lawsuit

Well that was fast. Your dreams of Clippy as a mascot in the NBA are going to be put on hold. Steve Ballmer was basically set to buy professional basketball team the Los Angeles Clippers last Friday. He laid down a cool $2 billion, which would have put it as the most expensive purchase for a basketball team. Turns out current Clippers own Donald Sterling isn't ready to part with the team and has advised his lawyers to sue the NBA.

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Microsoft has filed a lawsuit against Acacia Research Corp on Wednesday for breaking a contract to license various smartphone and mobile computing technologies. The litigation has been filed in the U.S. District Court in New York, but is currently under a seal. There are not a lot of details available, but this follows a number of patent infringement lawsuits brought by Acacia subsidiaries against Microsoft in October in Texas, Delaware and Illinois.

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Microsoft is teaming up with Google (no, you read that correctly) to sue the US government and win the right to reveal details surrounding official requests for user data. The two tech giants announced the lawsuit yesterday, taking the battle over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to a whole new level.

The National Security Agency (NSA) and other US government bodies utilise the mechanism to collect data on foreign Internet users, which has been in the news recently with activity through the likes of PRISM leaked to the media. Microsoft previously responded to the NSA controversy, stating the company is not spying on consumers.

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HTC and Nokia set for patent wars

HTC can't seem to catch a break. Having only recently just settled with Apple over patent disputes, the Taiwanese company is preparing to battle Nokia over 32 different issues around the globe. The patent allegations range from syncing databases within a time to solutions with antennae design. If you're interested in the whole list of complaints, head over here.

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In the ongoing saga between Samsung and Apple, documents came out late last night from the court case that detailed a proposal by Apple to charge Samsung for royalties on their smartphones.

It’s interesting for a few reasons. For one, Apple almost never enters into cross-platform patent royalty deals with other companies, specifically if it is tied to any of their “product differentiating” technologies. Back in 2010 though, Apple was willing to make an exception to this with Samsung because they are a major parts supplier for Cupertino and they wanted to preserve that relationship. Apple was also “shocked” at just how much Samsung was willing to allegedly copy the iPhone.

In the documents, Apple spells out some license terms it was willing to offer Samsung back in October 2010—just a few weeks before Windows Phone 7 became available.  Although Android was offered a $24-per-device royalty fee, which yes, is extremely high, Apple evidently also wanted $9 per ‘Windows Mobile 7’ device as well.

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Motorola has been granted an injunction on Microsoft products being sold in Germany. The Xbox 360, Windows OS, Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player will all fall under the ban, should it be put into place. The injunction follows a ruling claiming the software giant had infringed two Motorola patents required to support H.264 video coding and playback.

An official statement from Motorola reads the following:

"We are pleased that the Mannheim Court found that Microsoft products infringe Motorola Mobility's intellectual property. As a path forward, we remain open to resolving this matter. Fair compensation is all that we have been seeking for our intellectual property."

According to reports, this is just one of several cases involving around 50 properties owned by the smartphone manufacturer. Microsoft has stated that should the software giant meet the demands of Motorola an annual bill would be in the region of $4bn (£2.5bn). The manufacturer has denied this claim.

A statement from Microsoft has been published, which highlights how the company will look to appeal the decision.

"This is one step in a long process, and we are confident that Motorola will eventually be held to its promise to make its standard essential patents available on fair and reasonable terms for the benefit of consumers who enjoy video on the web. Motorola is prohibited from acting on today's decision, and our business in Germany will continue as usual while we appeal this decision and pursue the fundamental issue of Motorola's broken promise."

Motorola cannot enforce the ruling made by the German courts until a Seattle-based judge lifts a restraining order. This restriction was put in place by Microsoft after it claimed Motorola was actively abusing its Frand-committments (pact to license innovations required for widely used technologies under "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory" terms). A hearing is to be held on May 7th.

Source: BBC

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This morning, Microsoft announced a new partnership with Barnes & Noble for their eReader business having settled the previous litigation on claimed patent infringement.

The new subsidiary of Barnes & Noble called Newco (not the real name, just a placeholder to be determined later) will focus on the digital and college business of the company. Microsoft is investing $300 million into the venture and will maintain a 17.6% equity stake in the new company.

