Report: Apple's Strange Relationship with Patent Troll That Targets its Competition

December 13, 2011 -

According to this Ars Technica report, Apple has allied itself with a known patent troll to take out its enemies. The company has had some covert dealings with Digitude Innovations, a company that enjoys being paid in patents so it can beat the hell out of companies in court.

Digitude launched one of its first legal attacks earlier this month against some of the biggest mobile hardware players in the world including Nokia, RIM, Motorola, HTC, LG, Samsung, Sony, and even Amazon. The company filed a patent infringement claim with the International Trade Commission. Apple was not on that list, of course. Apple owned two of the patents that are being used in the legal action as recently as November.

The iOS device maker recently transferred ownership of a dozen patents to a shell company called Cliff Island LLC, which shares a New York office with the investment firm Altitude Capital Partners. That company was founded by Altitude investor Robert Kramer, who also owns a big chunk of Digitude.

Altitude has funded efforts in the past to win settlements from Microsoft, RIM, and eBay over patent disputes. Earlier this year, Kramer put up a whopping $50 million of Altitude's funds to found Digitude. The money helped the company get over 500 "consumer electronics patents" for licensing and litigation.

"Our goal is to generate great returns for our investors," Kramer told Forbes in June. "We have reached out to many of our prospective customers to encourage them to become early strategic licensees."

According to Ars, Digitude makes deals with licensees for blanket access to its patent portfolio. Digitude prefers payment in patents instead of money so that it can either garner new licensees or sue them in court.

In April Digitude said that it had signed its first strategic deal with "one of the world's leading consumer electronics companies." It did not mention Apple specifically, but the dozen patents Apple turned over to Cliff Island were acquired in April of this year from Mitsubishi. These patents relate to "mobile communications devices" or "mobile terminals."

Those patents were transferred to Cliff Island in late November, with the two patents involved in an ITC dispute being transferred to Digitude the following day. Days after the transfer Digitude filed a complaint with the ITC. Further proof of a relationship between Apple and Digitude is a confidential license agreement involving both companies that was filed as evidence in the ITC case.

While its unknown just how deep of a relationship the two companies have at this point, Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Julie Samuels told TechCrunch that "it would be horrifying" if this story is true. Samuels also doubts that there was any coercion aimed at Apple either because the company is quite comfortable suing when it needs to. When you are as big as Apple you always have options.

Source: Ars Technica


Comments

Re: Report: Apple's Strange Relationship with Patent Troll ...

Come on, Apple.  You can do quite well for yourself simply by continuing to exploit your inexplicably fanatical legion of iTools.  No need to try to trash your competition with this kind of shady bullshit.

Re: Report: Apple's Strange Relationship with Patent Troll ...

Disgusting, yet not surprising in the least.

Re: Report: Apple's Strange Relationship with Patent Troll ...

I told everyone that Apple would become "big brother".

Re: Report: Apple's Strange Relationship with Patent Troll ...

I wonder if tech companies will ever get enough of their lobbying act together to finally kill software patents....

Re: Report: Apple's Strange Relationship with Patent Troll ...

Who do you think uses software patents?

Re: Report: Apple's Strange Relationship with Patent Troll ...

Patent trolls mostly. Most really software developers are against software patents.

Re: Report: Apple's Strange Relationship with Patent Troll ...

Though they are generally against them, a lot of them still own them in huge numbers to protect themselves from patent trolls. IBM started soaking up all the Unix related patents it could during the SCO mess to keep them from finding their way into SCO's hands and spawning more expensive litigation.

The legitimate big boys aren't above patent trolling themselves. They've been on the victim's end lately, but in the 90's most of them loved them some software patent lawsuits. Apple and Microsoft kept going back and forth with software patents over CD drive features they both used - autoplay, music play, insert detection, software eject, auto eject, boot-from-CD... I don't even remember who sued who on most of them anymore.

