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
REGISTERED AGENT FILING HISTORY NAMES MANAGEMENT ASSUMED NAMES ASSOCIATED ENTITIES
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.)

 

 

2011-03-31 Newly Published Apple Patent Applications

PUB. APP. NO. Title
1 20110078432 RETRIEVING BOOT INSTRUCTIONS FROM NONVOLATILE MEMORY
2 20110078354 SMART DOCK FOR CHAINING ACCESSORIES
3 20110078267 CONDITIONAL COMMUNICATION
4 20110078151 COMPUTER SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR COLLECTING, ASSOCIATING, AND/OR RETRIEVING DATA
5 20110077055 SELF ADAPTING ALERT DEVICE
6 20110076989 MISSED COMMUNICATION HANDLING
7 20110076896 JACK ASSEMBLIES WITH CYLINDRICAL CONTACTS
8 20110076891 CONNECTOR RECEPTACLE HOUSINGS HAVING REDUCED-WEAR FINGER CONTACTS AND REDUCED SEAM VISIBILITY
9 20110075835 SELF ADAPTING HAPTIC DEVICE
10 20110075591 METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR LOOKING UP CONFIGURATION INFORMATION FOR A NETWORK NODE
11 20110075342 COVER GLASS TO HOUSING INTERFACE SYSTEM
12 20110075055 DISPLAY SYSTEM HAVING COHERENT AND INCOHERENT LIGHT SOURCES
13 20110074931 SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR AN IMAGING SYSTEM USING MULTIPLE IMAGE SENSORS
14 20110074821 System for Emulating Graphics Operations
15 20110074811 Map Layout for Print Production
16 20110074810 System for Emulating Graphics Operations
17 20110074683 INCORPORATING CHROMATIC SENSORS IN COMPUTER MICE
18 20110074434 END OF LIFE DETECTION FOR A BATTERY
19 20110074360 POWER ADAPTER WITH INTERNAL BATTERY
20 20110073575 COMPUTER HOUSING
21 20110072639 BATTERY ASSEMBLY FOR USE IN AN ELECTRONIC DEVICE

 

Amazon Cloud Player: What has Changed Since UMG v. MP3.com?

Amazon didn't beat Apple to market because of technology.  They beat Apple to market by going without licensing.

Amazon has announced its Cloud Player and Cloud Drive, which allow users to upload music for later streaming back from Amazon to various devices.  There has long been speculation that Apple is working on a similiar "cloud" component for the iTunes ecosystem.  Rumors intensified when Apple acquired Lala.

It is doubtful that Apple's delayed entrance into this market is related to technical issues.  Apple delivers high volumes of digital content through the iTunes Store, the App Store, and most relevantly, through streaming of movie rentals.  I've always presumed that Apple has been reluctant to offer such a service without explicit licensing agreements with the major music companies.

In the late 1990s, MP3.com provided an online streaming service called my.mp3.com.  Users would insert a CD into a CD-ROM drive, MP3.com software would identify the disk, and the user would be provided with streaming access to online MP3 versions of those songs via the web.

MP3.com was promptly sued.  MP3.com argued fair use, but quickly faced a partial summary judgement:

The complex marvels of cyberspatial communication may create difficult legal issues; but not in this case. Defendant's infringement of plaintiff's copyrights is clear. Accordingly, on April 28, 2000, the Court granted defendant's motion for partial summary judgment holding defendant liable for copyright infringement.  (UMG RECORDINGS, INC. v. MP3.COM, INC., SDNY, May 4, 2000, U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5761)

Amazon reportedly has not obtained licenses to stream users' content, but is working on obtaining them.  From the WSJ:

Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Sony Corp.'s Sony Music Entertainment said the company was "disappointed" with the way the online retailer launched the new service, known as Amazon Cloud. "We are keeping our legal options open," the spokeswoman added.

Perhaps the legal landscape has changed since UMG v. MP3.com, but I wouldn't get too attached to Cloud Drive quite yet.