Of course it should come as no surprise that a NOOK eReader will be one of the first priorities of the nw partnership with a client for Windows 8 in the works. Barnes & Noble commented on the newly announced deal noting:

“The formation of Newco and our relationship with Microsoft are important parts of our strategy to capitalize on the rapid growth of the NOOK business, and to solidify our position as a leader in the exploding market for digital content in the consumer and education segments,” said William Lynch, CEO of Barnes & Noble. “Microsoft’s investment in Newco, and our exciting collaboration to bring world-class digital reading technologies and content to the Windows platform and its hundreds of millions of users, will allow us to significantly expand the business.”

Although lots of pundits like to criticize Microsoft for "patent trolling" others would claim that the company is looking out for their shareholder's interest by defending what they see as their intellectual property. Despite this, some saw in B&N as standing up to Microsoft, fighting them publicly in the matter. Instead, B&N made a deal with the devil perhaps even angering Google along the way (Android powers the new Nook eReader).

Either way, Microsoft's strategy seems to be paying off for although B&N does not have to admit any guilt for the claimed violations, they clearly were forced to the table for what looks to be an exciting deal for both companies. In fact, this could be the lifeline the fading book retailer needs in its life and death struggle with adversary Amazon.com.

No mention of a Windows Phone client has been announced which has been missing since Windows Mobile and the HTC HD2. However, rumors suggest that Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are based on the same kernel and have large amounts of overlapping code. As a result the announcement of a Windows 8 client may in fact be a dual one for Windows Phone.

Regardless, you can imagine B&N will be getting some favorable treatment from Microsoft in the future. Something that Apple and Google will have trouble in matching. For this, we' very excited by this deal (even if we're Kindle fans here).

Full press release after the break...

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Microsoft settles advertising lawsuit

Really?

It is being reported that Microsoft has settled with the novelty company Cellrderm following mediation. The litigation, filed back in July, that claimed Microsoft infringed upon copyrighted content with their "Really?" Windows Phone ad campaign.  Cellrderm ran a similar set of commercials for their novelty cellular abuse aids.

The terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Who knows if Cellrderm had a leg to stand on in this suit but with Microsoft settling, they can concentrate on more important matters at hand. Like the U.S. launch of the Nokia Windows Phone and a $100M+ marketing campaign for Windows Phone.

If you're curious how similar the Microsoft and Cellrderms ads are, just hit the break to catch all four.

Source: paidcontent; Via: neowin

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If you've downloaded an app from the Marketplace in the last few hours, you may have received the above pop-up screen before being allowed to continue. The "accept" part is for a new end-user licensing agreements (EULA) that seems to address the user-location tracking controversy that erupted a few weeks ago with a lawsuit. In that filing, it was alleged Microsoft was collecting user data without user consent. Microsoft at first hedged but later admitted that yes, there was a bug which sent user data before they had a chance to accept or opt-out of the location collection.

That bug was of course eliminated with the Mango update but there persisted another bug in the People Hub which is still present. That bug is set to be fixed in a later software refresh, presumably Tango. In the meantime, Microsoft is spelling all of this out in the new updated EULA where they tell us they are not using the data nefariously and how important our information is to them, yadda yadda.

The document is itself nearly 19 pages of text that explains how specific parts of the OS work when collecting data--what is being sent, can you be identified ("no"), why the information is being sent.  They do this for email, internet, Office, Phone Feedback, People Hub, Facebook, Phone Update, Pictures Hub, etc. After explaining, Microsoft then shows you how to opt out or better control what information is being sent out--it's a pretty good guide, albeit a bit dry and lengthy.

What we quickly learn is wow, a lot of info is being sent to Microsoft and it'd take awhile to turn off. But we also learn that information cannot be used to track you, identify you or reveal personal information. In light of the Carrier IQ controversy, Microsoft seems to be showing all of their cards on the matter. Of course, only you know what you are comfortable with so head on over to the new EULA, read through it and you can decide your course of action: Windows Phone Privacy Statement.

Big thanks to Brandon H. for the photo and link!