Re: Report: Apple's Strange Relationship with Patent Troll ...

SO basically Apple is being anti-competitive again, much to the surprise of no one I suppose. They do seem pretty determined to make sure you can't take your money elsewhere.

 
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MonteThough from a business side, i would agree with the article. While it would be smarter for developers to slow down, you can't expect EA, Activision or ubisoft to do something like that. Nintnedo's gotta get the third party back.02/28/2015 - 4:36pm
MonteThough it does also help that nintendo's more colorful style is a lot less reliant on graphics than more realistic games. Wind Waker is over 10 years old and still looks good for its age.02/28/2015 - 4:33pm
MonteWith the Wii, nintnedo had the right idea. Hold back on shiny graphics and focus on the gameplay experience. Unfortunatly everyone else keeps pushing for newer graphics and it matters less and less each generation. I can barely notice the difference02/28/2015 - 4:29pm
MonteON third party developers; i kinda think they should slow down to nintendo's pace. They bemoan the rising costs of AAA gaming, but then constantly push for the best graphics which is makes up a lot of those costs. Be easier to afford if they held back02/28/2015 - 4:27pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2015/02/28/the-world-is-nintendos-if-only-theyd-take-it/ I think this is a interesting op-ed, but yeah it kind of is stating the obvious.02/28/2015 - 2:52pm
prh99The government probably doesn't need an app, but I was think more along the lines of a company that was going to sell the collected info. “If you're not paying for the product, you are the product” sometimes even if you pay.02/28/2015 - 1:50pm
E. Zachary KnightWhat better way for the government to keep track of you than to get you to install an app that lets you insult the government.02/28/2015 - 11:03am
prh99No, but I looked it up and it's basically spyware. Their privacy policy says their apps tracks among other things your location and browsing habits via cookies.02/28/2015 - 8:20am
Ryan RardinHas anyone here heard of an app called iCitizen? It's basically Yelp for politicians.02/28/2015 - 5:16am
Andrew EisenAh, not linked in the way you (and everyone else) want and expect. That's true.02/27/2015 - 10:06pm
Matthew Wilsonthey are not linked in a way that tracks purchases though. the fact that they have to send a code for the other system shows that they are not linked in the way it counts.02/27/2015 - 9:39pm
Andrew EisenAccounts are already linked. Have been for quite a while. Also, Mario vs. Donkey Kong was announced as a cross-buy title during last January's Nintendo Direct.02/27/2015 - 9:25pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.vg247.com/20…/…/27/olli-olli-3ds-wii-u-cross-buy/ I wounder if this is a sign that Nintendo may finally link accounts across the 3ds/wiiu in the near future.02/27/2015 - 9:18pm
prh99http://www.romanoriginals.co.uk/invt/70931?colour=Blue The dress does comes in white and blue but both have black lace and a sheer back top, I don't see gold or brown. 02/27/2015 - 8:54pm
ZippyDSMleeDungeons was a so bad so good game to me so I been keeping up with its sequel which will more of a Dungeon Keeper clone. As for pre order out of 7 preorders I was not burnt by 2... Add my contempt of most of modern game design.Ya I have all kinds of hurt.02/27/2015 - 8:40pm
MechaTama31I don't even want to know...02/27/2015 - 8:22pm
ZippyDSMleeFun? I can do fun…. I think LOL. Dungeons 2 is on preorder but not via steam... >> Hell I am breaking all kinds of personal butthurt rules to even THINK about pre order...02/27/2015 - 8:12pm
E. Zachary KnightHad some fun discussions about that dumb dress on Facebook. I opened the original picture in GIMP and sampled the colors and determined them to be Blue and Gold. People still say I am wrong.02/27/2015 - 7:41pm
ConsterTime for something completely different: #teamwhiteandgoldllama!02/27/2015 - 7:27pm
ZippyDSMleeAndrew Eisen: I'll try. ^^02/27/2015 - 5:40pm
 

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