The Tech News Blog

March 6, 2014

Apple Request for Samsung Gadget Ban Denied (Again)

Apple SamsungA California judge this week denied Apple's request to ban almost two dozen Samsung gadgets in the companies' ongoing patent battle.

Judge Lucy Koh ruled that Apple failed to prove that those who bought Samsung gadgets did so because of the patented technology that's at issue in this case: scrolling "bounce back" technology, pinch-to-zoom tech, and double tap to zoom tech.

"Apple bears the burden to prove that these three touch-screen software features drive consumer demand for Samsung's products," Judge Koh wrote in her decision. "Apple has not met this burden."

Koh pointed to consumer surveys conducted by Samsung and Apple that covered what buyers found important when buying a smartphone. "Not a single market research study conducted outside of the context of litigation even asks about the patented features," the judge wrote.

As a result, Apple could not prove that Samsung's use of that technology caused Cupertino "irreparable harm," as is required before a judge could issue an injunction.

June 24, 2013

Apple Provides Details on In-App Purchase Settlement Collection

Apple logo

Apple is readying its checkbook to refund some 23 million people involved in a 2011 class-action suit against the company for the "unlawful exploitation" of children via in-app purchases.

Parents whose kids downloaded less than $30 worth of content will be reimbursed with a $5 iTunes gift card or the equivalent of their total Game Currency charges. Cash refunds will be given to consumers who no longer have an active iTunes account, or whose bill exceeded $30.

The company emailed a detailed legal notice to all participants (published in full by 9to5Mac), with information about the settlement and deadlines for submitting payment requests: To claim a settlement benefit, class members must submit a valid Claim Form online or postmarked by Jan. 13, 2014; to opt out, send a request postmarked by Aug. 30.

Cupertino found itself in hot water in April 2011, when a Pennsylvania man sued the company after his 9-year-old daughter racked up about $200 in in-app purchases while playing games like Zombie Café, Treasure Story, and City Story. Unbeknownst to father Garen Meguerian, many of Apple's titles include in-game currency, which, at the time, could be purchased with a simple tap of the screen.

The Meguerians' purchases were made a month before Apple started requiring a password for in-app purchases, via its iOS 4.3 upgrade pushed out in March 2011.

March 16, 2013

THX Sues Apple, Claims iPhone, iMac, iPad Speakers Infringe Patent

Apple iPhone 5 (AT&T)

THX has filed suit against Apple, claiming that the tech giant has infringed on one of THX's patent's for "Narrow profile speaker configurations and systems" within the company's iPhones, iPads, and iMacs.

The result? The violations cause THX "monetary damage and irreparable harm," reports Bloomberg, and the company is seeking monetary damages or royalty payments, as well as a court order that would force Apple to cease its alleged infringement.

According to THX's complaint, filed Thursday in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Apple's infringing the patent on its iPhone 4 (and later models), iPads, and iMacs, "which incorporate narrow-profile speaker units that output sound through a duct or aperture having a narrow dimension."

Here's where it gets interesting. The patent that THX is holding over Apple's head was granted to the company in 2008. U.S. Patent No. 7,433,483 describes, in part, "A narrow profile speaker unit comprises at least one speaker outputting sound towards an internal surface and through a duct with an output terminus, such as a slot, having a narrow dimension, effectively changing the cross-section of the speaker's audio output wave. A pair of speakers may face one another, outputting sound towards a common output slot."

March 1, 2013

Judge Cuts Damages, Orders New Trial in Apple, Samsung Patent Case

Apple Samsung

Apple was dealt a major setback in its patent battle against Samsung today when a California judge ordered a new trial on 14 Samsung products and dropped more than $450 million in damages from the $1.05 billion the jury awarded to Apple last summer.

California district court Judge Lucy Koh found that the jury awarded damages "based on a legally impermissible theory," so Samsung is entitled to a new trial on more than a dozen of its gadgets.

That includes the Galaxy Prevail, Gem, Indulge, Infuse 4G, AT&T Galaxy S II, Captivate, Continuum, Droid Charge, Epic 4G, Exhibit 4G, Galaxy Tab, Nexus S 4G, Replenish, and Transform.