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Microsoft is reporting that they have discovered unintended behavior with its Windows Phone location services. Following a Federal Lawsuit that claims Microsoft was doing such, Microsoft said they'd look into the claims and sure enough, they found a bug.

In a statement released earlier on Wednesday, Microsoft revealed,

"We have identified an unintended behavior in the Windows Phone 7 software that results in information about nearby Wi-Fi access points and cell towers being periodically sent to Microsoft when using the Camera application, and, for phones that are configured for US-English, when using the phone’s voice command features (such as “Find Pizza”). For the Camera, the software bug results in the behavior even where you have disabled geo-tagging photos in the Camera application."

Oops.

Microsoft did state that the recent Mango Update eliminates the unintended behavior (lawyer talk for "we didn't know it was there") by the camera application and voice command feature. However, the bugs are still present when using the "Me" feature in the Peoples Hub. Wifi access points and cell tower information is sent to the Windows Phone location service each time a user accesses "Me".

Microsoft is already working on an update to fix the "Me" bug after which, information about nearby Wifi access points and cell towers will be sent only if you agree to allow the "check in" feature of "Me". There was no time frame on this update but I suspect it will be sooner than later.

In the meantime, Microsoft is reminding Windows Phone customers that you can prevent access to location information by applications and the collection of location information by going to Settings>Location and turning this feature off.

While it's never good for any operating system to have such bugs, you've gotta give kudos to Microsoft for moving quickly to identify the problem and working to fix things without delay. You can read more about this disclosure and Microsoft's Privacy Policy here at Microsoft.com.

For more intelligent discussion on the matter, take a look at Rafael Rivera's take on it here: "Dissecting Case 01438 Exhibit B, Part 4"

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Earlier this year Microsoft was brought into the geo-location controversy along with Android and the iPhone, but remained vigilant that no foul play was present. Earlier this month the software giant was attacked again by a lawsuit claiming the camera app in Windows Phone collected and sent location information without prior permission.

Microsoft denied the claims with a firm statement:

"Because we do not store unique identifiers with any data transmitted to our location service database by the Windows Phone camera or any other application, the data captured and stored on our location database cannot be correlated to a specific device or user. Any transmission of location data by the Windows Phone camera would not enable Microsoft to identify an individual or 'track' his or her movements."

Now Rafael Rivera over at Within Windows has posted his own findings that backs up the lawsuit against Microsoft. He found that packets were being sent by the camera app to Microsoft's Location Interference service. What's being sent? OS version, device information (make, model, etc.), local wireless access points and various GUID-based identifiers. 

However, there are a lot of remaining questions: Is Microsoft collecting this data or just pushing it back? What happens when you disable the location service in the camera? (Ansewr: it appears to stop this behavior). In short, it looks like the first time you run the camera app, it gets your location from Microsoft, but once you disable it, that's that.

Check out his full report via the link below. What do you make of Microsoft collecting location data?

Source: Within Windows

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It's a war out there. Whether it be Apple relentlessly kicking HTC and Samsung into the ground, Microsoft going after royalty fees or Nokia taking on the half-eaten Apple it's a kill zone and patents are the centre of attention. Because of the recent acquisition of Motorola (for more patents) by Google and the scale of attack from companies outside the Android castle, many OEMs are looking at alternatives to Google's platform.

The search giant has now purchased 1,023 patents from IBM to help strengthen a defence against future lawsuits attacking Android OEMs (this is in addition to an earlier purchase from IBM in July). Google has transferred nine patents to HTC in the last week for use in a new lawsuit against Apple, which will intensify the patent battle further between the two.

And so it continues...

Via: Bloomberg

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AT&T has filed lawsuits in eight different jurisdictions to defend itself against a wave of arbitration cases filed by Bursor & Fisher on behalf of over 1000 AT&T customers.  The New York law firm started a website called FightTheMerger.com to find a horde of AT&T users to file individual arbitration cases against Ma Bell, in order to prevent the acquisition of T-Mobile.  The method of attack was chosen because AT&T's terms of service bar customers from filing lawsuits against them, instead offering the option of third-party arbitration.

AT&T issued a statement to each court claiming that Bursor & Fisher intend to proceed with each case individually, that they are actually launching a thinly-veiled class-action suit, which is prohibited by the terms of service as well.

