Apple Still Owes Caltech $838 Million as Appeals Court Declines to Invalidate Patent

Apple in January was ordered to pay the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) $838 million for infringing on Caltech patents related to WiFi transmissions.


Apple was hoping to get one of the patents in the case invalidated, but today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled against Apple and declined to invalidate the patent in question, upholding a prior decision from an administrative patent court.

According to Reuters, Apple tried to get the patent invalidated on "obviousness" grounds, suggesting the patent was an invention that came from standard product design and development and is obvious to experts.

The lawsuit dates back to 2016, when Caltech sued Apple and Broadcom for infringing on a series of patents granted between 2006 and 2012. The patents related to IRA/LDPC codes that use simpler encoding and decoding circuity for improved data transmission rates and performance, with the technologies used in the 802.11n and 802.11ac Wi-Fi standards supported by many Apple products.

Caltech claimed that Apple was infringing on four patents with the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, Apple TV, Airport routers, and Apple Watch, and demanded a jury trial along with preliminary and permanent injunctions against Apple products in the U.S. that use Caltech technology.

A jury in January ruled in Caltech's favor, ordering Broadcom to pay $270 million and Apple to pay $838 million. Apple still plans to appeal the verdict.


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Apple ‘Suffocates the Creation of New Technologies,’ Claims Former Chip Designer Being Sued for Breach of Contract

Apple has been in an ongoing legal fight with Gerard Williams III, who worked at Apple until February 2019 when he left to start up a new company called Nuvia with other Apple developers.

Williams was Apple's lead chip designer, working on the A7 to A12X chips that Apple used in its mobile devices, and his new company develops processors for use in data centers. Apple first sued Williams in August 2019, claiming that his contracts with Apple prevented him from engaging in business activities that are directly related to Apple's business.


Since then, Williams has claimed that Apple invaded his privacy and monitored his texts, while Apple complained that Williams had been planning and developing Nuvia while still at Apple, and also soliciting Apple employees.

In January, Williams tried to get the lawsuit brought against him by Apple rejected by the court, but he was unsuccessful, and now he's back with a new claim that Apple has been recruiting engineers from Nuvia.

According to Bloomberg, Williams says that Apple is aiming to lure his staff away and is also preventing its own employees from leaving to pursue their own ventures. He claims that Apple's lawsuit against him for breach of contract aims to "suffocate the creation of new technologies and solutions by a new business, and to diminish the freedom of entrepreneurs to seek out more fulfilling work."

He goes on to accuse Apple of improperly deterring employees "from making even preliminary and legally protected preparations to form a new business - whether competitive or otherwise."

There has been no final word on whether the case will progress to trial yet, though a judge has already dismissed Apple's bid for punitive damages against Williams as Apple failed to show how Williams intentionally tried to harm the company by being disloyal.

Tag: lawsuit

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Apple Could Owe Millions for Off-the-Clock Employee Bag Searches in California

Apple broke California law when it failed to pay employees for time spent waiting for mandatory bag searches at the end of their shifts, the California Supreme Court ruled today. [PDF]

The unanimous court decision, shared today by Bloomberg Law and The Los Angeles Times, dates back to a class action lawsuit filed against Apple in 2013.


Employees at the time alleged that Apple subjected them to mandatory bag checks that were conducted off the clock, leaving them uncompensated for their time. At the trial level, Apple actually won the lawsuit when the court ruled that Apple employees chose to bring personal bags to work and dismissed the case, but the decision was appealed and brought to a higher court.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is now handling the case, asked the California Supreme Court to clarify whether California state law requires compensation, and the California Supreme Court ruled that the law does indeed dictate that employees be compensated while waiting for bag checks.

"Hours worked is defined as the time during which an employee is subject to the control of an employer and includes all the time the employee is suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so," reads the court's opinion.
Based on the language of the control clause, Apple employees are entitled to compensation for the time during which they are subject to Apple's control. (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, Sn. 11070, subd. 2(G).) Applying a strictly textual analysis, Apple employees are clearly under Apple's control while awaiting, and during, the exit searches. Apple controls its employees during this time in several ways. First, Apple requires its employees to comply with the bag-search policy under threat of discipline, up to and including termination. Second, Apple confines its employees to the premises as they wait for and undergo an exit search. Third, Apple compels its employees to perform specific and supervised tasks while awaiting and during the search. This includes locating a manager or security guard and waiting for that person to become available, unzipping and opening all bags and packages, moving around items within a bag or package, removing any personal Apple technology devices for inspection, and providing a personal technology card for device verification.
Apple requires all personal packages, bags, and Apple devices that belong to retail employees to be checked by a manager or security before an employee is allowed to leave the store for any reason, including breaks, lunch, and the end of shifts.

