Apple today has been hit with a lawsuit by Texas-based Somaltus LLC, which claims that the charging system used by the iPhone violates a patent it acquired from Snap-On Technologies. Snap-On Technologies originally acquired the patent in 2010 for an “integrated battery service system” that performs a “plurality of services related to devices/components that are coupled to the battery.”
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The patent goes on to describe how such a system would work in relation to starters, alternators, and other car parts. Interestingly, the patent makes no mention of smartphones, tablets, or computers, but Somaltus is still going after Apple. Although, the company has sued Nissan, Ford, and others with this same patent. So targeting Apple (and Asus, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba) in its latest round of patent-trolling is a bit of a stretch on the part of Somaltus. Specifically, the patent in question is U.S. Patent No. 7,657,386.
Specifically, Somaltus is targeting the fast-charging technology used by the iPhone 6s, as noted by MacRumors. For those unaware, the device charges more quickly until the battery reaches 80%, after which a slower, trickle-charge method is used in an effort to improve battery performance over time.
Essentially, Somaltus is a patent troll and not unlike the ones Apple has faced in the past. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, which is home to a handful of lawsuits from patent trolls. Somaltus lacks a presence online and doesn’t actually sell anything, but it has settled out of court with companies like Ford and Nissan in the past.
Apple has yet to respond to the lawsuit, so it’s unclear if the company will take it to court or attempt to settle outside of it. Apple has been very vocal against patent trolls in the past, claiming in 2014 that it is the subject of more patent-related lawsuits than any other company. The company hasn’t had much success, either. In 2015, it was ordered to pay $532.9 million for infringing on gaming patents of SmartFlash LLC. Not satisfied with that amount, SmartFlash then came back again looking for more. In what felt like deja vu for many, patent troll VirnetX then did the same thing over patents it claims FaceTime and iMessage infringe upon.
Somaltus is seeking royalties on the sale of infringing devices or an unspecified sum monetary damages.