EMG Technology has filed a patent suit against Apple in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.
The suit alleges that Apple is infringing on U.S. Patent No. 7,441,196 in the way the iPhone navigates the Internet. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages against Apple.
"Web sites are just beginning to develop their mobile sister sites for fast and easy navigation," said Stanley Gibson, an intellectual property expert and partner at the law firm of Jeffer, Mangels, Butler & Marmaro, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of EMG Technology.
Gibson offers the example of NBC. To access NBC on a computer, the URL is NBC.com. For the mobile site on the iPhone, the URL would be m.NBC.com. EMG's patent, he explained, covers the simplified interface of reformatted mobile content to provide optimum viewing and navigation with single touches on a small screen.
Seventy-Six Patent Claims
EMG's Elliot Gottfurcht is one of the named inventors of five U.S. patents for navigating the Internet on mobile devices and Internet Protocol Television. Gottfurcht is also a real-estate developer in West Los Angeles.
The patent was issued on October 21, 2008, and includes 76 claims supported by specifications filed in 1999 by Gottfurcht and others, according to the plaintiff's law firm.
Gibson explains that the "patent claim covers the display of Internet content reformatted from HTML to XML on mobile devices -- the industry standard currently displayed by the iPhone. Additional patent claims include the technology for manipulating a region of the screen for zooming and scrolling."
Gibson has a good track record in IP litigation. He was one of the lead attorneys who successfully prosecuted the patent-infringement lawsuit of Gary Michelson, M.D., against Medtronic. That suit resulted in a $570 million verdict. Dr. Michelson received a $1.35 billion payment from Medtronic.
Apple's Business Decision
Despite Gibson's winning record, it may be difficult for the plaintiff to assert these claims against the iPhone because of the way the claims are drafted, according to Ilan Barzilay, an intellectual-property litigator at Wolf Greenfield in Boston.
"It doesn't seem that there is an operating business entity that is offering competing products," Barzilay said. "In that way it fits the mold of Eastern District of Texas cases because the folks that tend to assert claims there tend to be holding companies [that] are small shops that aren't heavy competitors."
Barzilay is not surprised that Apple is the target of yet another infringement suit. Apple is a popular entity with products that span various platforms, and therefore runs the risk of bumping up against the portfolios of people in disparate industries, particularly in the areas of the Internet and browsing software.
"Apple is involved in so many industries that it's tough to check everything," Barzilay said. "Even if Apple did discover a potential issue, they may come to the conclusion that the patent was of dubious validity, so they feel comfortable proceeding. It's always a business decision."