Employees are also required to clock out before submitting to an exit search, and have estimated that the time spent waiting and undergoing searches ranges from five to 20 minutes. On busy days, some employees have waited for up to 45 minutes waiting for a bag check.

Apple has argued that allowing employees to bring bags and devices to work is a convenience and has positioned the searches as a "benefit" because employees could prevent searches by not bringing personal items or could be banned from bringing personal items all together. The California Supreme Court says that such a ban would be "draconian" and that Apple's arguments that employee iPhones are a convenience are "at odds" with how the iPhone is described in marketing materials.

"Its characterization of the ‌iPhone‌ as unnecessary for its own employees is directly at odds with its description of the ‌iPhone‌ as an 'integrated and integral' part of the lives of everyone else," reads the ruling.

The decision made today is retroactive, and the case will now return to the court of appeals where federal judges will apply the California Supreme Court's interpretation of the law. Prior evaluation of the case suggested that Apple could have to pay as much as $60 million should it be required to offer employees back compensation for the time spent undergoing bag checks.

Related Roundup: Apple Stores

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Apple Explains BlueMail Reinstatement, Says BlueMail Finally Complied With Gatekeeper Security Requirements

Last week, BlueMail co-founders Ben Volach and Dan Volach penned an open letter that encouraged any developers who feel that Apple kicked them out of the App Store or has treated them unfairly to share their stories.


BlueMail itself was removed from the Mac App Store in June 2019 after Apple found the app to be in violation of several App Store Review Guidelines, but the Volach brothers disagreed and argued that Apple showed "little willingness to resolve the issue" and provided "shifting explanations" as to why the app was removed from the Mac App Store and why it could not be reinstated.

Apple has since responded to the matter, refuting many of BlueMail's claims and noting that its App Store Review Guidelines apply evenly to all developers.

In a statement last week, shared with MacRumors, Apple said it "attempted on multiple occasions to assist them in getting their BlueMail app back on the Mac App Store," but said "they have refused our help." Apple added that BlueMail was "proposing to override basic data security protections which can expose users' computers to malware that can harm their Macs and threaten their privacy."

Just days later, however, BlueMail has returned to the Mac App Store, which BlueMail said is "proof that speaking out works."

"When we wrote to Tim Cook in November, we heard back in hours. When we wrote to Apple's developer community, BlueMail was back on the App Store within a week," said Dan Volach, co-founder at Blix. "If you're out there too scared to come forward, let this be your proof that speaking out works. To Apple, we want to reiterate that all we want for developers is an opportunity to be treated fairly."

Apple's response, however, suggests that BlueMail refused to take the necessary steps for its app to be reinstated on the Mac App Store until now.

Specifically, Apple says its Developer Technical Support team advised the BlueMail team to make changes to how it package its Mac app in order to resolve a security and privacy warnings issue related to the app creating a new binary with a bundle ID that changes on each launch.

Apple says that BlueMail finally submitted a revised version of its app with an updated binary respecting Gatekeeper on February 7, two days after its open letter to developers. Apple says its App Review team found that the previous issues had been addressed, allowing it to return to the Mac App Store as of Monday.

Nevertheless, BlueMail parent company Blix today said it has no intention of dropping its legal case against Apple, which it believes extends beyond the removal of BlueMail on the Mac App Store to the "suppression of its iOS app" and the "infringement of Blix's patented technology through 'Sign in with Apple.'"

"We're happy that users can once again get BlueMail through the Mac App Store, but we know this isn't the end. Our experience has shown that until the app review process includes effective checks and balances, Apple holds too much power over small developers," said Ben Volach, co-founder at Blix. "One solution could be to include external independent members and observers in Apple's App Review Board, just as a public company's Board of Directors represents its shareholders."

BlueMail parent company Blix's lawsuit against Apple, filed in October 2019, alleges that the "Hide My Email" feature of "Sign in with Apple" infringes on its patented technology. The complaint also accuses Apple of anticompetitive behavior, including removing BlueMail from the Mac App Store at the time.


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BlueMail Returns to Mac App Store, Developers Still Suing Apple Over Anticompetitive Behavior

Back in October, the developers behind email app BlueMail sued Apple, alleging that the "Hide My Email" feature of "Sign in with Apple" infringes on its patented technology. The complaint also accuses Apple of anticompetitive behavior, including removing BlueMail from the Mac App Store.


Last week, after months of making little to no progress with Apple towards having its Mac app reinstated, BlueMail co-founders Ben Volach and Dan Volach penned an open letter to the developer community that encouraged any developers who feel that Apple has kicked them out of the App Store or otherwise treated them unfairly to reach out to them and share their stories.