 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nokia v. Apple: Take Me to the (Palm)Pilot

Three of the seven patents at issue in the newly filed D.Del. and ITC cases relate to database synchronization, particularly contact sync for personal information managers (PIMs).  The patents trace back to Puma Technology in the mid 1990s. Puma created Intellisync for the then US Robotics PalmPilot, prior to the 3Com acquisition and the later spin-out of Palm Inc.

Claim 2 of the asserted '911 patent seems quite broad.  It specifies that PIM records are selected based upon a filter comprising user-selectable conditions or fields that must match, and the subset of records is synchronized with a second database.

I would not be surprised to see reexamination requests for these patents in the near future.

 

Bibliographic information and a select claim from each of the three patents follows:

 

7,209,911 (continuation of '529, which is a continuation of '664)

Synchronization of databases using filters

Inventors: Boothby; David J. (Nashua, NH), Morgan; David W. (Derry, NH)
Assignee: Intellisync Corporation (San Jose, CA) 
Appl. No.: 09/776,452
Filed: February 2, 2001

2. A computer implemented method of synchronizing at least a first and a second personal information management database of the type having a plurality of records, wherein the records of the first and second personal information management databases include fields, the method comprising:

  • using a filter to select a plurality of records of the first database, 
    • the filter comprising one or more user selectable conditions or criteria that fields of records of the first database must match or fit to be selected, and
    • selecting the plurality of records of the first database includes evaluating fields of the first database with the user selectable conditions or criteria, and
  • synchronizing the selected records of the first database with records of the second database, 
    • the synchronizing comprising adding, modifying, or deleting records, whereby synchronization is performed for a subset of the records of the databases.

(claim 1 seems to differ in specifying "user-definable criteria" instead of "user selectable criteria.")

 

6,212,529 (continuation of '664)

Synchronization of databases using filters

Inventors: Boothby; David J. (Nashua, NH), Morgan; David W. (Derry, NH), Marien; John R. (Nashua, NH)
Assignee: Puma Technology, Inc. (San Jose, CA) 
Appl. No.: 09/036,400
Filed: March 5, 1998

1. A computer implemented method of synchronizing at least a first and a second personal information management database wherein the records of at least the first database include a text field, the method comprising:

  • using a filter to select a plurality of records of the first database, 
    • the filter comprising one or more user definable conditions or criteria that a record must match or fit to be selected, 
      • wherein the conditions or criteria include a user definable text criterion, and selecting the plurality records of the first database includes comparing the text field with the text criterion; and
  • synchronizing the selected records of the first database with records of the second database, 
    • the synchronizing comprising adding, modifying, or deleting records,
  • whereby synchronization is performed for a subset of the records of the databases.

 

6,141,664

Synchronization of databases with date range

Inventors: Boothby; David J. (Nashua, NH)
Assignee: Puma Technology, Inc. (San Jose, CA) 
Appl. No.: 08/748,645
Filed: November 13, 1996

1. A computer implemented method of synchronizing at least a first and a second database each containing dated records such as events, wherein the records of the first database extend across a narrow date range narrower than the date range of the records of the second database, the method comprising:

  • performing a prior synchronization across a prior date range set using the date of the prior synchronization and the narrow date range;
  • storing the prior date range and a history file containing information representative of the content of the databases following the prior synchronization;
  • performing a current synchronization across a date range that combines the prior date range with a current date range set using the date of the current synchronization and the narrow date range.

 

Apple Rival RIM Pays Up for Intellectual Ventures License

Of most interest is that the press release describes not just a license to practice the inventions in IV's patent portfolio (i.e., not get sued for infringement by IV), but also the ability to "borrow" the patents for use against competitors:
Becoming an IV licensee provides access to additional products and services to address both short-term and long-term IP-related matters. As an IV customer, RIM can now complement its own strong patent portfolio with access to IV’s portfolio and can leverage IV’s portfolio in its future licensing negotiations.
Source: Intellectual Ventures

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

D.Del Nokia v. Apple Complaint

In addition to the previously mentioned seven-patent ITC matter, Nokia also filed a six-patent infringement suit against Apple in the District of Delaware on March 28, 2011:

