Apple sued over allegedly infringing on digital rights management patents

| Mar 22, 2013 | Patent Law

Apple, arguably California’s most-respected corporate citizen, has been sued by a company called Intertrust, alleging that Apple’s line of products violate Intertrust’s patents.

Apple gets sued quite often, but for reasons we will discuss here, this lawsuit seems like it might be a little different in some ways.

Intertust makes digital rights management software, which is used to control who has access to movies, music and other electronic media. Sony and Phillips own large portions of the company.

Intertrust believes that Apple’s iPads, iPhones and even desktop computers rely on technology that would not exist if Apple had not swiped information from Intertrust.

What we thought was interesting here is that this lawsuit does not bear the hallmarks of those lawsuits filed by so-called “patent trolls,” a term for companies that focus more on suing wealthy companies over alleged patent infringement than they do making products or providing services.

Intertrust does not have a long history of litigation. In fact, its lone notable patent infringement lawsuit in the 1990s was a suit against Microsoft (which was sort of the Apple of the 1990s in terms of clout). That lawsuit settled in 2004 for $440 million.

We also think it is noteworthy because digital rights management is hot topic, particularly on the Internet. Many consumers are upset that when they buy, say, a book for their Kindle, they do not have the freedom to do whatever they want with that file the same way they would if they bought a physical copy of the book. Entertainment companies insist that digital rights management is necessary to prevent piracy, but some consumers chafe against it.

Source: The New York Times Bits, “Intertrust Sues Apple, Charging Patent Violations,” Nick Wingfield, March 20, 2013

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