One morning last week, I walked past dozens of loyal Apple customers lined up to buy the new iPad 2. I scoffed as I walked by, my old, beat-up iPod nano playing in my ears. I also had the misfortune of walking past the same store later in the evening.
A sign in the doorway said something like, “Sorry, you’re too late. We’re sold out, na na na na.” Of course sample iPads were spread across the tables for gullible saps like me to play with, and I couldn’t resist. I really wanted to be able to legitimately say the gadget is silly and excessive, but — curse you, Steve Jobs — that thing is really cool.
It’s been, obviously, an exciting week for the company, but coincidentally (or not?) the Apple legal team has probably been working overtime too. Apple is no stranger to litigation, and we’ve covered Apple’s legal wrangling before.
Details about Apple’s hyperactive legal week — why Steve Jobs got deposed, who owns the phrase “App Store,” and a company that claims Apple stole intellectual property — after the jump.
Probably the biggest news, covered in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times, is Apple’s attempt to lay trademark claim to the phrase “App Store.” We assume you know what the App Store is, but just in case you live underwater, look at this. On Friday, the company sued Amazon, which opened its own “Appstore” (yes, there is no space or capital “S”) for Google Android. Apple jumped on this fast; Amazon’s Appstore only opened on Tuesday.
Says the New York Times:
Because Android is an open platform, unlike Apple’s, other companies can open stores that sell Android apps. But Amazon is perhaps a more formidable competitor than others because people are used to buying things through the site and its mobile apps — and many have stored their credit card numbers on Amazon for years.
Apple registered to trademark the phrase a while ago, in July 2008. The PTO recently approved it, but Microsoft is appealing the decision. The phrase seems pretty generic for a trademark; but then again “Let’s get ready to rumble” is also on that list, so what do I know?
Next up, lawyers opposing Apple in a consumer antitrust suit successfully got a judge to order Jobs himself to show up for a deposition.
According to Bloomberg, the plaintiff claims Apple “illegally limited consumer choice by linking the iPod to its iTunes music store.” Oddly, the case has been floating around since 2005, a.k.a. two years before Apple unleashed the first iPhone upon the world.
“The court finds that Jobs has unique, non-repetitive, firsthand knowledge about the issues at the center of the dispute,” Magistrate Judge Howard R. Lloyd wrote on Monday.
It can’t have been easy to get Jobs personally involved in this. Some attorney is really singing for his supper. For some reason I’m picturing the ridiculous deposition scenes from The Social Network, but with Jobs filling in for Jesse Eisenberg.
It’s not a free pass; the deposition can’t go longer than two hours, and questioning must follow strict topical guidelines. But still.
Last but not least, a company called Robocast (we haven’t heard of them either) sued Apple for patent infringement. Allegedly, Apple willfully incorporated Robocast’s patented automated browsing technology in products like iTunes and AppleTV. According to the complaint, Robocast’s technology reduces the number of “clicks and decisions” you need to make when browsing the Internet. Check out the link if you want more technical details.
According to the complaint, Robocast demonstrated its technology at a trade show in Los Angeles back in 1999, after which “at least one” Apple employee visited the company’s booth to learn more about it. Still according to the court documents, Torres met with an unnamed iTunes executive at a conference in San Diego, informing the Apple employee of his patent.
This is of course all meant to demonstrate that Apple knew about the … patent and willfully infringed it by making and selling products and services such as iTunes and Apple TV, which allegedly incorporate aforementioned automated web browsing technologies.
Without further ado, I open the floor to arguments about why Apple rules, why you hate the color wheel of misfortune, and why Steve Jobs’s pancreas matters to everyone. Have at it.
Christopher Danzig is a writer in Oakland, California. He previously covered legal technology for InsideCounsel magazine. Follow Chris on Twitter @chrisdanzig or e-mail him at email@example.com. You can read more of his work at chrisdanzig.com.