This is an action brought by Nokia against Apple Inc. ("Apple") for Apple's infringement of Nokia's patents. In particular, Nokia seeks remedies for Apple's infringement of Nokia's U.S. Patent Nos. 7,209,911 ("the 911 Patent"), 6,212,529 ("the 529 Patent"), 6,141,664 ("the 664 Patent"), 6,445,932 ("the 932 Patent"), 5,898,740 ("the 740 Patent"), and 7,319,874 ("the 874 Patent") (collectively, the "Asserted Patents").
For Nokia / Intellisync:


Local Counsel: 
Jack B. Blumenfeld & Rodger D. Smith II of Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnel LLP
Of Counsel: 
Patrick J. Flinn, John D. Haynes, & Alan L. Whitehurst, Alston & Bird LLP 


Source:

PACER, Case 1:11-cv-00259-UNA Document 1 

Nokia v. Apple: Why now?

Why is Nokia launching a flurry of patent suits and ITC investigations now, four years after the iPhone was announced?  More than wanting a cut of Apple's profits, I think it's about needing licenses to Apple's patents to stay in the game.


Over at FOSSPatents, Florian Mueller ponders Nokia's motivations:
Many observers and analysts will now try to form an opinion on whether this latest action by Nokia is a sign of strength or weakness. I have thought about this and concluded that there is a significant degree of frustration shining through Nokia's announcement because things take so long, but more than anything else, Nokia is sending out a strong and unambiguous message that at the end of this epic battle Apple is going to have to send royalty checks to Finland.
Nokia's patent portfolio is roughly five times larger than Apple's. They both operate in the same industry resulting from the convergence of computing and communications technologies. Theoretically one "killer patent" can be stronger than a thousand other patents, and there are indeed significant quality differences between the patent portfolios of major high tech companies. But it's hard to imagine that Nokia's patents are, on average, so much weaker than Apple's that the outcome could be anything else than Apple being required to pay.
I personally have no trouble imagining that Nokia's patents are so much weaker, especially when we follow the money, and particularly, the profits.

While the relative size of Nokia's patent portfolio is certainly relevant, the direction in which money will eventually flow is presumably related to the financial damage each party's portfolio could do to the other party, and each party's ability to take the risk of such damage.  Damages, in turn, should be related to profit contributions of the inventive aspects of the patents.

Apple's share of mobile phone industry profits exceeds the combined profits of the rest of the vendors combined.   Some may argue that Apple's handset profits are derived from the persuasive marketing of "shiny things."  I would argue that their profits are highly related to the inclusion in their products of the signature iPhone features, which Apple itself, as the first mover, has patented extensively.

Why is Nokia launching a flurry of patent litigation activity right now?  I suspect a key factor is the recent agreement with Microsoft.  If the new Microsoft-Nokia phones are profitable, a significant portion of the profits will likely be attributable to their having those signature iPhone-like features.  Apple could make a very strong argument, based on the profit share in the market, that it is those features that are key to Nokia's profits, if such profits arise.

Apple likely has more than a "killer patent."  They have a "killer portfolio," because they decided to "think different" about this space for years before anyone else knew what they were doing.  I suspect Nokia desperately wants a cross-license agreement so they can continue to play.

