Apple in Shanghai court over Siri speech recognition patent infringement claims

Siri promo video (text message reply 001)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:

Police officer reports son for fraud after Apple refuse to refund £3,700 App Store spending spree

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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.”

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THX sues Apple over iMac, iPhone and iPad narrow profile speaker design

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.

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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.

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Patent troll Personal Audio LLC sues iTunes’ top podcaster Adam Carolla’s Ace Broadcasting

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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…

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Judge to review claims of juror misconduct in Apple vs. Samsung case Dec. 6

Following the $1 billion verdict in the Samsung vs. Apple case, Samsung has been attempting to get the courts to investigate juror Velvin Hogan. It claimed Hogan “concealed information” about his past history with Seagate, a company Samsung is now a shareholder in. CNET reported Federal District Judge Lucy Koh will consider Samsung’s claims in a hearing set for Dec. 6. At the heart of the allegations is whether Hogan disclosed that his former employee Seagate had previously sued him:

As part of her inquiry, Koh said she will require Apple to disclose what information the company’s lawyers knew about the jury foreman…Samsung argued that jury foreman Velvin Hogan didn’t disclose during jury selection that he had been sued by Seagate, his former employer. Samsung pointed out in court papers that Seagate and Samsung have a “substantial strategic relationship.” The litigation with Seagate led Hogan to file for personal bankruptcy in 1993. Samsung maintains Hogan should have informed the court about the case.

The Register reported today that Apple called Samsung’s argument a “convoluted theory,” adding it was Samsung responsibilities to interview jurors members during jury selection: Read more

Man sues Apple over ribbed Smart Cover, makes case for throwing out patent system

Apple is being sued by a man in Colorado over claims that the company’s $39 iPad Smart Covers violate a “Portable Computer Case” patent originally filed in 2003 and issued in 2005. PaidContent obtained a copy of the lawsuit.

The United States patent in question is 6,977,809. A Colorado man owns it, Jerald Bovino, who is seeking royalties for sales of Smart Covers’ using his invention. An excerpt from the patent seems to describe functionality that is quite similar to Apple’s Smart Covers—at least the ribbed design:

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Apple eBook price-fixing lawsuits hit Canada following DOJ suit

Following an investigation into alleged eBook price-fixing, the U.S. Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and publishers Macmillan and Penguin earlier this month, who refused to settle. Other publishers, including Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster, settled and reached an agreement to return Amazon to its previous wholesale model and dismantle Apple’s agency model. The settlement also included agreements with select states that would see $51 million in restitution paid to those who purchased eBooks through Apple’s platform. Now, several Canadian publications are reporting class-action lawsuits were filed against Apple and the five publishers throughout Canada.

Lawyer Normand Painchaud spoke with The Montreal Gazette about his class-action suit filed in Quebec Superior Court and talked about two others filed in Ontario and British Columbia:

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Apple, Google, and five other companies must face lawsuit over no-poaching agreements

Late last week we told you that the U.S. Justice Department apparently had evidence that Apple, along along with Google, Adobe, Intuit, Pixar, Intel, and Lucasfilms, entered “no-poach” agreements as part of an antitrust investigation from 2010. U.S. District Judge Lucy H Koh made a statement yesterday at the U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., confirming the companies must face a lawsuit. According to the report from Bloomberg, Koh said she would allow plaintiffs to re-file their complaint even if an initial request by the defendants to dismiss the claims is granted.  

Judge Koh’s decision yesterday will result in Google and the other companies having to provide a detailed account of the agreements made with other companies. They must also allow lawyers to take depositions. One lawyer representing the plaintiffs, Joseph Saveri, said, “We get to see what really happened,” claiming the case could result in hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. Google provided statements to Bloomberg claiming they have “always actively and aggressively recruited top talent,” while the others have declined to comment.
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Apple asks Chinese manufacturer to cease production plans for Steve Jobs figurine, claim they own his likeness

We had a feeling it would not be long before Apple stepped in and shut down Chinese manufacturer In Icon’s plans to create an extremely realistic Steve Jobs figurine, and today The Telegraph reports the 12-inch doll originally slated for release in February is now facing legal threats from Apple if the company doesn’t cease production plans.

