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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Neo_DrKefkaId love to see people come 2gether whether your 4 or against gamergate to gather 2gether and support an anti bullying charity and I would love to see a pro and anti gamegate debate on a neutral platform that promotes discussion and solutions10/20/2014 - 8:33pm
Neo_DrKefkaWhen someone was seriously hurt by a violent altercation. They have a prospective that people who have not had this experience lack. Bullying is a serious issue10/20/2014 - 8:30pm
Papa MidnightStraw Man to the fullest, but it gets the point across.10/20/2014 - 8:26pm
Papa Midnighthttp://i.imgur.com/dw0YPon.png10/20/2014 - 8:25pm
quiknkoldby doing something, Charitable Donations is an example.10/20/2014 - 8:06pm
quiknkoldAndrew : I dont accept any worded apology unless I can look the person in the eye when they say it. For me, he'd either have to make a video so I could read his bodylanguage, or actually do something. actions speak louder than words.10/20/2014 - 8:04pm
quiknkoldwell if they are looking for social pollution, Twitter is a great breeding ground for it. Its a breeding ground for deviance.10/20/2014 - 8:03pm
Andrew Eisenquiknkold - He had three tweets worth of apology the following day.10/20/2014 - 8:00pm
quiknkoldyou know, people keep saying Biddle's comment was sarcasm, but the thing is, Sarcasm doesnt translate well in Tweets. I took his words as really hateful, and unless I see an honest apology, I'm not going to be happy with him.10/20/2014 - 7:38pm
Matthew WilsonI doubt it will change much.10/20/2014 - 7:21pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.bbc.com/news/technology-29689949 Google's current piracy fighting plan.10/20/2014 - 6:58pm
Andrew EisenYikes. http://boingboing.net/2014/10/20/vultures-circle-gamergate.html10/20/2014 - 6:25pm
Neo_DrKefkaDestructoid Editor in Chief stepping down after allegations surface about blacklisting will he be next? http://allmannerofnerdery.tumblr.com/post/100526443850/im-leaving-destructoid10/20/2014 - 6:05pm
james_fudgethere's some inside baseball stuff going on in this Andrew - likely some stuff we don't know10/20/2014 - 3:30pm
E. Zachary KnightGreat musical video about online trolling. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nS-QeM2ne810/20/2014 - 2:46pm
Andrew EisenBut again, this whole thing is just too damn vague to form an opinion on.10/20/2014 - 2:40pm
Andrew EisenWithout the original communication, it's impossible to say if it could honestly be misconstrued as a friendly suggestion rather than an employer directive. However, it appears that subsequent emails should have cleared up any doubt.10/20/2014 - 2:40pm
Andrew EisenThose aren't the owner's words, they're Chris Dahlen's. For what it's worth, we do see an email from Gonzalez stating "you've already broken the only rule we set for you!!!!!!!"10/20/2014 - 2:38pm
Michael ChandraSo really the guy's own words strike me as "wah! How dare you disagree with me!" behaviour, which is the sort of childish attitude I am unfortunately not surprised by.10/20/2014 - 2:17pm
Michael ChandraCorrect AE, but then again the owner's own words are about "wishes", not about an order. No "we told him not to", but going against his wishes.10/20/2014 - 2:16pm
 

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