2011-03-29 Newly Issued Apple Patents

PAT. NO.Title
1D635,123Full-TextElectronic device
27,917,892Full-TextUser interface driven by dynamic state changes
37,917,861Full-TextUser interface elements cloning and transitions
47,917,846Full-TextWeb clip using anchoring
57,917,796Full-TextMethod and apparatus for the generation and control of clock signals
67,917,784Full-TextMethods and systems for power management in a data processing system
77,917,678Full-TextMethod and apparatus for frame buffer management
87,917,661Full-TextWireless home and office appliance management and integration
97,917,516Full-TextUpdating an inverted index
107,917,360Full-TextEcho avoidance in audio time stretching
117,917,358Full-TextTransient detection by power weighted average
127,916,963Full-TextMethod and apparatus for an intuitive digital image processing system that enhances digital images
137,916,941Full-TextMethods and apparatuses for restoring color and enhancing electronic images
147,916,467Full-TextMethods and apparatuses for docking a portable electronic device that has a planar like configuration and that operates in multiple orientations
157,916,126Full-TextBottom-up watershed dataflow method and region-specific segmentation based on historic data to identify patches on a touch sensor panel
167,916,089Full-TextAntenna isolation for portable electronic devices
177,915,987Full-TextAcoustic noise reduction in power supply inductors
187,915,920Full-TextLow latency, power-down safe level shifter
197,915,910Full-TextDynamic voltage and frequency management
207,914,320Full-TextCable connector assembly with sticky film

Nokia files second ITC complaint against Apple

Via Nokia:


Published March 29, 2011
Alleges Apple infringes additional Nokia patents in virtually all products
Espoo, Finland - Nokia has filed a further complaint with the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) alleging that Apple infringes additional Nokia patents in virtually all of its mobile phones, portable music players, tablets and computers.
The seven Nokia patents in the new complaint relate to Nokia's pioneering innovations that are now being used by Apple to create key features in its products in the areas of multi-tasking operating systems, data synchronization, positioning, call quality and the use of Bluetooth accessories.
This second ITC complaint follows the initial determination in Nokia's earlier ITC filing, announced by the ITC on Friday, March 25. Nokia does not agree with the ITC's initial determination that there was no violation of Section 337 in that complaint and is waiting to see the full details of the ruling before deciding on the next steps in that case.
In addition to the two ITC complaints, Nokia has filed cases on the same patents and others in Delaware, US and has further cases proceeding in Mannheim, Dusseldorf and the Federal Patent Court in Germany, the UK High Court in London and the District Court of the Hague in the Netherlands, some of which will come to trial in the next few months.
"Our latest ITC filing means we now have 46 Nokia patents in suit against Apple, many filed more than 10 years before Apple made its first iPhone," said Paul Melin, Vice President, Intellectual Property at Nokia. "Nokia is a leading innovator in technologies needed to build great mobile products and Apple must stop building its products using Nokia's proprietary innovation."
During the last two decades, Nokia has invested approximately EUR 43 billion in research and development and built one of the wireless industry's strongest and broadest IPR portfolios, with over 10,000 patent families. Nokia is a world leader in the development of handheld device and mobile communications technologies, which is also demonstrated by Nokia's strong patent position.

Details to follow when the filing becomes available.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Kodak Was Granted Full Commission Review by 5-1 Vote

The just-published voting record for the decision on March 25 to allow full commission review in Investigation 337-TA-703 reveals a 5-1 vote in favor.

For: Commissioners Pinkert, Aranoff, & Pearson, Vice Chairman Williamson, and Chairman Okun

Against: Commissioner Lane

The lop-sided vote is not surprising given the number of issues the parties were directed to brief for the full review.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Kodak v. Apple at the ITC: What Happens Now?

On March 25, 2011, the U.S. International Trade Commission "determined to review the final initial determination (“ID”) issued by the presiding administrative law judge (“ALJ”) on January 24, 2011, finding no violation of section 337 in the above- captioned investigation."

The breadth of what the parties are now asked to brief suggests the possibility of a fresh review of the infringement case, taking into account prior ITC claim constructions and the successful reexam of the '218.

The parties are being asked to address:

  1. whether the ALJ permissibly relied on prior art combinations that Kodak did not have a chance to address and whether they render claim 15 invalid for obviousness,
  2. whether the ALJ should have considered the claim constructions in Inv. No. 337-TA-663 (prior Kodak ITC case against LGE) and what effect those constructions should have in this case,
  3. whether the ALJ should have considered the reexaminations and what effect those reexaminations should have in this case,
  4. whether U.S. Patent No. 5,493,335 (the Pularski '335 discussed in a prior post) is prior art, and if so, on what statutory basis,
  5. the meaning of “color pixel value” in part (b) of claim 15 and whether is is “the value of a color pixel”.


