California Patent Attorney® Blog

January 2012 Archives

California Northern District: Oracle Willing to Drop Patent Infringement Case vs. Google

January 24, 2012,

google.jpgCalifornia - In its efforts to speed up the proceedings in a copyright trial, Oracle said that it is willing to drop charges in its patent infringement lawsuit against Google. The move is intended to avoid delays so that Oracle can speed up an injunction against Google involving copyright infringement.

The injunction at issue is over Android's use of the Java technology platform. According to the complaint, filed in the Northern District of California in 2010, Google's Android operating system has been infringing on Oracle's patents and copyrights for Java. In 2009 Oracle purchased Sun Microsystems, the creator of Java. Throughout the lawsuit, Google has maintained that it had a prior licensing agreement with Sun Microsystems to use Java before the Oracle purchase.

Now, in a recent filing, Oracle is placing all bets on the copyright infringement portion of the case to ban infringing Android phones using the Java application. In a number of options laid out to the court, Oracle initially requests that the court "sever and stay" the patent infringement claims and set a trial date on the copyright claims for the near future. During the time that the jury will hear the copyright infringement claims, Oracle plans to work on coming up with a damages estimate, which has been one of the current delays in the case. At the conclusion of the copyright infringement portion of the case, the court could then re-focus on hearing the patent infringement claims.

If the court neither stays nor dismisses the patent claims, Oracle proposed another scenario that would put the trial date for both patent and copyright infringement claims in the next few months. In the recent filing, Oracle stated that it won't back down on its plan to present the so-called Lindholm email to a jury, a piece of evidence that Google has fought to prevent Oracle from showing. Lindholm's email message sent to Google engineers suggests that Google knew it needed a license from Oracle to use Java.

"What we've actually been asked to do by Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin] is to investigate what technology alternatives exist to Java for Android and Chrome," Google engineer Tim Lindholm wrote in his email. "We've been over a hundred of these and think they all suck. We conclude that we need to negotiate a license for Java," Lindholm added in his email referring to Google's co-founders.

Despite the email, Google continues to deny any wrongdoing.

Apple Wins Key Multitouch Patent

January 16, 2012,

touchscreen.jpgCalifornia - Apple now owns an important patent directly related to the way users handle multitouch products. The patent describes how a touchscreen device recognizes touch events. Specifically, it encompasses an oscillator signal and touchscreen-equipped device circuits.

In the filing, Apple states, "In general, multi-touch panels may be able to detect multiple touches (touch events or contact points) that occur at or about the same time, and identify and track their locations."

Steve Jobs alluded to this patent as one of the "200 plus Patents for new inventions" when he announced the original iPhone several years ago. The new patent rounds out Apple's patent portfolio and gives it important legal ground against infringing products such as touch-screen mobile phones and tablets. Apple obtained this patent after a decision on December 19 by the U.S. International Trade Commission resulting in a ban on HTC Android handset imports because they infringe on an Apple patent for Data Detectors.

Prior to the iPhone, most touch devices worked using a single-touch stimulation using resistive touchscreens. The pressure of a stylus or finger would connect two electrically resistive sheets separated by a gap. This action created a voltage division that would be detected by a device controller to record the change. Unfortunately, resistive displays can only recognize stimulation from a single input even though many objects could be touching a screen at once.

Apple solved this problem by generating an oscillating signal circuit to record many touches at a time. A device using this technology would be able to record and power inputs from a touchscreen. However, Apple faced difficulties in making this type of circuit precise. The Apple patent provides a solution by using a technology called calibration logic circuitry to compare the oscillation's signal to a reference signal. The patent describes a display that can sense pressure from many touches with accuracy. It can also detect near touches and recognizes them as "touch events."

The patent states that the invention applies to a wide range of computing devices like laptops, desktops, handheld devices or tablets, including mobile phones, digital music players and video players. It could also apply to public systems like ATM machines and kiosks.

M-Edge Slaps Amazon With Patent Infringement Lawsuit

January 9, 2012,

amazon.jpgCalifornia - M-Edge Accessories filed a lawsuit against Amazon for infringing on its patents for Kindle case designs by copying case designs and colors. M-Edge also alleges that Amazon engaged in unfair tactics, false advertising, intentional interference with contracts, and fraud.