Just days later, the BlueMail app has returned to the Mac App Store. In a press release, BlueMail parent company Blix said it has no intention of dropping its legal case against Apple, which it believes extends beyond the removal of BlueMail on the Mac App Store to the "suppression of its iOS app and the infringement of Blix's patented technology through 'Sign in with Apple.'"

"We're happy that users can once again get BlueMail through the Mac App Store, but we know this isn't the end. Our experience has shown that until the app review process includes effective checks and balances, Apple holds too much power over small developers." said Ben Volach, co-founder at Blix. "One solution could be to include external independent members and observers in Apple's App Review Board, just as a public company's Board of Directors represents its shareholders."

"When we wrote to Tim Cook in November, we heard back in hours. When we wrote to Apple's developer community, BlueMail was back on the App Store within a week," said Dan Volach, co-founder at Blix. "If you're out there too scared to come forward, let this be your proof that speaking out works. To Apple, we want to reiterate that all we want for developers is an opportunity to be treated fairly."


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After Suing Apple, BlueMail Calls on Other Developers ‘Kicked Out’ of App Store to Join the Fight

Back in October, the developers behind email app BlueMail sued Apple, alleging that the "Hide My Email" feature of "Sign in with Apple" infringes on its patented technology. The complaint [PDF] also accuses Apple of anticompetitive behavior, including removing BlueMail from the Mac App Store.


"Hide My Email" hides a user's personal email address by substituting it with a unique, random email address when setting up an account in an app or on a website that supports "Sign in with Apple."

Apple explains how the feature works in a support document:
A unique, random email address is created, so your personal email address isn't shared with the app or website developer during the account setup and sign in process. This address is unique to you and the developer and follows this format: @privaterelay.appleid.com

For example, if j.appleseed@icloud.com is your Apple ID, your unique, random email address for a given app might look like dpdcnf87nu@privaterelay.appleid.com.

Any messages sent to this address by the app or website developer are automatically forwarded to your personal email address by our private email relay service. You can read and respond directly to these emails and still keep your personal address private.
After writing a public letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, BlueMail co-founders Ben Volach and Dan Volach said that they were contacted by Apple within a few hours, but they claim that the correspondence was merely a delay tactic.
We were overjoyed when we heard back from Apple within the day – within just a few hours in fact. It seemed to share our desire for a mutual solution and we worked quickly to meet its requests, but these too were just tactics meant to delay us.

Rerouted to teams that didn’t respond for weeks, told outright that our app doesn't run on macOS Catalina when we can prove it does, and given contradictory guidance from different teams within Apple, we found ourselves back at square one. Perhaps even worse than square one, because Apple’s legal team saw our willingness to work together as weakness and strengthened its stance against us.
Now, the Volach brothers have penned an open letter to the developer community, encouraging any developers who feel that Apple has kicked them out of the App Store or otherwise treated them unfairly to reach out to BlueMail and share their stories.
If any of that sounds familiar to you, if Apple has kicked you out of its App Store, used its developer guidelines to control your innovation, hijacked your store ranking, or (let's be honest with each other) lied to you while it steals your technology, it's time to talk. Even if you're not sure you want to go through with it (because we know how scary it can be), tell us your story. We won't share anything about you without your consent.

A lot of attention was placed on the congressional hearings in Colorado on January 17, but there are many who don't have the standing of Sonos or Tile. Together, we will have a voice.

We want to be back on the App Store, but we also want fairness. For us. For you. For all developers. Take a stand with us and email fair@bluemail.me with your experience.
BlueMail was removed from the Mac App Store in June 2019, the same month that Apple introduced "Sign in with Apple." In a nutshell, Apple found the app to be violating several App Store Review Guidelines, but the Volach brothers disagree and are now looking for other developers similarly situated to bolster their case.

BlueMail remains available on other platforms, including iOS and Android.

More Details: "A Call for Unity Against the Biggest Tech Company"


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Class Action Lawsuit Over iPhone 7 Audio Chip Defect Narrowed, But Allowed to Proceed

A class action lawsuit accusing Apple of violating consumer laws and breaching its warranties over an alleged iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus audio chip defect has been allowed to proceed, but the case has been narrowed.

U.S. district judge Jon Tigar on Thursday denied Apple's motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' claims for breach of implied warranty under California law, violations of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and unjust enrichment in the form of an alternative remedy. The court granted Apple's motion to dismiss the remaining claims, but the plaintiffs have an opportunity to amend their complaint within 21 days.


Filed in May 2019, the class action lawsuit alleged that "the materials used in the ‌iPhone‌'s external casing are insufficient and inadequate to protect the internal parts," eventually resulting in the audio chip losing electrical contact with the logic board due to "flexion" of the device during regular use.

