Apple has built its success on innovative products. It has sought to protect this innovation through patents and registered designs. Apple is no stranger to asserting its patents and designs against its competitors but it is also regularly on the receiving end of third parties asserting their patents.
The latest two patent suits which have been filed in the US against Apple are by Corephotonics and Alert Signal Intellectual Property. Corephotonics is an Israeli company who develop mobile phone cameras. They were reportedly in discussions with Apple previously regarding licensing some of their patented dual-camera technology to Apple but it seems no agreement was reached.
Corephotonics’ technology at issue relates to the provision of two cameras side by side in a mobile telephone. One camera has a wide-angle lens while the other has a telephoto lens. These cameras are used together to provide both optical and digital zoom. Corephotonics alleges in the patent suit that Apple’s iPhone X implements this type of camera system in such a way to infringe two of its US patents.
Corephotonics’ patent suit also explains that Apple became aware of their technology during the previous attempt to come to a licensing arrangement. While the particular facts of this situation are likely to come to light during this litigation, in these types of circumstances it is often not a black and white matter.
Two parties may be developing similar technologies simultaneously and may then meet to discuss collaborating in a mutually beneficial way. But what happens when the talks break down or one party wants to develop the technology in a different direction? Might these subsequent developments be inspired by the confidential material that was discussed between the two parties?
It then comes very difficult to separate out the intellectual property of one party from the other to determine whether or not a party (such as Apple) are infringing another party’s patents (such as Corephotonics) or they have developed the technology themselves (and so may have a defence against infringement or even an attack against the patent).
The other suit Apple are facing has been filed by Alert Signal. Alert Signal alleges that Apple’s iOS 11 operating system implements “do not disturb while driving” technology that is covered by four of its US patents. The patents are directed to methods of disabling alerts that would ordinarily be generated and output by a mobile phone, based on the speed the phone is travelling (i.e. making the assumption that at certain speeds the phone must be in a vehicle).