The weight given to the reexamination is certainly a key issue.  A presumption that the claims are valid based on the results of the reexam would move the discussion substantially toward item 5, and the associated issues of YCC color space, RGB values, and the meaning of a "at least three different colors."

For reference, claim 15, element (b):

(b) a motion processor for generating from the captured images, a second number of color pixel values provided in a second color pattern having at least three different colors and representative of a series of motion images to be previewed, the second number of color pixel values being less than the first number of color pixel values, and the second color pattern being different from the first color pattern;

The Commission also asks for written submissions on the form of remedy, should one be required.  The Commission has the power to "(1) issue an order that could result in the exclusion of the subject articles from entry into the United States, and/or (2) issue one or more cease and desist orders that could result in a respondent being required to cease and desist from engaging in unfair acts in the importation and sale of such articles."  The impact that a block of importation of Apple products would have on the public and the economy, however, make that path highly unlikely.

Sources:

  • US ITC Investigation 337-TA-703 NOTICE OF COMMISSION DETERMINATION TO REVIEW A FINAL DETERMINATION OF NO VIOLATION OF SECTION 337; SCHEDULE FOR FILING WRITTEN SUBMISSIONS ON THE ISSUES UNDER REVIEW AND ON REMEDY, THE PUBLIC INTEREST, AND BONDING
  • US Patent 6,292,218

 

Tangled Procedural Webs of the ITC and the USPTO

Adding to the complexity of Kodak's ITC matter against Apple are the temporally intertwined actions of the USPTO on reexamination requests related to the '218 patent.   Two such requests were filed, the first by LG Electronics on July 31, 2009, the second by RIM on March 9, 2010.


Kodak takes issue with the ALJ's finding of invalidity of the '218 in part because it conflicts with a USPTO determination during the reexamination process:

[following a redacted portion in public version of filing]
"He found this even though three expert Examiners at the USPTO had recently confirmed that claim 15 is patentable after considering the same prior art and invalidity analysis (Apple's expert Dr. Bovik's Expert Report) in two reexaminations (one of which was filed by counsel for RIM).  Kodak provided a copy of the USPTO's decision to the Chief ALJ on December 28, 2010, but the Final ID fails to even acknowledge the USPTO's decision, let alone provide it substantial deference as the Federal Circuit requires.
The Chief ALJ also improperly decided the invalidity issues based on combinations of prior art that were not advanced or addressed by any party in this Investigation."
(Kodak's Petition for Review)

Indeed, the consolidated reexam (USPTO control numbers 90/010,631 and 90/010,899) led to the confirmation of '218 claim 15:

Claims 15 and 23-27 are confirmed. The following is an examiner's statement of reasons for patentability and/or confirmation of the Claims found patentable in this reexamination proceeding:
The closest prior art fails to disclose or fairly suggest:
An electronic still camera having a motion processor for initiating capture of a still image while previewing the motion images presented on the color display and a second number of color pixel values being less than a first number, in combination with the remaining limitations, as called for in claim 15 (claims 23-27 depend directly or indirectly on independent claim 15).
(Ex parte reexamination communication from USPTO, 12/23/2010)

Note: Both LGE and RIM also filed reexamination requests related to another patent, US5,493,335.  The first listed inventor on the '335 patent is Kenneth A. Parulski of Kodak, who is also the first named inventor on the '218 patent at issue in the Apple case.  The Parulski '335 is one of the references cited by the ALJ in the determination that the '218, the patent at issue in the Apple case, is invalid.