According to the report, Apple claimed it owns the rights to Steve Jobs’ likeness and in a letter to the company claims toys using the Apple logo, a person’s name, or likeness of Jobs is considered a criminal offense.

The 12-inch figurine, which comes complete with Jobs’s trademark blue jeans, sneakers and black turtleneck sweater, was created by Chinese company In Icons and was set for release in February. But ‘their efforts have reportedly met with’ a legal challenge with Apple allegedly threatening to sue the toy maker unless they cease trading.

In Icon’s Tandy Cheung originally told ABC News the company would not stop production in lieu of Apple’s requests, and said the technology company cannot copyright Jobs’ appearance:

“Apple can do anything they like. I will not stop, we already started production…Steve Jobs is not an actor, he’s just a celebrity… There is no copyright protection for a normal person… Steve Jobs is not a product… so I don’t think Apple has the copyright of him.”

This is not the first time Apple has put a stop to Steve Jobs figurines. MICGadget was forced to stop selling their toy in November 2010 after Apple sent the following email (excerpt below):
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Lawsuit roundup: Apple insists to intervene in Lodsys, sued over E-book pricing

Frankly, it feels like lawsuits are taking too much of our time and mind space lately – and they aren’t fun to think about.  So here’s a roundup of the more exciting lawsuits news of the last hour:

MacRumors:

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Apple and 5 of the 6 major book publishers, alleging they “colluded to increase prices for popular e-book titles to boost profits and force e-book rival Amazon to abandon its pro-consumer discount pricing.”

On Lodsys (important if you are a App developer with an auto-updating app):

Apple insists to intervene in Lodsys lawsuit against app developers. Apple still requests a court hearing on its motion. Things may still take some more time, but there will be no more written pleadings unless the court asks the parties to address particular questions in more detail. At this stage it’s possible that the court decides very quickly, and I continue to be reasonably optimistic that Apple’s motion will be granted.

At some point, we should start referring to Lodsys by the name of its parent company, Intelectual Ventures. 

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Kodak considering sale of patent involved in Apple lawsuit

In January of 2010, Kodak sued  Apple and RIM for infringing on their patent to preview photographs. The lawsuit is still going on, but today Wall Street Journal is reporting that Kodak is currently looking to sell 10% of their patent portfolio, which includes the patent Apple and RIM are bring sued for.

The 1,100 patents include patents covering  capturing, storing, organizing and sharing digital image. WSJ credits the sale to Kodak’s loss in profit over the last two quarters.

Chief Executive Antonio Perez has been using Kodak’s intellectual property as a means of funding the company’s long and expensive transformation. In 2008, Mr. Perez put forth a goal to generate between $250 million and $350 million a year from Kodak’s patent portfolio.

Google is fresh off acquiring 1,000 patents from IBM and is likely still in a buying mood as it battles everyone from Oracle to Microsoft to Apple-by-proxy in the courts.  Apple, who outbid Google for the Nortel patent portfolio at $4.5B  is obviously on the offensive.

Kodak’s decision to sell its patents follows a $4.5 billion patent sale by Nortel Networks Corp. Kodak has retained Lazard as an adviser for the sale. Lazard also advised Nortel on its sale.

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Samsung drops counter-suit against Apple to speed up legal proceedings

In April, Apple originally filed a lawsuit against Samsung saying Samsung’s Galaxy Tab copied the iPhone and iPad. Soon after, Samsung filed a counter-patent suit against Apple and asked to see the iPhone 5 and iPad 3. Seeing the unreleased devices was denied by a judge earlier this year. This week Samsung has dropped their counter-patent suit.

The suit was dropped on June 30th, but Samsung will continue to fight patents with an earlier counter-patent suit.  While Samsung dropped the suit in the U.S., it won’t affect other patent suits they have. Besides the U.S., Samsung has lawsuits against Apple in South Korea, Japan, Germany, and the U.K.

Samsung’s spokesperson Nam Ki Yung told Bloomberg the counter-suit was dropped “to streamline the legal proceedings”. Nam also told Bloomberg, “Samsung will continue to actively defend and protect our intellectual property”.