund Crossan, citing “parental responsibility and pointing out that iPads contain password locks to prevent accidental or unwanted purchases.”
Images from Patent no. 7433483
Apple has found itself on the wrong side of another patent lawsuit. Lucasfilm-owned THX sued Apple yesterday over a claimed infringed patent relating to the speaker designs found on the new iMacs, iPhones, and iPads.
Patent no. 7433483, filed in 2008 by THX, protects “narrow profile sound systems” that shoot sound out a “narrow sound duct.” The exact patent description reads as follows:
A narrow profile speaker unit comprises at least one speaker outputting sound towards an internal surface and through a duct with an output terminus, such as a slot, having a narrow dimension, effectively changing the cross-section of the speaker’s audio output wave. A pair of speakers may face one another, outputting sound towards a common output slot. Multiple pairs of speakers may be used to form an inline speaker unit for increased sound output. A slotted speaker unit may include multiple speakers facing the same direction, towards a groundplane or reflecting surface, and having parallel apertures for allowing sound radiation. The speaker units may be integral with or attached to electronic appliances such as desktop computers or flatscreen devices, or may be used in automobiles or other contexts.
THX was founded in 1983 as a division of Lucasfilm and was re-booted in 2001 as an independent company. Apple and THX have never had friction in the past, and, just two months ago, THX released ‘THX tune-up’. It’s an app that allows you to adjust your “TV, projector and speakers” all from your iPhone or iPad.
In July 2011, a federal jury in Texas awarded “patent licensing company” Personal Audio LLC $8 million in its patent infringement lawsuit against Apple. The jury found Apple infringed two valid patents related to downloadable playlists with its iOS devices as far back as the original iPod. One covered an “audio program player including a dynamic program selection controller,” while the other covered an “audio program distribution and playback system.” 9to5Mac has now learned Personal Audio LLC is attempting to target content creators directly, starting with a new patent infringement case in Texas against one of iTunes biggest podcasters, Adam Carolla’s Ace Broadcasting.
If the outcome of the case is anything like Personal Audio’s previous cases, it could have a major impact on podcasters and other content creators on iTunes and elsewhere. Personal Audio also sued and entered licensing agreements with Sirius XM Radio, Archos, Coby, RIM, Samsung, Amazon, and Motorola related to its downloadable playlist patents and others.
The new patent, issued just last year on Feb. 7, 2012, is quite broad and describes a “System for Disseminating Media Content Representing Episodes in a Serialized Sequence.” Personal Audio is also suing the popular Howstuffworks.com series, which like Ace Broadcasting, is a large podcasting presence on iTunes and across the web…