Sources:
  • Final Initial and Recommended Determinations, ITC 337-703, Official Receive Date 3/08/2011
  • US ITC Filing, COMPLAINANT EASTMAN KODAK COMPANY'S PETITION FOR REVIEW OF THE FINAL INITIAL AND RECOMMENDED DETERMINATIONS, Filed February 17, 2011 by Eric C. Rusnak of K&L Gates, representing Eastman Kodak.
  • US Patent 6,292,218
  • USPTO PAIR Image File Wrappers (90/010,631, 90/010,899)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

RGB, YCC, and the importance of claim drafting

A key dispute in the Kodak ITC investigation is over the meaning of "at least three different colors" in element "b" of claim 15:

(b) a motion processor for generating from the captured images, a second number of color pixel values provided in a second color pattern having at least three different colors and representative of a series of motion images to be previewed, the second number of color pixel values being less than the first number of color pixel values, and the second color pattern being different from the first color pattern;

In essence, the claim describes capturing images with a high resolution pixel mosaic, a Bayer pattern with four sensors per pixel, half being green, for instance, and producing a motion stream of lower resolution images where each pixel is represented by three color values, such as red, green, and blue intensities ("RGB").

The filings imply strongly that Apple captures high resolution images with an RGB sensor, then produces lower resolution JPEG images for preview display.  A common first step in converting uncompressed RGB images to compressed JPEG images is to convert the color space of the image to YCbCr (or "YCC" as used in the filings).  This allows a lower compression ratio to be used on the very important luminance channel, and higher compression ratios to be used on the two chroma channels.

Do pixels represented in YCC color space have "three different colors"?  That's a key issue in this case.

From a imaging or color science perspective, the replacement of the claim phrase "having at least three different colors" with "each represented by at least three color coordinates" or "said pixels represented using at least three color channels," would have better encompassed the use of YCC or other luminance-chrominance color coordinate spaces.

With the use of the phrase "at least three different colors," the administrative law judge understandably gravitated toward an interpretation where each of the three "colors" is a "color" in layman's terms, namely "red," "green," or "blue."  It is this interpretation that Kodak is now trying to change when the case is reviewed.


Sources:

  • Final Initial and Recommended Determinations, ITC 337-703, Official Receive Date 3/08/2011
  • US ITC Filing, COMPLAINANT EASTMAN KODAK COMPANY'S PETITION FOR REVIEW OF THE FINAL INITIAL AND RECOMMENDED DETERMINATIONS, Filed February 17, 2011 by Eric C. Rusnak of K&L Gates, representing Eastman Kodak.
  • US Patent 6,292,218

 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Kodak v. Apple at the ITC: What's This About?

As mentioned in the previous post, inconsistencies in Administrative Law Judge rulings regarding the same patent in different cases likely contributed to today's grant of full commission review of Kodak's case against Apple.

In a nutshell, in a previous ITC investigation, 337-TA-663, claim 15 of Kodak's US6,292,218 patent was found valid and infringed by certain Samsung phones.  In the 337-TA-703 investigation involving Apple, claim 15 was found invalid under 35 USC 103 and none of the accused products was found to infringe.

Kodak argues, among other points, that the same body reviewing the same patent again within a very short timeframe should have a consistent view of the validity of that patent.  In particular, Kodak took issue with the Markman ruling regarding claim 15, and purportedly erroneous construction of the phrase "at least three different colors" in element "b."  Kodak argues that Apple does not contest that elements "a," "c," or "f," are satisfied under any construction, that "b" and "e" would not be contested under a "proper" construction, and that Apple phones initiate capture of a still image while previewing motion images, as required by element "d".

The claim is reproduced below:

15. An electronic still camera for initiating capture of a still image while previewing motion images on a display, comprising:

(a) an image sensor having a two-dimensional array of photosites covered by a mosaic pattern of color filters including at least three different colors for capturing images of a scene, each captured image having a first number of color pixel values provided in a first color pattern;

(b) a motion processor for generating from the captured images, a second number of color pixel values provided in a second color pattern having at least three different colors and representative of a series of motion images to be previewed, the second number of color pixel values being less than the first number of color pixel values, and the second color pattern being different from the first color pattern;

(c) a color display for presenting at least some of the motion images of the series of motion images corresponding to the captured images of the scene, the color display having an arrangement of color display pixels including at least three different colors in a pattern different from the first color pattern;

(d) a capture button for initiating capture of a still image while previewing the motion images presented on the color display;

(e) a still processor for generating a third number of color pixel values including at least three different colors representative of a captured still image; and

(f) a digital memory for storing the processed captured still image.


