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Apple and Microsoft Face Touchpad Lawsuit

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 32 comments

Apple, Microsoft, iriver and more are being sued over the touch technology used in their respective PMPs.

According to court documents filed, a small company called tsera is suing an array of companies for patent infringement. The Register cites the Texas-based company as saying it owns "all right, title and interest in" a patent for "Methods and apparatus for controlling a portable electronic device using a touchpad." As a result, Tsera says that a barrage of products on the market including Apple's iPod classic and nano, LG's Chocolate VX8500 and Microsoft's Zune utilize such technologies without its permission. 

While there are roughly 20 companies named in the suit, it seems Tsera is focusing on Apple for "willful" infringement because it allegedly knew about the aforementioned patent infringement in 2004, a year after Tsera was awarded the patent. The company is seeking significant damages from Apple and royalties from everyone else named.

The patent includes MP3 players, portable radios, voice recorders and portable CD players. Tsera defines the touchpad technology as follows:

"A touchpad is mounted on the housing of the device, and a user enters commands by tracing patterns with his finger on a surface of the touchpad. No immediate visual feedback is provided as a command pattern is traced, and the user does not need to view the device to enter commands. A microcontroller within the device matches the pattern traced by the user against a plurality of preset patterns, each of which corresponds to a predefined function or command of the device. If the pattern traced by the user is a reasonably close match to any of the preset patterns, the device performs the predefined function corresponding to the matched pattern. The touchpad replaces the numerous buttons that are typically used to control portable electronic devices, thereby enhancing usability and reducing manufacturing costs."


The full patent is available here. So what's the verdict? Half-baked grabbing-attempt from Tsera or a genuine case for patent infringement? Let us know your thoughts below!

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  • 17 Hide
    Camikazi , July 20, 2009 5:41 PM
    They were waiting for lots of big companies to make alot of money.
  • 16 Hide
    fooldog01 , July 20, 2009 5:36 PM
    Why did it take them 5 years to decide to sue? Seems odd.
Other Comments
  • 16 Hide
    fooldog01 , July 20, 2009 5:36 PM
    Why did it take them 5 years to decide to sue? Seems odd.
  • 8 Hide
    jacobdrj , July 20, 2009 5:38 PM
    I wish I had a patent.
  • 1 Hide
    Shnur , July 20, 2009 5:40 PM
    I think for the first time in patent infringement the company accusing is right. Let's just hope that it'll come out that Tsera will not just bank the cash like Rambus (the memory company that just sued every single company in the industry).
  • 17 Hide
    Camikazi , July 20, 2009 5:41 PM
    They were waiting for lots of big companies to make alot of money.
  • 6 Hide
    fooldog01 , July 20, 2009 5:43 PM
    CamikaziThey were waiting for lots of big companies to make alot of money.


    Probably right.
  • 4 Hide
    tomernatorII , July 20, 2009 5:49 PM
    isn't there a time limit on suing for patent infringement for precisely this reason?
  • 1 Hide
    abelpc , July 20, 2009 5:51 PM
    Newton... I think that says enough of how I feel about this frivolous lawsuit
  • 1 Hide
    dman3k , July 20, 2009 5:57 PM
    Wait, you mean Apple didn't invent this?
  • 2 Hide
    chuenl , July 20, 2009 6:01 PM
    The paragraph is almost so generic. If you replace the first sentence with this: "A mouse is a device that contains an object or a sensor, and a user enters commands by tracing patterns by moving the mouse with his hand.", then it becomes another patent and one can use it to sue everybody!
  • 7 Hide
    chuenl , July 20, 2009 6:04 PM
    The paragraph is almost so generic. If you replace the first sentence with this: "A mouse is a device that contains an object or a sensor, and a user enters commands by moving the mouse with his hand.", then it becomes another patent and one can use it to sue everybody!
  • -2 Hide
    ohim , July 20, 2009 6:09 PM
    Fuk the patent system. So what now ? Companies who actualy build stuff for out daily lifes with that technology shouldn`t be allowed because some dumb ass little "company" filled at patent for it and actualy does nothing with it just waiting to suck on other ppl`s work ... legal system sux donkey balls. I wish i had a patent on the wheel ... imagine how rich i could be, or should i start registering random words.
  • 2 Hide
    IzzyCraft , July 20, 2009 6:11 PM
    ShnurI think for the first time in patent infringement the company accusing is right. Let's just hope that it'll come out that Tsera will not just bank the cash like Rambus (the memory company that just sued every single company in the industry).

