Thursday, March 31, 2011

H-W v. Apple et al. NDTX

It's not clear who is behind H-W Technology, but they might realize they don't have a direct infringement case against Apple.

H-W Technology L.C. has filed suit against Apple and thirty-one other defendants in NDTX over United States Patent No. 7,525,955 (“the ‘955 Patent”) entitled “Internet Protocol (IP) Phone with Search and Advertising Capability.”  The patent claims priority back to two March 19, 2004 provisional applications.

Plaintiff H-W Technology, L.C. is a Texas corporation having a principal place of business at 4601 13TH Street, Lubbock, TX 79416, which Erik Sherman at Bnet identifies as residential.

The original assignee in the file history was Commoca, Inc., #68 E. Calle Mendez Vigo, Suite 3, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico 00680-4979.  (The cover appears to misspell this as "Commuca.")

Commoca, around the filing timeframe, appears to have been working on "location aware local search" for VOIP phones.


An interesting observation from Florian Mueller at FOSSPatents:

What's really disconcerting about this lawsuit is that it's the first such lawsuit to attack -- besides operating system vendors and device makers, which are routinely sued by patent holders -- a number of companies because of their smartphone apps. I'm really afraid we're now going to see more patent lawsuits against application developers.


Infringement would appear to require:

  • receiving user search criteria and submitting them to a server,
  • receiving a list of merchants with offers, and
  • transmitting the user's selection to a merchant without the user's contact or payment information, since it is already available to that merchant.


Update 17:33EDT:

The complaint alleges that Apple infringes via the iPhone by selling or importing "a multi-convergence device having a domain specific application that allows users to complete a merchant transaction without the need to generate a voice call."

Since I don't believe a stock iPhone meets the claim limitations, I suspect the case against Apple may actually be for contributory infringement, which might explain the inclusion of the application developers.


Update 18:09EDT

The Texas Secretary of State's office lists two managers for H-W Technology.  George Hardberger of Lubbock is an art gallery director?  He also appears to be the registered agent of Seventieth Street Warehouse, L.C., located at PO Box 1219 Lubbock, TX 79408.

Gary Ward appears to be an attorney, though not a patent attorney based on USPTO records.  The legal entity appears to have been formed just a year ago.

Filing Number: 801247528 Entity Type: Domestic Limited Liability Company (LLC)
Original Date of Filing: March 24, 2010 Entity Status: In existence
Formation Date: N/A
Tax ID: 32041504435 FEIN:
Duration: Perpetual
Name: H-W Technology, L.C.
Address: 4601 13TH ST
LUBBOCK, TX 794164823 USA
Last Update Name Title Address
March 25, 2010 George Hardberger Manager 4601 13th Street
Lubbock, TX 79416 USA
March 25, 2010 Gary Ward Manager P O Box 3052
McKinney, TX 75070 USA



Update: 20:22

The patent assignment from Commoca, Inc. to H-W Technology, L.C. was recorded 9/24/2010, execution date 8/1/2010.  Correspondent is listed as Ruben C. DeLeon of Navarro Huff LLP, whose firm filed the suit.



The full broadest published method claim, for reference:

9. A method for performing contextual searches on an Internet Phone (IP) phone comprising the steps of:

  • receiving a command to perform a contextual search;
  • receiving search criteria from a user of said IP phone;
  • submitting said search criteria to a server coupled to said IP phone; and
  • receiving from said server a list of merchants matching said search criteria and information regarding each of said merchants in said list;
  • wherein said information received by said user comprises a variety of offers, wherein said user selects one of said variety of offers associated with said one of said merchants listed, wherein said selected offer is transmitted to said one of said merchants listed electronically; and
  • wherein said user's contact and payment information is not transmitted to said one of said merchants listed, wherein said user's contact and payment information is available to said one of said merchants listed.


(Update 4/1/2011 07:48 EDT Note: The characterizations of the claims in the complaint appear to ignore the Examiner's Amendment entered 9/8/2008, based on a telephone interview with Ruben C. DeLeon, which added the final two elements.  The published claims do reflect the amendment.)



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