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Apple possibly forced into deal with patent troll Digitude

updated 02:05 am EST, Sat December 10, 2011

Apple has unusual Digitude pact on mobile patents

Apple may have been pressed into an unusual deal with a company to avoid a legal dispute. An ITC complaint (PDF) from Digitude Innovations, a company commonly seen as a patent troll through its lack of real products, is using two patents formerly owned by Apple as well as two more to push for royalties or a ban on Amazon, HTC, LG, Nokia, RIM, Samsung, and Sony. Although routed through Cliff Island, a shell company for Digitude's funding firm Altitude Capital Partners, a "Digitude-Apple" license document at the ITC confirms that Digitude had made the deal with Apple directly.

The reasons for the trade may have come a unique approach Digitude takes to profiting from others' patents. Rather than buying them outright and then suing, Digitude asks companies for their patents and then forms a "consortium" where the companies that gave their patents get a license to all of the group's other patents, avoiding the lawsuits and ITC complaints they would otherwise face. A number of deliberately anonymous companies agreed to patent deals in April and June, one of which would have had to be Apple given an early 2011 transfer of ownership.

Apple is most likely to have given the patents under the threat of an ITC trade ban, although why wouldn't be clear. The iPad maker often tends to resist such companies and regularly disdains even cross-licensing patents, let alone shifting ownership to someone else. It may have either seen the patents as not worth enough to keep directly or decided that the likelihood of winning its defense wasn't worth the risks.

Still, the deal is odd as Apple could have tried offering cash or otherwise something else besides offering patents. That most of Apple's key enemies are targets of the Digitude complaint may have been convenient, but likely not the main focus. [via TechCrunch]

by MacNN Staff



  1. Kees

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Apple stays in the clear while these trolls sue all of its competitors? Principles be damned, of course Apple will agree to let someone else fight the dirty fight for them.
    Whatever you may think of the likes of Digitude, them striking a similar deal with Samsung is more trouble than it's worth.
    You can only hope the court will toss it because they have no actual product to back up the claim.

  1. WalterC

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Ask Siri

    "Siri, Can we do to stop this terrible patent process?" ......Siri: "It's nice of you to ask but it doesn't really matter what I think". The disembodied voice is right, it is up to the living to bring as much pressure as possible on our, dare I say, leaders, to effect a sensible maturation of our nations archaic patent systems and laws.

  1. prl99

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Not Apple's patents

    Check out the history of these patents. Apple didn't invent them, they originally belonged to Mitsubishi (and/or to two Japanese developers, 1999-2002), who assigned them to Apple in early 2011. Apple then reassigned them in mid 2011 to Cliff Island. Complain about patent trolls all you want but Apple didn't have these patents long enough to worry about them, unless, Apple originally had licensed them from Mitsubishi before Mitsubishi either sold them or just re-assigned them to Apple. Either way, they are old patents and Apple probably didn't feel they needed them for anything (anymore).

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