"This amounts to $450,514,650 being struck from the jury's award," Judge Koh said.

However, Samsung is still on the hook for almost $600 million in damages related to the Galaxy Ace, Galaxy S (i9000), Galaxy S II i9100, Galaxy Tab 10.1 Wi-Fi, Galaxy Tab 10.1 4G LTE, Intercept, Fascinate, Galaxy S 4G, Galaxy S II Showcase, Mesmerize, Vibrant, Galaxy S II Skyrocket, Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch, and the T-Mobile Galaxy S II.

"The total award for these 14 products is $598,908,892," the judge said.

February 26, 2013

Apple Offers Refunds, iTunes Credit to Settle In-App Payment Suit

Apple logo

Apple has reached a deal with customers who sued Cupertino in 2011 for the "unlawful exploitation" of children (and their parents' wallets) via in-app purchases.

As part of the arrangement, Apple will refund customers whose children inadvertantly ran up bills via in-app purchases, and offer a $5 iTunes credit for their troubles.

A California judge will consider the deal at a March 1 hearing.

The case started in April 2011 when Pennsylvania resident Garen Meguerian sued Apple after his 9-year-old daughter racked up about $200 in in-app purchases while playing games like Zombie Café, Treasure Story, and City Story. Meguerian said he was "completely unaware" that these games included in-game currency and was shocked to find the charges on his account.

The purchases were made in Feb. 2011, before Apple started requiring a password for in-app purchases via the iOS 4.3 ugrade in March.

Four other people filed similar lawsuits around the same time; those suits were consolidated into one case in June 2011. Early on, Apple tried unsucessfully to have the case tossed and to prevent the release of evidence. Ultimately, the two sides were ordered into mediation; they met on Oct. 23, 2012 and Jan. 17, 2013 and eventually reached a deal.

February 20, 2013

Amazon, Publishers Face Class-Action Suit Over E-book ‘Monopoly’

Amazon Kindle

A trio of independent bookstores this week filed a class-action lawsuit against Amazon its largest publishing partners over their use of digital rights management (DRM) technology to create what the plaintiffs claim is a monopoly on the sale of e-books in the United States.

Along with Amazon, the "Big Six" publishing houses—Random House, Penguin, Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan—are named in the suit, according the Huffington Post, which published a copy of the class-action complaint on Wednesday.

Last Friday, Albany, N.Y.-based Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Greenville, S.C.-based Fiction Addiction, and New York City-based Posman Books filed the suit in New York on behalf of "all independent brick-and-mortar bookstores who sell e-books," the Huffington Post reported.

At issue are the DRM locks Amazon places on e-books purchased for its Kindle e-readers which prevent users from transferring their purchase to another e-reading device like the Barnes & Noble Nook or another computing platform entirely. The major publishers named in the suit all utilize Amazon's AZW DRM on e-books they sell through Amazon, though two of Macmillian's imprints, Tor and Forge, do not, according to the news site.

The independent book sellers who brought the complaint claim that none of the Big Six publishers have entered into an agreement with any U.S.-based independent bookstore to sell e-book versions of titles they publish, essentially giving Amazon, and to a lesser extent Barnes & Noble and Apple, a monopoly position in the e-book market relative to the independents.

February 15, 2013

Judge Dismisses Shareholder Suit Against Netflix


A federal judge this week dismissed a shareholder lawsuit brought against Netflix more than a year ago for allegedly concealing rising costs to inflate its share price, Reuters reported Thursday.

The class-action suit, filed by the City of Royal Oak Retirement System in California district court in January 2012, alleged that Netflix "issued materially false and misleading statements regarding [its] business practices and its contracts with content providers. "Specifically, defendants concealed negative trends in Netflix's business," the plaintiffs claimed.

The suit drew attention to Netflix pricing changes and attempted to draw a connection between the company's alleged financial misbehavior and the sale of stock by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and others. The plaintiffs claimed that Netflix raised prices without keeping shareholders in the loop when it faced the expiration of contracts with content providers that would be expensive for the company to renew.