The Kindle e-reader device has revolutionized the online reading experience, bringing Amazon increased revenues from e-book purchases, hardware, and related goods. M-Edge, a company well known to any Kindle-user, provides stylish jackets and cases to suit every Kindle model. In October of 2008, M-edge began to sell the Kindle jackets and paid Amazon an 8% commission. The brand proved popular with customers, who liked the array of modern designs. In February 2009, Amazon and M-Edge entered into a "Kindle Compatible" agreement, allowing M-Edge products to be featured in the Kindle Store in return for a 15% commission to Amazon. As one of Amazon's "special partners" M-Edge seemed poised to benefit from the relationship. In the beginning, the match seemed like a good fit.

The relationship began to sour in May 2009, when Amazon asked M-Edge for direct sale of its products, and M-Edge refused, citing poor terms as its reason. In January 2010, Amazon asked M-Edge to pay a 32% commission. M-Edge refused and Amazon responded by threatening to delist the company's products. In February 2010, Amazon charged M-Edge $600,000 for back payments at the 32% rate. M-Edge refused to pay Amazon. In April 2010, Amazon made a second request for a direct sales agreement. M-Edge refused to sign it because it lacked a guaranteed minimum volume.

In May 2010, Amazon requested a 25% retroactively applied fee agreement. If M-Edge didn't comply, Amazon threatened to delist M-Edge's products and to restructure its product changes so users would not be able to find M-Edge products. Amazon also threatened to restrict pre-launch access to its Kindle 3, which would prevent M-Edge from designing jackets for the launch. In July 2010, M-Edge agreed to Amazon's demands because it relied on Amazon for 90% of its sales. The same month Amazon only allowed M-Edge a day of pre-release Kindle 3 access. Then, in January 2011, Amazon demanded that M-Edge pay $150,000 for an Amazon executive salary, and requested a larger share of M-Edge sales. By March, Amazon had withheld $2 million in M-Edge payments because M-Edge did not agree to the January terms. That July, Amazon asked for a 34% commission. The following month, Amazon charged M-Edge fees for products not showing an Amazon logo. M-Edge refused to pay, stating that it had never developed the products in question. In September, Amazon excluded M-Edge from the "Amazon Approved Accessory Vendor" list, causing customers to reject M-Edge. Then Amazon demanded $953,000 in back payments. M-Edge argued that it only owed $40,000. In November, Amazon terminated the 2009 agreement with M-Edge due to "repeated failure to perform its obligations under the Agreement."

M-Edge filed suit this month with claims backed by business documents, e-mails and contracts. M-Edge seeks damages for patent-infringement and an injunction requiring Amazon to remove infringing Kindle jackets from the marketplace.

China Leads World As Top Patent Filer

January 5, 2012,

chinese_flag.jpgCalifornia - China overtook the United States and Japan as the world's top patent filer in 2011. The Chinese government offered incentives for Chinese businesses to file patent applications with the goal of turning the country from a "made in China" producer to a "designed in China" innovator.

Published applications from the patent office in China have been steadily rising an average of 16.7% each year. In 2006, China had 171,000 applications. By 2010 the number of applications had risen to 314,000, bringing China's worldwide holdings from 54% up to 58%. China may have a high filing number, but according to the World Intellectual Property Organization, or WIPO, patent applications are also up worldwide. WIPO Director General Francis Gurry cited an emphasis on a "knowledge economy" and "globalization led by U.S. and Chinese innovation" as causes of the rise.

Experts suggest that in order for the world's second largest economic power to truly become the world's innovation leader, it will also need to improve the quality of its patents. The government awarded Chinese businesses incentives for filing even if a patent was not eventually granted. As a result, high filing figures did not necessarily correlate to the patents actually granted. The number of patents granted in the United States, Japan, and certain European countries is still higher than in China.

A report by Thomson Reuters projects that published patent applications from China will total approximately half-a-million in 2015. It anticipates that the United States and Japan will produce nearly 400,000 and 300,00, respectively, that same year.

China is focusing on developing intellectual property rights in technology, automobiles and pharmaceuticals. It offers broad patent protection in most industry sectors. According to Articles 5 and 25 of Chinese Patent Law, items not patentable include inventions or creations detrimental to public interest or social morality, inventions related to certain genetic resources, certain scientific discoveries, methods for mental activities, methods for diagnosis and treatment of diseases, animal and plant varieties, substances created by nuclear processes and two-dimensional designs that serve as indicators.