Apple slapped with patent infringement lawsuit over iChat’s video backdrops

“A little-known corporation from Newport Beach, California is suing Mac maker Apple Inc., alleging that a new version of the company’s iChat video conferencing software infringes on patented technology through its use of custom video backdrops,” Kasper Jade reports for AppleInsider.

“In the 6-page complaint, filed Wednesday in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Digital Background Corporation claims that the Apple software infringes on its 1998 patent entitled ‘Real-Time Method of Digitally Altering a Video Data Stream to Remove Portions of the Original Image and Substitute Elements to Create a New Image,'” Jade reports.

“iChat 4.0, which shipped last month as part of the Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard operating system, also contains ‘a ‘backdrop’ feature which takes a picture of the background, replaces it with a photo or video of choice using a video frame storage and computer system to modify and then display the new image,’ the suit explains, without going into further detail,” Jade reports.

“Digital Background Corporation has asked the Court to award it a permanent injunction enjoining Apple from selling copies of Leopard that include the software, damages resulting from the infringement, treble those damages because DBC believes the infringement has been willful, and attorneys fees,” Jade reports.

More in the full article, including screenshots of the products in question, here.


  1. Willie,
    I don’t know about the merits of this case, but iChat certainly doesn’t use green or blue screen technology since it replacing a live background for the composited one. I suspect the regardless of the keying technology used, there are probably patents involved, no matter how old. Either Apple developed a new way to do it or licensed the technology from somewhere.

  2. The patent system is broken and the US Patent Office is manned by monkeys with rubber stamps. This is bad news for businesses and consumers, but great news for patent trolls and lawyers.

    Ahhh the American Dream… getting rich by having your lawyers legally swindle money from the hard working slobs who actually earned it.

  3. I am suing DBC et al. for patent infringement on my idea of suing companies that use technology to benefit others that is vaguely simiar to something that I have conjured up on my basement computer while warding off acne and herpes.

    And i’m suing my mother for not bringing me any more chocolate chip cookies. My company’s health has deteriorated as a result and i believe that it was a willful and deliberate act.

    FN Patent Trolls . . .

  4. I’m going to start suing like crazy since I hold the patent no. 1D10T-56823, which is as follows:

    ‘The method of instigating legal action against an individual or corporation for using some generic patent for a product that fewer than 50 consumers have employed in the last decade. As part of the method, damages will be claimed that are exponential to the real damages (if any), as well as anything else that we can conjure up. The method concludes with either; a) my case being thrown out, or b) out-of-court settlement.’

    Watch for letters from my lawyers boys!

  5. I love all the patent experts that come out of the woodwork during these infringement suits. Fact is, the general public is clueless about all things patents. But keep going, it’s entertaining!

  6. From what I understand about this feature, it works by using H.264’s image processing algorithms to identify the background data that doesn’t change and that data is then replaced by a different stream of H.264 data.

    If StarFX used the same methodology in a Windows environment (presumably in H.261/T-120), then Apple can look forward to a world of pain: however, given the processing power that was available in 2000, one has to wonder whether the similarity in methodology is even practical at which point DBC (who obviously acquired the patent from the defunct Viewics entity) might be on a hiding to nothing.

  7. Dear Anonymous (assuming that is your real name),

    My comment on patents was intended as a joke. I know nothing about patent law. I don’t claim to be a patent expert. I was simply making light of the fact that these suits are so incredibly frequent nowadays. It is my personal opinion that many…not all, but many of these are simply attempts to score cash from larger companies.

    But at least you’re entertained! Mission accomplished.

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