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Monday, 12 December 2011 13:31

Apple patent trollage deal exposed

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Let someone else do the dirty work


Apple is currently entangled in numerous patent disputes with several tech companies, perhaps most notably Samsung, and it seems Cupertino has enlisted some help, in the form of a shady front company supposedly based in Virgina.

Thanks to some old school investigative journalism by TechCrunch, some light has been shed on behind the scenes wheeling and dealing by Apple, and possibly other tech companies. According to the report, Apple signed over several crucial patents to Digitute Innovations, a Virginia based company with the stated mission to “acquire, aggregate, and license key technology areas within the consumer electronics and related technology fields in a patent consortium.” Nothing unsavory about this, tech companies go to great lengths to protect their IP and it makes sense to join other companies to cut litigation costs and speed up the process.

However, Digitude is hardly what it seems at first glance. The outfit was founded in 2010 with $50 million from Altitude Capital Partners, and it quickly started targeting Apple’s competitors with legal action. Digitude filed patent infringement allegations against RIM, HTC, LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sony, Amazon and Nokia earlier this year and it cited some Apple patents in the claim. Digitude got the patents from Cliff Island LLC, which is basically a suitcase company, without a phone number, or physical office for that matter, which is a bit unusual for a company dealing in Apple patents. In fact, TechCruch found that the company is located in Manhattan, the very same address and same floor as Altitude Capital.

Basically Apple transferred its patents to a patent troll via a suitcase front company, which shares the same office as Altitude Capital. One reason Apple would do so is to groom Digitude into a patent hit man of sorts, which could take on the competition without dragging Apple’s name through the mud, as it is already getting a lot of flak for patent trolling. On the other hand, Digitude might have grabbed Apple’s patents as part of a settlement, but it is hard to see how or why Apple would merely hand over its patents without a protracted legal fight, which would have not gone unnoticed by the media.

More here.




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