Trespass Tuesdays – February 6, 2018: Two Apples A Day?


 by: Patrick Anderson | February 6, 2018

Compact Lens Technologies, LLC v. Apple, Inc. and Proximity Sensors of Texas, LLC v. Apple, Inc.

According to a pair of federal complaints filed on January 31, 2018, a slew of Apple products (including the iPhone 7) incorporate technology stolen from one of the world’s oldest Asian IP investment funds. Intellectual Discovery Co., Ltd, the previous assignee of in both cases, recently divested both patents at issue in the two lawsuits mentioned above. While the complaints are short on detail, which is the patent owner’s right, it is worth noting that the patents involved predate the release of Apple’s original iPhone.

The Compact Lens case involves a novel combination of lenses with both negative and positive refractive powers that originated in Korea at Hanwha Techwin (formerly Samsung Techwin). The complaint demonstrates a significant reverse engineering effort, complete with cross-sectional photos of iPhone and iPad lens assemblies matching up with the patent claims. Meanwhile, the Proximity Sensors case concerns an optical proximity sensor invented by engineers at the Taiwanese company PixArt. While neither patent owner offered evidence in the complaint that Apple had knowledge of these two specific patents, their existence in the art suggests culpability. Both patents were issued well before the release of the iPhone models being accused, but large companies famously refuse to even look for third party patents.

Even when they become aware of patents, story after story proves that they refuse to pay for proprietary technology until after they’re forced. And litigation can become a major distraction to a large operating company like Hanwha Group. Thus, they often look to offload patents to get some return on the investment made in their workforce. If IP funds like Intellectual Discovery are denied returns, those investment dollars will stop flowing in. And if Hanwha Techwin cannot generate a return on the intellectual capital built by its workforce, it may end up investing less and less.

Every Tuesday, IP Wire will highlight significant cases of intellectual trespass by some of the world’s the largest and most powerful companies. These illegal acts hamper commercialization efforts, as research and educational institutions simply lack the resources to compete with massive incumbents. In the case of public universities, public funds create technology and property rights, only to be stolen by massive incumbent organizations. In other cases, property rights stem from research by publicly subsidized, not-for-profit organizations. Companies who illegally use this technology without compensation are, in effect, stealing from the public, while entities that dare assert their rights are vilified in the media. IP Wire’s mission, and we choose to accept, is to get out in front of these stories and expose these actions for what they are: harmful and illegal.


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