Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Apple using patents to delay adoption of WWW open standards again

  An initiative to standardize the way touch enabled devices interact with web content has had a wrench thrown into the works, at least temporarily, by Apple.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Events Working Group was created last year and tasked with standardizing the way touch devices, from smartphones and tablets to drawing pads and spatial sensors, interact with web applications. One of the specifications they have been working on is called 'Touch Events.'
  As part of the standard development process, the working group sent out multiple requests for patent exclusions. In layman's terms, these are requests for disclosure of any existing or pending patents which might be required to implement a standard.
  Responding to the third of three calls for exclusions this year, Apple provided the group with a list of four patents, one of which has already been approved, two which are pending approval, and a fourth which is in the early stage of application, which they say are related to the Touch Events specification.

  A developer for the Opera browser who blogs under the name Haavard is crying foul on Apple's move, and says they are simply trying to impede the creation of the Touch Events spec. He points to similar occurences in 2009 and 2010, when Apple made exclusion claims with respect to the W3C Widgets specification.
  Of the three patents listed in those claims, two were found to be nonessential, while the third was deemed both nonessential and invalid due to prior art.
  When a patent exclusion claim is made to a W3C working group, the organization must appoint a team to examine the patents in question to determine whether they are, in fact, necessary to the spec in its current state. This means delaying finalization until the determination is reached.
  Perhaps the key technology which Apple has used as a cornerstone for their multitude of patent lawsuits against handset and tablet makers around the world are is the touch screen. Simply put, Apple wants to use patents to restrict other companies' touch implementations.
  Of course that's despite the fact their touch screen technology isn't necessarily as revolutionary or original as their patents suggest. In some cases they cover technology which was in production by other companies before the Apple patent application was even filed.

Apple tries to reboot it's lost lawsuits

  In keeping with its strategy for world domination in consumer electronics, Apple has inconspicuously transferred a dozen patents that it previously "owned" to a non-existent corporate entity called Cliff Island LLC.
 Tech crunch have done a little digging and it appears that Cliff Island is a shell company, sharing a physical address with Altitude Capital, the main investor behind patent trolling company Digitude Innovations (ironic name, n'est pas?).

  Cliff Island then "transferred" those same patents to Digitude who have now filed a suit with the ITC (International Trade Commission) in the US against basically all the smartphone and tablet makers selling in America (RIM, HTC, LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sony, Amazon, and Nokia (note that Apple is not on this list). How mysterious.

  Digitude was founded in 2010 and raised $50 million from Altitude Capital Partners, with aims to “acquire, aggregate, and license key technology areas within the consumer electronics and related technology fields in a patent consortium” — in other words, it buys up patents and then sues other companies until they settle and agree to pay licensing fees, because it’s generally less expensive than actually going to court.
  So what we're seeing here is Apple suing its competitors out of the market, yet again, for patent law suites it already lost, but this time by proxy. And it's interesting that the patent transfers have taken place under some sneaky back-room sleight of hand. For new readers this might seem unethical even for Apple - what we know, is only the tip of the ice berg, unfortunately.