Today in eyeroll: Apple sued by Ericsson, and again by Smartflash, a ''patent troll''

Is FRAND fair? When is a non-practicing entity just a patent troll?

smartflash apple

Trollin' trollin' trollin'... Smartflash LLC sued Apple again over its patents. The "non-practicing entity" is being referred to as a patent troll, which isn't very nice. After all, its earlier claim against Apple was upheld by a jury, for $532,900,000.00.

Oh, wait, that was in Tyler, Texas. Never mind. And now Ericsson joins in, because Apple figured the FRAND license wasn't so F&R.

In IT Blogwatch, bloggers eyeroll at a broken system.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment.

Yes, it's happened again: John Ribeiro reports the news:

Smartflash has sued the iPhone maker again. ... The company sued Apple and others in May 2013...alleging that iTunes software infringed on six of its patents. ... The jury found earlier this week that Apple infringed three Smartflash patents [and] awarded it $532.9 million in damages.

The new lawsuit...alleges that Apple has infringed Smartflash’s seven patents in [newer] devices containing...that can access the iTunes Store or...the App Store. [It] also alleged that Apple its internal servers, including those involved in operating the iTunes Store...App Store...iCloud and...iAd.  MORE

Uh, what's a Smartflash? Andrew Chung explains:

Smartflash LLC aims to make Apple pay for using without permission in devices not included in the previous case.

Smartflash licenses its patents but does not make products itself. ... Smartflash's attorney, Brad Caldwell, [said] "Apple cannot claim they don’t...understand that they are infringing. A diligent jury has already rejected those arguments." ... Apple could not immediately be reached for comment.

Both Smartflash lawuits say that around 2000, the co-inventor of its patents, Patrick Racz, met with executives of...Gemalto SA, including Augustin Farrugia, who is now a senior director at Apple.  MORE

Unsurprisingly, Mike Masnick is no fan of actions such as this, calling the plaintiff a "pure patent troll":

[It's] abuse of patents to stifle innovation. ... Despite the big drop in patent lawsuits following the Alice ruling, patent trolls...have recently ramped up the filing of new trolling lawsuits.

Yes, Apple could probably pay [$532,900,000] with the spare change falling off the edge of Tim Cook's desk, but that's not really the point. ... Smartflash once had a product, but it failed in the marketplace over a decade ago.

It's a great example of how screwed up the patent system is. ... We still need serious patent reform.  MORE

Alan Daley opines similar, blaming Washington:

Frivolous patent litigation...imposes a $943 burden on each U.S. household.

Some of our trading partners use infringement suits as a substitute for import tariffs. ... Foreign governments create their own patent trolls.

Our attempt to be fair and organized...has degenerated into frequent lawsuit shakedowns that ultimately damage the U.S. consumer. Ways to fix the problems [were] in last year’s...Innovation [Bill], but it was strangled in the Senate. Perhaps this year, Congress will focus on what’s good for the consumer.  MORE

And Zach Carter agrees, pointing a huffy digit of censure:

Technology experts see the verdict as absurd. But what [it] says about Congress is actually more frightening. ... Congress has failed to deal with patent trolling for a simple, but often overlooked reason: It is gleefully paralyzed by battles between competing corporate interests.

In 2011, President Obama signed into law the American Invents Act, a patent reform bill. ... To figure out who [neutered it] one need look no further than...Eli Lilly & Co., one of the most profitable drug companies in the world.  MORE

Update: Peter Sayer says Ericsson be trollin', too:

The Swedish telecommunications equipment vendor filed nine lawsuits against in...Texas and two in the U.S. International Trade Commission, alleging infringement of a total of 41 of its patents. ... Many of the patents...cut right to the heart of smartphone and tablet functionality: their ability to connect networks to make calls or exchange data.

Apple had a license for the patents at issue, but declined the new terms Ericsson offered when the existing agreement ran out. ... Ericsson has asked the ITC to block U.S. sales of Apple iPhones and iPads [and] is seeking an injunction on iPhone and iPad sales, future royalties, and an unspecified amount of damages.  MORE

You have been reading IT Blogwatch by Richi Jennings, who curates the best bloggy bits, finest forums, and weirdest websites… so you don't have to. Catch the key commentary from around the Web every morning. Hatemail may be directed to @RiCHi or Opinions expressed may not represent those of Computerworld. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. E&OE.

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