    Ionno about Tsera but Rambus is what i like to call a pain in the ass version of a "research" center which basically goes out to make patents and holds them for money.
  • 1 Hide
    Parrdacc , July 20, 2009 6:19 PM
    ohimFuk the patent system. So what now ? Companies who actualy build stuff for out daily lifes with that technology shouldn`t be allowed because some dumb ass little "company" filled at patent for it and actualy does nothing with it just waiting to suck on other ppl`s work ... legal system sux donkey balls. I wish i had a patent on the wheel ... imagine how rich i could be, or should i start registering random words.


    Yeah well I invented the air eveyone breaths. You all life lovers owe me 23 quadrillon billion dollars with interest:)  Oh wait I forgot to file the patent...I knew I forgot something. Man these lawsuits are getting out of hand.
  • 1 Hide
    Honis , July 20, 2009 6:26 PM
    ohimFuk the patent system. So what now ? Companies who actualy build stuff for out daily lifes with that technology shouldn`t be allowed because some dumb ass little "company" filled at patent for it and actualy does nothing with it just waiting to suck on other ppl`s work ... legal system sux donkey balls. I wish i had a patent on the wheel ... imagine how rich i could be, or should i start registering random words.

    That is exactly why we have patents in the first place! I with no money can apply for a patent that is a REALLY great idea! I may not have the resources to make it but it is MY idea and I have a right to own it. If I didn't have this right, Apple, Microsoft, whoever could just start using it with never acknowledging me or compensating me on the work I had done prior to them stealing it.

    This case points out one of the many flaws with the US Patent System, there are way to many for a single company or person to read through them to see if the idea they have is original. The patent office has curved this by making them serchable, but what I call dohiky may be sprocket to someone else.

    My question is why didn't these major corporations try and patent the interface like they do EVERYTHING ELSE?! My guess is they tried but got turned down due to prior patent!
  • 1 Hide
    apmyhr , July 20, 2009 6:38 PM
    Gotta love patent trolls. Something is very wrong with out patent law when some small "company" can patent the entire concept of portable touch technology.
  • 5 Hide
    ricardok , July 20, 2009 6:42 PM
    The patent system is broken because it allows people and companies to file for a patent based on words that can mean anything. Patents should be filled based on real products, or at least real in terms of usage with the right knowledge on how to create that same results (like the touchscreen).. Hell, they could even sue ALL notebook/netbook makers on touchpad with that patent.
  • 1 Hide
    feenyxfire , July 20, 2009 6:48 PM
    Looks like gold-digging to me. Regardless of whether or not it was legit at one time is almost irrelevant, as the patent was awarded 10 years ago. Tsera seems to have just quietly sat on the patent until touchpads became almost an industry standard and then unleashed the lawyers. The system described in the patent is basically how Palm's Graffiti writing program works... Tsera should have filed it back then, though the first Palm actually came out in 1996, so Tsera might not have a leg to stand on.
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , July 20, 2009 7:02 PM
    Lame Patent...This case won't hold up in court as Apple could easily show "obviousness" of the patent. Basically, he is using "graffiti/gesture" technology used in the old palm pilots to create letters and applying it to "all portable devices". I'm surprised he's not getting sued for implementing a previous and obvious idea. I'm surprised he would even be allows a patent to begin with. Taking an existing the touchpad, which has existed for many years, and make a claim to "apply" it to "all portable electronics" is bogus. That's like claiming a patent "An input device with many buttons used to enter in letters and/or commands" to be used on any portable electronic devices...aka a keyboard...This guy deserves nothing and is just wanting a piece of the pie.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , July 20, 2009 8:56 PM
    Cell phones have used this method for longer than this company has owned the patent.

    Not only that, most people would need to look at it to know what they are doing with the touch pad.

    But as for the patent itself, it's way to broad and non-specific.
  • 0 Hide
    nitto555rchallenger , July 20, 2009 9:00 PM
    Well if Tsera's legal team waited to use this now is a great idea, because you now have the controlling factor over future developing technologies like the Ipod and handheld devices. This case is identical to Immersion Vs. Sony in 2003, for the use of Force Feedback technology in rumble controllers. With that case, others like Microsoft settled ahead for 26 $Million, while Sony stuck to its own guns and only lost $20.8 Million and is still getting sued by them today.
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