Apple Has Been Accused of Infringing a 15-Year-Old ‘Point-of-Sale’ Patent in Absurd iMessage Lawsuit

iPhone iMessage Lawsuit
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Following closely in the footsteps of several other patent-only entities who’ve opted to pursue a similar course of action, yet another has waged a full-throated legal battle against Apple this morning. Interesting yet unsurprising, however, is that the case was filed — where else? — but in the same, Eastern Texas District Court that has become a breeding ground for product-less corporations hoping to cash in on their courtroom cries of intellectual property impropriety.

According to court documents, the patent being contested in this case is owned by a company called Seatoun Media, and is related to (at least part) of a 2002-dated patent pertaining to a ‘point-of-sale’ system which Apple has allegedly implemented within its iMessage service. To be more specific, Seatoun Media’s complaint is premised almost entirely around a “Point to point voice message processor, method and recording/playback device,” and is further described as a “voice message processor capable of passing messages between users of the same POS system” — which in this instance would be iMessage, according to court documents.

To get a better idea of how exactly this relationship between iMessage and iPhone and the end-user plays out, the illustration below depicts an iPhone-style device, which constitutes the most basic part of the point-of-sale system — the processing terminal — and is utilized for both recording and playback of messages. Also represented as the phone is a so-called “communication link,” or essentially the median by which messages are either sent or received by users. A similar example of this median would be to consider how your supermarket checkout communicates with the inventory department to manage logistics.

An example of infringement as detailed by Seatoun Media in court documents, however, has to do with how consumers are supposedly “induced to use their iPhone 6 with iMessage to record and play voice messages through a communications link.” In other words, Seatoun is accusing Apple of indirectly infringing the patent in question, simply because the company is “inducing the direct infringement by consumers” when it allows voice messages to be sent.

Seatoun is alleging that claims of infringement apply to “multiple different” Apple products — in particular, iOS mobile devices that are capable of sending or receiving iMessages, or that are able to be configured with other, third-party messaging software. A list of guaranteed devices and products that fall into the aforementioned category include the iPhone 4, iPad 3, and iPod Touch (or later), as well as iMessage, itself.

Seatoun noted in its initial complaint that Apple was informed of the infringement back in October of last year, and that the company’s “ongoing infringement is willful.” Therefore, Seatoun is seeking an unspecified amount in damages — “at the maximum rate permitted by law” — in addition to any attorney’s fees and court costs.

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