Apple sued by SmartPhone Technologies using patents from Palm and 3Com

“A company by the name of SmartPhone Technologies is suing Apple, AT&T and AT&T Mobility for patent infringement,” Jack Purcher reports for Patently Apple. “So what makes this patent troll case any different from the others? Well, interestingly, Smartphone Technologies states that they’re the ‘exclusive licensee’ of the six patents in this case that just happen to be heavy hitters from Palm and 3Com dating back to between 1997 and 2000.”

The six granted patents that are listed in this patent infringement case against Apple include the following Palm Inc, PalmSource Inc and 3Com patents:

• Granted Patent 6,976,217 Titled: Method and apparatus for integrating phone and PDA user interface on a single processor. From: PalmSource Inc. 2000
• Granted Patent 6,928,300 Titled: Patent Method and apparatus for automated flexible configuring of notifications and activation. From: PalmSource Inc. 2000
• Granted Patent 6,466,236 Titled: System and method for displaying and manipulating multiple calendars on a personal digital assistant. From: Palm, Inc. 1999.
• Granted Patent 6,243,705 Titled: Method and apparatus for synchronizing information on two different computer systems. From: Palm, Inc. 1998
• Granted Patent 6,956,562 Titled: Method for controlling a handheld computer by entering commands onto a displayed feature of the handheld computer. From: PalmSource, Inc., 2000
• Granted Patent 5,832,489 Titled: Method and apparatus for synchronizing information on two different computer systems. From: 3Com Corporation, 1997

More info and links in the full article here.


  1. How can a licensee of a patent bring a case to court against Apple? PA asks the question of who owns the company’s undisclosed 9%? Something is fishy here. I can’t believe that a troll who doesn’t even own the patents can make a case unless the owns are giving these lawyers a huge cut if they win. It stinks!

    1. I think the word ‘exclusive’ may have eluded you in your initial reading of the article posted. Depending on the agreement for the ‘exclusivity’, this may be a very real case. Android and the others are also then in the sights of this troll.

      My question is: who is behind this company?

  2. What I don’t understand is this. As an example, does the patent protect against every possible combination of theories for synchronizing information between two different computer systems or only the one specific way in which 3Com developed it? Can’t a separate entity, Apple, develop their own method which doesn’t use the 3Com technology?

    1. Good questions, that is what the court is for. First thing they’ll argue over whether the patent is too broad, or obvious, and if that doesn’t work to get rid of it, then Apple will argue that their implementation is unique or that they have prior art. Still a bit strange, especially if this exclusive licensee doesn’t actually make a product. I mean, what’s the point, other than to sue others? Are exclusive licenses cheaper than buying the patent? If so, why don’t more companies just get exclusive licenses rather than buying the patents. Could have saved Apple some dough on the Nortel patents! 😉

  3. Just read the linked to article. According to an update there, Acacia Research Corporation is behind this.

    Why wait nearly a decade to bring this kind of claim? And why Apple (well, to be honest, we all know why Apple)? Apple didn’t invent the smart phone. RIM was making them for some time.

    I’m not the type who likes to say that a law is needed for a solution to a problem, but this country (and the world) really needs a rational change to these egregious patent claims.

    Two thoughts come to mind. 1) A change to the patent system whereby a patent isn’t granted to a company/corporation unless the company actually manufactures (or will within, say… a 36 month period) something that the patent pertains to. Individual inventors would be exempt from this.
    2) No more patent holding companies… and to rid us of the ones that already exist, existing companies (like Acacia) are given ten years to profitably divest themselves of all their patents.

    1. Last I checked the smartphone was invented by Handspring (which was a Palm spin-off and later reabsorbed into Palm) in 2002 when they released the Treo.

      Which confuses me as to why Palm would “exclusively” license a patent to anyone, especially a company not making any products, unless HP, who now theoretically own the Palm patents, just inexplicably, recently, and quietly sold some licenses to a patent troll for no good reason.

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