Sources:

  • US ITC Filing, COMPLAINANT EASTMAN KODAK COMPANY'S PETITION FOR REVIEW OF THE FINAL INITIAL AND RECOMMENDED DETERMINATIONS, Filed February 17, 2011 by Eric C. Rusnak of K&L Gates, representing Eastman Kodak.
  • US Patent 6,292,218

 

Kodak enlists New York politicos in ITC dispute with Apple

While it was perhaps inconsistencies in rulings between Administrative Law Judges that tipped the scales in Kodak's favor for review of its case, Kodak also enlisted the help of those in the political sphere.  Over the past few weeks, letters from various New York State lawmakers were submitted to the International Trade Commission urging review of the case by the full commission.  Andrew Cuomo, Chuck Schumer, Louise Slaughter, Kirstin Gillibrand and others weighed in with similar-sounding letters also touting the importance of Kodak to New York.

From Governor Cuomo's letter of March 18, 2011:

Dear Madame Chairman, Mr. Vice Chairman, and Commissioners:
I write to share my perspective on the current ITC claim brought by Eastman Kodak Company against Apple and Research In Motion (RIM). I believe that it is in the best interest of sound trade policy and the fair protection of intellectual property for this claim to be reviewed by the full Commission.
Digital innovation at Eastman Kodak - which includes invention of the digital camera and other breakthrough technologies - has had a significant benefit for the economy in upstate New York, as well as for 7,100 Kodak employees and Kodak's 20,000 retirees who call New York home.
It is my understanding that the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in Kodak's ITC case against Apple and RIM issued a preliminary decision that contradicts a decision made less than a year ago by another ALJ concerning the exact same Kodak patent.
Given the value of Kodak innovation to the region's economy and the national economy, as well as this discrepancy in ALJ decisions, I believe that it is of fundamental importance for Kodak's claim to be heard promptly and before the full Commission.
Thank you for your consideration of my perspective on this matter.
Sincerely, Andrew M. Cuomo


Source: US ITC filings

 

WSJ: ITC Revives Kodak Hopes in Apple, RIM Patent Case

A mixed day for Apple at the ITC.  From the WSJ:


The U.S. International Trade Commission elected Friday to review a patent-infringement complaint by Eastman Kodak Co. against Apple Inc. and Research in Motion Ltd., reversing a January recommendation from an ITC judge.
The ITC said it would review the initial patent ruling in its entirety. The complaint tries to determine whether Apple's iPhone and Research in Motion's BlackBerry violated Kodak's patents on technology to preview images.
The agency originally found Kodak's patents were invalid and hadn't been infringed. The Commission said Friday that one or more cease-and-desist orders may be issued upon further review of the case.
Such orders could keep Apple and RIM from importing or selling mobile devices with digital cameras in the U.S. A final decision is expected by May 23.
The news prompted shares of Kodak to surge 20% in after-hours trading to $4.07, adding on to Friday's 8.6% gain in the regular trading session.
[...]
Even with today's 20% "surge," EK is still ~20% below its January 24 price of $5.22.

A settlement or licensing agreement before May 23 would not surprise me.

Reuters: US panel says Apple did not infringe Nokia patents

PowerCD & Quicktake: Apple and Kodak, in happier days together

In the early 1990s, Kodak's vision of their role in the high-tech home of the future was as a provider of a digital version of the 35mm slide carousel.  The Jobs-less Apple strangely bought into this vision for a short while.  The 1993 Apple Power CD played Kodak's PhotoCD discs.

Apple and Kodak also partnered on the mid-1990s Quicktake camera line.