“This merger will provide tremendous benefits for customers and unleash billions of dollars in badly needed investment, creating many thousands of well-paying jobs that are vitally needed given our weakened economy — a fact that’s been recognized by consumers, public officials, and groups of all types. However, the bottom line here is an arbitrator has no authority to block the merger or affect the merger process in any way. AT&T’s arbitration agreement with our customers — recently upheld by the Supreme Court — allows individual relief for individual claims. Bursor & Fisher is seeking class-wide relief wrapped in the guise of individual arbitration proceedings, which is specifically prohibited by AT&T;s arbitration agreement. Accordingly, the claims are completely without merit. We have filed suit in order to stop this abusive action.”

So it looks like a battle of semantics versus loopholes that will ultimately be decided in the courts.  But even if AT&T prevails in this matter, there is still a long road ahead.  A seemingly wary FCC still needs to approve the deal, and there is a long list of other challengers as well, including advocacy groups, politicians and other carriers. 

Source: AllThingsD; Via: TechCrunch

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An initial ruling against HTC by the US International Trade Commission (ITC) is evidently starting to have ripple effects. The case was brought by Apple, who is accusing HTC of infringing upon 10 patents of which the ITC found HTC to be violating two. Two caveats: the ITC's ruling is preliminary and not final but, Apple just needs to win on one patent infringement claim to potentially halt imports by HTC into the U.S. [Read Nilay Patel's excellent piece at ThisIsMyNext]

The patents in question seem specifically tied to the Android OS and other firms seem to be taking notice. According to 21st Century Business Herald, based in China:

"Some of these vendors worry about the risk of becoming embroiled in patent infringement due to adoption of Android, and have drawn up three strategies to cope with potential impact. The three strategies are enhancement of support to Microsoft Mango operating system, promotion of smartphone customization by mobile telecom carriers for protection through binding common interest (especially carriers partnering with Apple and Microsoft), self-development of own operating systems, the source pointed out. China-based smartphone vendors Huawei Device and ZTE have planned to adopt Mango, the source indicated."

That's a very interesting paragraph. For one, Huawei is not yet a key partner of Microsoft for Windows Phone--so that's potentially new (even though it will matter more for Eastern markets). Second, we're evidently starting to see OEMs start to make contingency plans if these lawsuits continue to go forward. The reason why is because Google does not offer any protection against claims of patent infringement, contra Microsoft who will defend the OS in court to the chagrin of the OEMs. Combined with those continued licensing fees for Android and the speculation of further legal threats, Windows Phone is starting to look ike a good choice right about now.

Source: Digitimes/21st Century Business Herald; via Electronista

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Apple to pay off Nokia in patent suit

Nokia announced today that they have reached a settlement with Apple in what was a long string of lawsuits and counter suits filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission involving alleged patent infringement by Apple in their iPhones.  Last month, the ITC ruled that no infringement had been committed, but then followed up by saying that they would investigate the matter further.  It seems that Apple was not confident enough in their case to let the investigation go on, so they have agreed to pay an undisclosed one-time sum to Nokia to close the case.  In addition, Apple will continue to pay royalties to the Finnish phone giant to prevent further infringement claims involving the same patents.

In a press release this morning, Nokia CEO, Stephen Elop, smugly welcomed Apple to the party:

"We are very pleased to have Apple join the growing number of Nokia licensees.  This settlement demonstrates Nokia's industry leading patent portfolio and enables us to focus on further licensing opportunities in the mobile communications market."

This is a much needed win for Nokia, who has seen more than its fair share of turmoil in recent weeks.  Amongst dropping stock prices and departing execs, it was just recently projected that They would lose their crown as the world's top smartphone manufacturer to Samsung, as soon as the end of the quarter.  This may be the end of legal road, but it may embolden the struggling Nokia to expand their claims to other companies. 

Source: Nokia (full press release); Via: BGR

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On Monday, Microsoft filed a motion for summary judgment with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, in an attempt to get Apple's trademark of the term "App Store" denied.  They argue that the term is too generic to be awarded to just one company, as it is made up of two everyday, commonly used words.  As evidence of its generality, MS also shrewdly submitted an interview with Apple CEO Steve Jobs, where he is quoted as saying, "Amazon, Verizon and Vodafone have all announced that they are creating their own app stores for Android."

