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You are here: MacNN Forums > News > Mac News > Immersion sues Apple for allegedly infringing haptic feedback patents

Immersion sues Apple for allegedly infringing haptic feedback patents
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MacNN Staff
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Feb 12, 2016, 09:41 AM
Apple has become the target of a lawsuit from haptic feedback company Immersion, for alleged patent infringement in Apple's Force Touch and 3D Touch systems. Immersion claims the Apple Watch, the iPhone 6, and the iPhone 6s infringe on a total of three patents relating to haptic feedback systems, with a complaint to the US International Trade Commission (ITC) and a Delaware district court lawsuit seeking a sales injunction in the United States along with compensation.

All the devices, including the Plus versions of the iPhones, are claimed to infringe on a patent for a "Haptic Feedback System with Stored Effects (8,619,051) and a "Method and Apparatus for Providing Tactile Sensations (8,773,356), reports AppleInsider. A third patent describing an "Interactivity Model for Shared Feedback on Mobile Devices" (8,659,571) is said to also apply to just the iPhone 6s range.

"Immersion and its employees have worked diligently for over 20 years to invent solutions and build an ecosystem of content and playback devices that enable realistic and rich digital experiences," Immersion CEO Victor Viegas says in a press release. "Touch matters, as it informs, excites, and humanizes the digital world we interact with every day."

"While we are pleased to see others in the industry recognize the value of haptics and adopt it in their products, it is important for us to protect our business against infringement of our intellectual property in order to preserve the ecosystem we have built and the investments that we have made in continuing to advance haptic experiences," added Viegas. "We will vigorously defend the intellectual property we have developed when it is infringed."

Notably, Apple isn't the only defendant identified in the lawsuit. Immersion is also going after AT&T and subsidiary AT&T Mobility for selling the iPhones to subscribers, though it is unclear why only AT&T and not other major carriers.

Immersion is certainly no stranger to the courtroom when it comes down to protecting its intellectual property. Over the years, it has fought and settled with Sony, Microsoft, and Google.
( Last edited by NewsPoster; Feb 12, 2016 at 02:47 PM. )
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Feb 12, 2016, 02:54 PM
In hopes of heading off the "patent troll" comments we might see; Immersion is a legit company behind a LOT of the "haptic feedback" in both basic (console controllers) and advanced devices (I play a lot of racing sims, and Immersion is behind a lot of the technologies which exist in FFB (force-feedback) racing wheels). They create technologies which other companies license. This may well be a case where Apple should have simply licensed a technology outright rather than reinvent the wheel.
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Feb 12, 2016, 03:40 PM
I'm not even sure what to make of these continuing lawsuits against Apple anymore. I used to be a super die-hard Apple supporter and when they were getting hit with lawsuits even back in 2004, boy was I furious with the prosecutors. But based on the recent events with VirnetX, BU and other universities, Immersion, Smartflash, etc. suing and (often) winning these lawsuits, this leads me to one of two conclusions that I foresee:

[1] Either Apple is outright stealing the technology and refusing to pay the patent holders, or
[2] The system is a totally corrupt infrastructure and companies are taking advantage of it.

I don't foresee a third option along the lines of "Apple is innocent and should countersue everyone."

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Feb 12, 2016, 03:56 PM
I mean who would had thought a mechanical or electronic feedback is patented. I wonder if unplugging my vaccum cleaner from a wall is also patented. This is like Thomas Edison vs Nikola Tesla. It doesn't matter who's the first one invented. It's the one with deep pocket withstands the final trial and wins.
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Feb 12, 2016, 06:30 PM

I don't think you are considering the more subtle issues with regards to patents.

a. Apple reads these patents, and does their best to understand what the patent covers. Patents are most often written in obscure language and references intended by lawyers to cover ideas and situations not thought of by the inventor.

b. Apple tries to invent their way around the existing patents, so their products can contain proprietary ideas. The holders of existing patents believe Apple products are using their patents. They try to get Apple to pay. Apple says no, our technology doesn't use your patents. So, the patent holders sue.

This is not at all the path patent trolls take; they simply sue as many people as they can, especially small companies that cannot afford a good defense, hoping they can squeeze money out of people as long as they can.

My reservation in this case is the fact that Immersion is suing AT&T. Has AT&T used Immersion's patents in their own products or is AT&T named simply because they are distributing Apple's products? The later will cause me to question Immersion's intensions.
Mike Wuerthele
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Feb 12, 2016, 07:02 PM
AT&T is named because it is distributing Apple products.
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