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7/22/2009
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Microsoft, Apple Sued Over Touchscreens

The suit, brought by Tsera, cites Apple's iPod Classic and Nano products, and Microsoft's Zune. Philips Electronics, LG Electronics and others are also named.

A company called Tsera has sued 23 electronics companies in federal court in eastern Texas for violating a patent on touchscreens.

The suit, filed on July 15, cites Apple's iPod Classic and Nano products, Microsoft's Zune digital media player, and several other popular devices as violating a patent, "Methods and Apparatus for Controlling a Portable Electronic Device Using a Touchpad," which was granted in 2003.

The patent offers a general description of how a user would enter commands on a touchscreen "by tracing patterns with his finger on a surface of the touchpad. No immediate visual feedback is provided as a command pattern is traced, and the user does not need to view the device to enter commands.

"A microcontroller within the device matches the pattern traced by the user against a plurality of preset patterns, each of which corresponds to a predefined function or command of the device. If the pattern traced by the user is a reasonably close match to any of the preset patterns, the device performs the predefined function corresponding to the matched pattern. The touchpad replaces the numerous buttons that are typically used to control portable electronic devices, thereby enhancing usability and reducing manufacturing costs."

Apple is cited for special censure, and Tsera is seeking treble damages from the company.

"Apple has had actual knowledge of the '584 patent since at least as early as September 30, 2004 when the '584 patent was cited as prior art during the prosecution of Apple's U.S. Patent Application No. 10/259,159," the complaint said. "Apple's infringement of the '584 patent has been and continues to be willful, wanton, and deliberate, and carried out with full knowledge and awareness of the Plaintiff's patent rights and without license from Plaintiff."

Tsera has no Web page, although it claims in the complaint to be organized in Texas. Eastern Texas is seen as friendly to companies complaining about patent violations and many cases are filed there, although patent reform legislation now in Congress would end the practice of shopping for friendly courts.

Other defendants in this case include Auditek, Bang & Olufsen, Coby Electronics Corp., Cowon, Dane-Elec Corp., Data Station, IMA " Hong Kong, Impecca USA, iRiver, Philips Electronics, LG Electronics, Mach Speed Technologies, Meizu Technology, Spectra Merchandising and Trekstor GMBH.


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