On Friday, June 29, 2012 the Federal District Court in San Jose granted a pretrial injunction prohibiting Samsung electronics from selling its new Galaxy Nexus phone. The judge ruled that Apple was likely to succeed in its patent infringement claim against Samsung’s S Voice digital assistant software. This is a major element in establishing exclusivity of Apple’s marquee feature, the “Siri” voice-automated virtual assistant. This patent relates to a key element in the implementation of “Siri.” Apple’s US Patent No. 8,086,604 describes a technique in which a phone’s computer processor searches multiple databases, and uses a heuristic function to determine relevant responses. Heuristic functions use real-life experience gained through trial and error rather than performing comparisons in a mechanical manner.
Grant of a pretrial injunction is a stunning victory for Apple. Pretrial injunctions against patent infringement are difficult to obtain, and the Supreme Court has made them even more difficult to obtain in recent years. Apple must post a $95.6 million bond to cover the possible losses of Samsung if Apple loses the lawsuit.
The week before this decision, Chicago federal court judge Richard Posner ruled that Apple could not pursue an injunction against Google’s Motorola Mobility. It is likely that the patent battles will continue at least until the technology becomes obsolete.
Lodsys, LLC is a “non-practicing entity.” It makes no products. Its business model is structured to earn revenue by enforcing patents against operating companies which Lodsys contends infringe upon its patents. It is enforcing a group of four patents against Apple iOS app developers. Lodsys says the claims “are directed to systems and methods for providers of products and/or services to interact with users of those products and services to gather information from those users and transmit that information to the provider.”
Lodsys has sued a number of large companies, including Adidas and Best Buy, for patent infringement. It appears that Lodsys has been sending information packages to individual developers. This package includes a patent infringement charge giving developers 21 days to respond to Lodsys’ demand that the recipient take a revenue-bearing license.
New developments in this situation continue to unfold. On May 23, 2011, Bruce Sewell, Senior Vice President & General Counsel of Apple, sent a letter to the CEO of Lodsys, LLC. Sewell wrote, “Apple requests that Lodsys immediately withdraw all notice letters sent to Apple App Makers and cease its false assertions that the App Makers’ use of licensed Apple products and services in any way constitute infringement of any Lodsys patent.”
Consultation with counsel can help a developer that has received an infringement charge to make informed business decisions regarding its position and to avoid undue harm to its business.