Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Milan v. Apple, Inc.

On April 24, 2008, Henry Milan, through attorneys at Butzel Long, filed a patent infringement suit based on US Patent No. 6,991,483, "Flash Memory Drive With Quick Connector."

The plaintiff points to the iPod Nano and iPod Touch "and complementary accessories designed to connect thereto" as the infringing devices.

A quick analysis of the claims and review of the specification raises some questions about the suit. The plaintiff asserts infringement of independent claim 1 and its dependent claim 5. No mention is made of the other independent claims, 6 and 13, or their dependent claims.

Claim 1 reads:

1. A flash memory device comprising:

a housing having opposed first and second ends;

a flash memory drive enclosed in said housing; and

a quick connector mounted in said housing and having a plurality of pins
exposed at said second end,

said pins being configured for electrical connection to a selected one of at least a first interchangeable connector and a second interchangeable connector,

the first interchangeable connector having a first pin configuration for mating with said pins of said quick connector and being connected to a second pin configuration different from the first pin configuration,

the second interchangeable connector having the first pin configuration for mating with said pins of said quick connector and being connected to a third pin configuration different from the first pin configuration and the second pin configuration, the second and third pin configurations being pin configurations of different types of conventional connectors.

The figures show interchangeable connectors like those used in the "iGo" charger system which uses interchangeable tips.

The obvious question is, given that the iPod Nano and Touch ship with a USB cable without interchangeable connectors, where is the infringement? Is Milan basing the suit on Apple's sale of third-party chargers through the Apple stores? Is Milan attempting to assert that the Apple USB charge/sync cable is one connector and a device like the Nike+ receiver is another?

For now, we will have to guess. The filed complaint is quite light on details. We'll watch for further filings.

Regardless of the merits, it is at least refreshing to see a suit where a Michigan resident actually files in the Eastern District of Michigan instead of EDTX.

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