But U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti said Wednesday that the plaintiffs "failed to show that Netflix materially misled them about its accounting, its pricing trends, the relative profitability of its streaming and DVD businesses, and its dealings with U.S. securities regulators," Reuters reported.

Judge Conti "also said Hastings did not materially mislead investors in a conference call on Dec. 8, 2010, when he said Netflix would benefit from a 'virtuous cycle' where it could add subscribers and streaming content while lessening its DVD-by-mail costs," according to the news service.

January 17, 2013

AMD Sues Former Employees for Stealing Documents

AMD Logo

AMD has filed suit against four former employees, arguing that the group stole thousands of documents before leaving to go work for one of AMD's biggest rivals, Nvidia.

"This is an extraordinary case of trade secret/misappropriation and strategic solicitation," AMD said in the suit, which was filed this week in Massachusetts district court. "Thousands of AMD documents or electronic files have been taken from its facilities by employees leaving to work for its primary competitor in the graphics business, Nvidia."

The controversy dates back to July 2012, the suit said, when Robert Feldstein left AMD. "He transferred sensitive AMD documents, and in the next six months the remaining three defendants either did the same thing, violated 'no-solicitation of employees' promises, or both - all obvious violations of common law, statute, and/or contracts with AMD," AMD said in the suit, which was posted online by ZDNet.

AMD said it has evidence that Feldstein - as well as Manoo Desai and Nicolas Kociuk - transferred sensitive documents to an external storage device during their last days at AMD. "The volume of materials ... exceeds 100,000 electronic files," AMD said.

The documents in question include data that is "obviously" confidential and proprietary, AMD said. Feldstein, for example, transferred licensing agreements with "significant" customers, a document that outlined AMD's licensing strategy, and the contents of his Outlook email account. Desai, meanwhile, transferred 200 files about "Perforce," an AMD internal database with details about confidential work. Kociuk is accused of transferring more than 150,000 files - "believed to be full copies of AMD laptops and desktop computers," AMD said - to an external hard drive.

December 18, 2012

Judge Denies Apple Request for Ban on Samsung Products

Apple Samsung

Apple was dealt a major setback this week when a California judge refused to grant Cupertino's request for a ban on infringing Samsung products.

Judge Lucy Koh found that Apple had not adequately demonstrated that it would suffer irreparable harm if 26 Samsung devices were not pulled from the market.

The ruling stems from an August verdict that found Samsung guilty of infringing on Apple patents with a number of its tablets and smartphones, resulting in a $1.05 billion judgment for Apple. Samsung is appealing the case, but Apple went ahead and asked that the court issue an injunction against the infringing products.

Judge Koh, however, said in a Monday ruling that an injunction was not necessary and that Apple must make do with its billion-dollar judgment.

"We are pleased that the judge today denied Apple's move to limit consumer choice, and restrict fair competition in the marketplace," a Samsung spokesman said today.

In order to secure an injunction, a company - in this case, Apple - must prove four things: that it suffered irreparable damage by having the products on the market; that remedies like damages are inadequate; that the public interest would not be harmed by an injunction; and considering the balance of hardships between the plaintiff and defendant, a remedy in equity is warranted.

Judge Koh found that the court already "performed significant irreparable harm analysis in this case" early on when Apple requested preliminary injunctions against Samsung products before the trial started.

November 7, 2012

Apple Ordered to Pay $368.2 Million in FaceTime Patent Case


Apple lost a FaceTime-related patent battle this week and must hand over $368.2 million to VirnetX Holding Corp.

As reported by Bloomberg, Apple infringed on patents for virtual private networks with its FaceTime video chat service, a Texas court ruled this week.

The patent in question covers the use of a domain-name service to set up a VPN. FaceTime infringed on that patent to the tune of $708 million, according to VirnetX, but the company ended up with about half that amount.

VirnetX did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but told Bloomberg it would move to stop Apple from infringing on its products in the future.