Apple's application for the trademark dates back to 2008, so it seems a bit odd that MS would just think to do this now.  Obviously, the launch of WP7 and it's Marketplace prompted the move, but one would hope that the world's software leader wouldn't be so myopic.  No decisions have been made as of yet.  The status page  for the trademark merely reads: "An opposition is now pending at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board."

We will be sure to keep you posted.

Source: PCWorld; via: AppleInsider

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Verizon ETF Settlement upheld

Verizon's ETF lawsuit has apparently come to a close with a California Appeals Court upholding a $21 million refund that will go to about 175,000 customers. The lawsuit came about when customers challenged Verizon's Early Termination Fees. The plaintiffs claimed that Verizon violated California consumer protection laws and similar State and Federal laws by imposing flat ETF's.

The class action settlement, originally agreed upon in 2008, was appealed twice by Verizon with the funds being held in escrow until all appeals of the case have been exhausted. Verizon could appeal to the California Supreme Court but a spokesperson for Verizon stated this ruling ended all ETF related litigation.

Scott Bursor, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, stated "Yesterday's ruling by the Court of Appeal confirms that this is a terrific settlement for Verizon Wireless customers, and now more than 175,000 of those customers will get a substantial refund."

There are no reports on how much the attorney fees in this case will be (likely millions) but the settlement breaks down to about $88 per plaintiff. They were challenging a $175 fee, which has increased since the litigation but is now prorated to comply with applicable laws. 

Verizon claims the increase and change in ETF policy is completely unrelated to the litigation.  No word if the Microsoft KIN was ever a part of the settlement agreement.

[read: nasdaq.com]

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AT&T has proposed a settlement that will end several class action lawsuits that surrounds the software locks on most AT&T phones. These locks are put in place to prevent AT&T phones from operating on other compatible wireless carriers.

Each of the four lawsuits, in some shape, form or fashion claim it is improper for AT&T to sell phones that have been programmed not to operate on compatible services and that this restriction hasn't been properly disclosed to customers (still scratching my head on the latter claim).

The proposed settlement allows customers owning eligible phones who have completed a minimum of 90 days of active service with AT&T and be in good standing, upon request, receive an unlocking code. Phones that have an exclusivity sales contract with AT&T of ten months or longer (e.g. the iPhone) are excluded from this settlement. Phones with an exclusivity sales contract of less than ten months the exclusive period mush have expired before the unlocking code is released.

Customers are limited to five unlock codes per year and AT&T will pick up the attorney's fees, on the litigation, up to $5.7 million. The settlement proposal now goes to those suing AT&T to allow anyone not interested in the proposal to opt out or object to the terms. The Court will determine whether or not to approve the settlement on July 2, 2010. 

No word if this includes or excludes Windows Phones such as the Tilt2, Samsung Jack and Pure. While these phones are offered by other carriers, the name is unique and possibly exclusive to AT&T.  While one can hope that this might lead the way for more unlocked phones to appear in the U.S. market, one also has to wonder if this development is related in any way to AT&T recently increasing their early contract termination fees?

[read: attlockinglawsuits.com]

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Not that we didn't see this coming but HTC just announced that they are suing Apple for allegedly violating five un-mentioned patents. This comes just a little over a month after Apple filed suit against HTC.

They are seeking to halt importation and sale of the iPhone, iPod and iPad, which as we all know probably won't happen. The rest of the press release (after the break) is mostly an ad for HTC with little substance about the case or complaint.

Apple is fighting at least two major phone manufactures now: Nokia (see coverage at TiPB) and HTC. Needless to say it feels kind of good to see HTC fire back at Apple, but whether or not they have actually have a case to be made or they are tying up the courts on tit-for-tat litigation remains to be seen.

And in keeping with the spirit of swiping property, we stole TiPB's awesome image from their article. So sue us, Rene!

Full press release below.

Update: Gizzmodo has the full run down on the five alleged patent infringements. They mostly related to the dialer (retrieval and display of contact information) and device power management designs.

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