Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Apple wins case over the invention of the smartphone

We're sorry, Richard L. Ditzik, but a Los Angeles jury has decided that slapping a computer and wireless-communication functions together is not the same as a smartphone. Ditzik and his company NetAirus Technologies, sued Apple back in 2010, but Apple has just won its case, Bloomberg reported on Monday.

Strangely, NetAirus did not sue anyone else. Apple may have enhanced the smartphone with its iOS platform, but there was plenty of prior art. Apple even trotted out its own (now dead) Newton Messagepad as an example.

Ditzik's patent referred to a device (one, notably, never made or marketed by NetAirus) that combined computer functions and wireless communication over both cellular and WiFi networks, but not in an independent unit. Instead, the patent described a laptop that used a separate handset to make calls, rather than one that was a fully-independent device such as an iPhone, Lumia 928, or Galaxy S4.

This particular lawsuit targeted the iPhone 4; NetAirus has filed a separate lawsuit for alleged patent infringement by iPad and iPhone models that Apple has sold since the initial suit was filed in 2010.

It wasn't a unanimous decision, though. The jury of six women and two men were deadlocked until attorneys on both sides agreed to accept a majority vote. A majority of the jurors voted in favor of Apple on all four questions about Ditzik's patent.

At least one of the jurors who voted in the other direction has spoken out. Juror George Escarrega, 50, voted in favor of Ditzik on two of the four questions and for Apple on the other two. After the verdict he said he wished he could have been able “to find some way” to reward Ditzik for his patent.

Escarrega added that he “almost felt like we (the panel) were failing in doing everything we could for the system and for the inventor,” and that there “was an aspect to the case that Apple was this giant crushing the little guy.”

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