Bloomberg: Kodak Says $1B at Stake in Apple, RIM Patent Dispute

From Bloomberg:
Kodak used the ITC to gain $550 million from Samsung and $414 million from LG for allegedly infringing the same patent as in the Apple and RIM cases.
and:

Kodak, a 131-year-old company that popularized photography with the Brownie and Instamatic cameras, generated $838 million from patents last year. The company has told investors it expects to average $250 million to $350 million in annual revenue from intellectual property licensing through 2013. That figure doesn’t include potential Apple and RIM royalties.

EK's current market cap is only ~ $842M.  During the financial crisis, it dropped to barely above $600M.  The $683M operating loss for 2010 and negative $1B book value make an overall acquisition far less attractive, but at some point, I won't be surprised to see the IP hit the market to cover the wind down of the rest of the failing business.

While this could be make or break for Kodak, Apple generated $9.8B in cash flow from operations last quarter alone.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Attention to Detail: Sorting the LED Backlights

Most coverage of Apple's patent filings focuses on finding hints of upcoming product features.  Sometimes, though, we see a hint of Apple's attention to detail in sourcing, manufacturing, and assembly.

In publication 20110069511, we find a technique for separating LEDs based upon their white points, then ordering them during assembly such that the overall backlighting for the display produces a desirable average white point.

The end result?  Apple can presumably maintain a tighter tolerance on overall display white point while accepting a lower tolerance on the individual LED backlights.   The looser tolerance would likely lower the cost of the component LEDs.


1. An LED backlight method for display systems comprising:


  • receiving a plurality of light emitting diodes categorized into a plurality of bins, wherein each bin references a separate range of white point colors; and
  • determining an optimal order for mounting the plurality of light emitting diodes at spatially distributed positions, the plurality of light emitting diodes comprising white point colors associated with separate bins, 
  • wherein the optimal order of the plurality of light emitting diodes produces a light of a desired white point color when the light outputs of the plurality of light emitting diodes are mixed.

2011-03-24 Newly Published Apple Patent Applications

PUB. APP. NO.Title
120110072348ONE CLICK FULL-SCREEN VIDEO SYSTEM AND METHOD
220110072189METADATA REDUNDANCY SCHEMES FOR NON-VOLATILE MEMORIES
320110071977SEGMENTED GRAPHICAL REPRESENTATIONS FOR RECOMMENDING ELEMENTS
420110069511LED BACKLIGHT FOR DISPLAY SYSTEMS
520110069437CANTILEVERED PUSH BUTTON
620110069085Generating Slideshows Using Facial Detection Information
720110068587INTEGRATED LATCH
820110067990WEBBED KEYBOARD ASSEMBLY

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

2011-03-22 Newly Issued Apple Patents

PAT. NO.Title
1D634,742Full-TextElectronic device
27,913,297Full-TextPairing of wireless devices using a wired medium
37,913,186Full-TextCombined menu-list control element in a graphical user interface
47,913,032Full-TextInitiating memory wear leveling
57,912,994Full-TextReducing connection time for mass storage class peripheral by internally prefetching file data into local cache in response to connection to host
67,912,964Full-TextMethod and apparatus for refactoring a graph in a graphical programming language
77,912,962Full-TextInvitation to bind to a device
87,912,828Full-TextPattern searching methods and apparatuses
97,912,730Full-TextUniversal container for audio data
107,912,501Full-TextAudio I/O headset plug and plug detection circuitry
117,912,349Full-TextValidating frame dependency information
127,912,337Full-TextSpatial and temporal alignment of video sequences
137,912,317Full-TextEstimating and removing lens distortion from scenes
147,911,834Full-TextAnalog interface for a flash memory die
157,911,780Full-TextMethods and apparatus for cooling electronic devices through user interfaces
167,911,771Full-TextElectronic device with a metal-ceramic composite component
177,911,565Full-TextDisplay that emits circularly-polarized light
187,911,472Full-TextSystem for reducing the number of programs necessary to render an image
197,911,397Full-TextAntennas for electronic devices
207,911,387Full-TextHandheld electronic device antennas
217,911,339Full-TextShoe wear-out sensor, body-bar sensing system, unitless activity assessment and associated methods
227,910,843Full-TextCompact input device