Haptic feedback, the technology best known as that vibration response when your smartphone’s screen is pressed, is a pretty basic element of the smartphone user experience — one that dates back, even, to the old school Windows Mobile smartphones of the pre-iPhone era. So it’s clearly a widespread, long-employed technology, right?
Well, yes, but that didn’t stop a company known as Immersion from suing Apple last February for “infringing” on the company’s haptic feedback technology patents — exclusively, in particular, that which is employed by Cupertino’s iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, and the Apple Watch.
According to Immersion’s initial filing, Apple infringed on its patents related to a “Haptic feedback system with stored effects,” as well as the “Method and apparatus for providing tactile sensations” — or U.S. patent numbers 8,619,051 and 8,773,356, respectively.
As if that wasn’t enough, just the other day Immersion added the following patent related to Apple’s iPhone 6s & 6s Plus 3D Touch technology to the suit: U.S. patent No. 8,659,571 — which covers the quote unquote “Interactivity Model for Shared Feedback on Mobile Devices.”
Immersion really seems to be going all out on this case, as they’ve also recently added AT&T — the nation’s second largest wireless carrier — as a defendant. Why? Well, pretty much only because the carrier just so happens to sell the products that were covered under the original court filing. Immersion alleges that, by selling these aforementioned products, AT&T is “encouraging and facilitating infringing use by others.”
Is Immersion’s legal team consuming mind altering substances? We can’t be sure, but their actions speak volumes. Heck, they might as well have sued Verizon, Sprint, T-mobile, and every other domestic and international carrier, big or small; and hey, while they’re at it, why not just sue mother nature, herself, for bequeathing us a beautiful planet upon which the elements that ultimately give rise to this basic, 1990s technology are freely available, right? Sheesh..
In any event, Immersion’s CEO, Victor Viegas, had the following to say in his company’s “defense”:
“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. Touch matters, as it informs, excites and humanizes the digital world we interact with every day. Many of our licensed customers are market leaders that benefit from our innovation in touch technology. 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. We will vigorously defend the intellectual property we have developed when it is infringed.”
What exactly is Immersion asking for in the case? Why, a jury trial, and also “compensatory damages,” as well as an official exclusion order from the U.S. International Trade Commission that would prevent Apple from selling the products that are specified under the terms of the lawsuit.
Oh boy.. Look, Apple is quite frequently the target of patent trolls looking to “defend” their products — I mean, line their pockets, you know, but this case is clearly on a whole other level, altogether. It’ll definitely be interesting to see what ultimately comes out of all this, but we likely wont for a while, unfortunately.
What do you think about this case? Is Apple infringing on these patents in your opinion, or is Immersion — along with its legal team — in an altered stated of mind?
Featured photo Copyright: gilaxia