Apple prepares for court battle against California inventor over ‘smartphone patent’ for iPhone

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Following a lawsuit filed three and a half years ago by NetAirus Technologies LLC, Apple is preparing for a legal battle in Los Angeles federal court over a patent regarding the iPhone and smartphone technologies, Bloomberg reports.

California man Richard L. Ditzik filed for a patent in 1997 that describes smartphone technologies and behavior, but Apple believes his claim should be invalidated based alone on capabilities of its Newton message pad three years prior.

“The technology at issue was so well known at the time NetAirus filed its patent, that independent patent watchdogs have made NetAirus’s patent a poster child in the movement to limit the proliferation of facially invalid patents,” Apple said in its July 2011 request to throw out the case.

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While jury selection has began for the trial, it’s unlikely any ruling could affect current products as the case is limited to iPhone hardware prior to the iPhone 4S.

If Ditzik finds himself successful in the upcoming trial against Apple, it seems a separate case would be necessary to claim damages by later technologies including the iPad, iPhone 4S, and iPhone 5.

During the original iPhone debut in 2007, Steve Jobs memorably boasted that its revolutionary new product was indeed heavily patented.


We’ll keep you posted as the trial unfolds.

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  1. krakowian - 9 years ago

    Definitely re: the Newton. If you look at the placement of the mic and speaker on the 2K series Newton MPs, you can see where the idea of using one of these for a phone definitely informed the design. I remember discussing this with fellow Newtoneers back in the day. There was a lot of speculation of sticking in a cellular PC card, and using the Newton like a phone. It was theoretically possible, but I think that some hardware or software to bridge to the hardware was missing. In any case, it wasn’t at all far-fetched to see the Newton being used as a huge phablet, even in 1997 when the 2k series came out.

  2. rettun1 - 9 years ago

    Interesting how the court system takes soo long and modern tech product cycles are one year or less. By the time you win a court battle, the stuff you were fighting for is irrelevant or severely outdated.

  3. Truffol (@Truffol) - 9 years ago

    Interesting. Apple is about to get a taste of its own medicine! However, Apple’s defense regarding how the “technology at issue was so well known at the time” of filing is perfect testament to how broken our patent system.


Avatar for Zac Hall Zac Hall

Zac covers Apple news for 9to5Mac and hosts the 9to5Mac Happy Hour and 9to5Mac Watch Time podcasts.