Tag Archives | Legal Issues

Apple Facing Possible Lawsuit Over iPhone 4 Antenna

California-based law firm Kershaw, Cuttiner, and Ratinoff is asking for customers with iPhone 4 signal reception issues to contact it, likely signaling the beginnings of a class-action suit against Apple over the issues. An announcement was posted to their site this week.

The reception problem looks like it won’t be going anytime soon. While some have tried to argue that the problems are related to iOS4 itself, it seems highly unlikely it’s a software issue alone. With Apple confirming that the metal band around the phone does serve as an antenna, it seems only logical that any interference(including putting your hand over it) would impact signal quality.


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YouTube Wins Viacom Case

A U.S. District Court Judge has ruled in favor of Google and against Viacom in the latter’s lawsuit over copyrighted videos on YouTube. Seems that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act–a law which usually seems to work in favor of copyright owners–absolves Google of blame for unauthorized uploading of videos as long as it deletes specific examples it knows about.

I’m not reflexively anti-giant media company, but it was tough to side with Viacom in this case. It says it plans to appeal, so it’s not over just yet.


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The FTC to Investigate Apple?

There are multiple things about Apple’s recent behavior in relation to third-party development tools and ad networks that don’t thrill me. As a fan of free enterprise, however, I’m not thrilled with the prospect of the federal government possibly stepping in and telling the company how to run its business–at least not as long as the iPhone’s share of the smartphone market isn’t monopolistic. (Which it isn’t: It’s not even the best-selling handset.)


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Is iTunes in Trouble With the Feds?

The New York Times’ Brad Stone is reporting that the U.S. Justice Department is investigating Apple’s tactics in the digital music market on antitrust grounds–a business in which Apple’s iTunes has 69 percent of the market and second-place Amazon.com has only eight percent.

The article doesn’t specify much in the way of alleged Apple misdeeds except for threatening to withdraw marketing support for songs if their publishers signed temporary exclusive deals with Amazon. Last time I checked, I wasn’t an antitrust lawyer–is that illegal?


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HTC Sues Apple

This isn’t even slightly surprising: HTC is suing Apple. The Taiwanese phone giant says that the iPhone maker has violated five HTC patents, and it’s therefore asking the U.S. International Trade Commission to prevent the iPhone, iPad, and iPod from being imported into the U.S. and sold.

Last month, Apple sued HTC, seeking to ban that company from selling phones in the U.S. Apple is also suing Nokia, which is itself suing Apple. Twice.

(Extremely unlikely but perversely satisfying potential scenario: All three companies win all their lawsuits, preventing all of them from selling any products whatsoever and driving them all out of business. At least it might dissuade other businesses from doing battle in the courtroom rather than the marketplace…)

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Good News, Bad News for Apple

The good news for Apple? It’s already sold a million iPads, more than twice as many as the original iPhone had sold at this point in its history. The bad news, at least according to the New York Post? The Department of Justice and the FTC are trying to figure out which of them should be investigating Apple over its decision to prevent iPhone developers from using cross-platform tools that would allow for easy creation of apps for both the iPhone and other handsets.


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Microsoft Strikes Phone Patent Deal With HTC. Should Google be Worried?

Finally, news about smartphones and patents that doesn’t involve large companies suing each other: Microsoft has announced that it’s signed a patent licensing agreement with HTC covering the latter company’s Android smartphones. HTC gets to build Android phones without fear of patent trouble with Microsoft; Microsoft gets to collect a royalty on every Android handset HTC sells. Which is quite an accomplishment given that the company behind Android–Google–doesn’t charge handset manufacturers royalties.

Microsoft would presumably rather be collecting royalties on Windows phones–before it went gaga for Android, HTC was best known as the dominant maker of Windows Mobile devices–but a peaceful relationship between the two companies benefits both parties. (If HTC isn’t among the first companies to jump on the Windows Phone 7 bandwagon, it’ll be very surprising.)

The Microsoft press release doesn’t say anything in specific about the patents involved, but Microsoft has plenty of them covering phone-related technology.

If HTC requires a license to make Android phones without violating Microsoft’s intellectual property, what does that mean for Motorola, Samsung, LG, and all the other companies that make Android handsets? Stay tuned for news of further deals, I guess. Or lawsuits.Either way, it’s also hard to interpret the arrangement with HTC as anything other than an oblique shot across Google’s bow. (Here’s a Cnet story by Ina Fried on all this with a sound bite from Microsoft’s deputy general counsel that makes the shot slightly less oblique.)

Then again, it’s also hard to imagine that it would be in Microsoft’s best interest to sue large phone companies who are logical licensees for Windows Phone 7. Unlike Apple–which is in court with both HTC and Nokia–Microsoft’s business model requires decent relationships with the rest of the industry.


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Gizmodo Editor's Tech Gear Seized

Another great big shoe has dropped in the lost iPhone 4G saga: Gizmodo is reporting that on Friday, California police used a search warrant to knock down the door at the home of Jason Chen (author of the first story on the phone) and enter it when he wasn’t present. They removed a bunch of computers, related items like phones, flash drives, and cameras, and…his business cards. Gizmodo’s stance is that California’s journalist shield law protected Jason from search warrants, and the proper action on the police’s part would have been to seek a subpoena.

As I usually say when writing about legal stuff, I’m not a lawyer–I don’t even play one on TV. But I do believe that blogs like Gizmodo (and, hey, Technologizer) deserve exactly the same protections that more traditional journalistic enterprises get. If Gizmodo has a case here that the warrant was unlawful, I hope it presses it successfully.

And in this particular case, I don’t pretend that I can discuss Jason as an individual or Gizmodo as an editorial operation from a sober distance: Three years ago, they said some nice things about me that bucked up my spirits when I really needed it. For that reason, I’m not even going to try and provide dispassionate analysis. I’m in favor of everybody involved complying with the law–journalists and police–but I’m also very sorry to read about the seizure, and hopeful that things work out okay for him.


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YouTube and Viacom Duke It Out

Am I the only one who finds the current public squabble between YouTube and Viacom a tad unseemly? The opening briefs in Viacom’s copyright suit against YouTube were made public yesterday, and YouTube used the occasion as reason to post an item by its chief counsel accusing Viacom of secretly uploading its stuff “for years,” going out of its way to make it look pirated. Viacom has responded with a brief statement saying that YouTube’s founders thought their site needed to “steal” content to prosper; it doesn’t deny YouTube’s charges, but says they’re a red herring.

I’m not a judge, a lawyer, or an intellectual-property expert; neither are most of the folks who the YouTube and Viacom items are aimed at. That said,¬†Mike Masnick of Techdirt has a good pro-YouTube analysis. And he links to the Hollwood Reporter’s coverage, which sides with Viacom.

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“Dumb and Dangerous”

Good piece by Slate’s Farhad Manjoo on why Apple’s patent suit against HTC just isn’t a good idea for anyone involved.

Manjoo mentions another patent squabble I’d forgotten about: Creative’s case against Apple over the iPod, which resulted in a settlement that had Apple pay $100 million to Creative. (When I first used an iPod my immediate reaction was this: “Hey, the interface is a lot like the one on my Creative Nomad Jukebox–except not as powerful!”) Let’s face it: For all of Apple’s ingenuity, it’s borrowed copiously from competitors, too…


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