The defect results in multiple issues on affected devices, ranging from a grayed-out speaker button to customers not being heard during phone calls and FaceTime video chats, according to the complaint.

The initial complaint sought an order that would require Apple to repair, recall, and/or replace the affected iPhones and to extend the warranties of the devices for a reasonable period of time. The plaintiffs also sought damages "likely in the millions of dollars" that would be divided among affected customers.

The class action has been consolidated in Northern California court.

"Loop Disease"


In an internal document obtained by MacRumors in May 2018, Apple acknowledged a microphone issue affecting some iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models. The memo to Apple Stores and Apple Authorized Service Providers described the same audio issues mentioned in the class action lawsuits.

The alleged defect is commonly referred to as "Audio IC issues" and it is also informally known as "Loop Disease" on the web.

Apple's document said service providers could request a "warranty exception" for affected iPhones, which resulted in free repairs for at least some customers, but that abruptly ended in July 2018 after Apple deleted the document.

Since then, some Apple employees have failed to acknowledge the internal guidelines ever existed, resulting in many customers having to pay an out-of-warranty fee of over $300 in the United States for a fix. Of course, some customers have managed to argue their way to a free repair, but mileage varies.

‌iPhone‌ 7 and ‌iPhone‌ 7 Plus devices still within Apple's limited one-year warranty period or covered by AppleCare+ remain eligible for a free repair, but the audio chip issues usually take time to manifest, and warranty coverage has lapsed on many of the devices since they were released in September 2016.

MacRumors has repeatedly contacted Apple for comment regarding the audio chip issues, but we have never received a response.

The full order on Apple's motion to dismiss is embedded below. Continue reading "Class Action Lawsuit Over iPhone 7 Audio Chip Defect Narrowed, But Allowed to Proceed"

Apple Ordered to Pay Caltech $838 Million for Infringing on WiFi Patents

Apple and Broadcom have been ordered to pay the California Institute of Technology a fine of $1.1 billion for infringing on Caltech's patents related to WiFi transmissions, reports Bloomberg.

Apple has been ordered to pay $838 million, while Broadcom has been ordered to pay $270 million, but Apple plans to file an appeal.


Caltech in 2016 filed a lawsuit against Broadcom and Apple, claiming that the two companies infringed on a series of patents granted between 2006 and 2012. The patents in question relate to IRA/LDPC codes that use simpler encoding and decoding circuity for improved data transmission rates and performance, with the technologies used in the 802.11n and 802.11ac Wi-Fi standards supported by many Apple products.

At the time, Caltech said that Apple was infringing on four of its patents with the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, Apple TV, Airport routers, and Apple Watch. Caltech demanded a jury trial and preliminary and permanent injunctions in the U.S. against Apple products using its technology. A jury today ruled that Apple and Broadcom violated three of the four patents.

Apple and Broadcom denied infringing on the patents and even filed counterclaims against Caltech, urging the court to invalidate the patents in question.

Apple claimed that because Caltech didn't file the lawsuit until 2016, six years after the 802.11n wireless standard was published, the time limit to collect damages had expired. Apple also argued that Caltech does not make, use, or sell products that practice the claims in the asserted patents.


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Apple Gains Footing in Court Feud With Former iPhone Chip Architect

A former Apple executive who worked on the chips that power iPhones and iPads has had a request to toss a breach-of-contract lawsuit brought by the company rejected by the court in a tentative ruling.


Last August, Apple sued its former A-series chip lead, Gerard Williams III, for breach of employment contract. Williams was the lead designer of Apple's custom ‌iPhone‌ and ‌iPad‌ chips from the A7 to A12X, before he departed the company in March 2019 to start his own chip company, Nuvia Inc, with two other former Apple chip executives.

Apple accuses him of breaching the contract because it barred him from planning or engaging in any business activities that are "competitive or directly related to Apple's business or products." Williams argues that a provision in the contract conflicts with a California law that allows workers to develop new businesses while they're employed elsewhere.

However, Bloomberg today reports that Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Mark Pierce said the law doesn't permit an employee "to plan and prepare to create a competitive enterprise prior to termination if the employee does so on their employer's time and with the employer's resources."

The judge also dismissed a claim by Williams that Apple invaded his privacy by reviewing text messages he wrote to coworkers that were critical of the company. In one of the messages, Williams is said to have claimed that Apple would have "no choice but to purchase" his new company.
Williams sought to have those texts excluded as evidence in the suit. Pierce disagreed. "There are no allegations in the complaint establishing that the text messages were obtained as the result of eavesdropping upon or recording a confidential communication," he wrote.
The judge sided with Williams in dismissing Apple's bid for punitive damages, saying the company has failed to show how Williams intentionally tried to harm Apple by being disloyal.

Bloomberg notes that the tentative ruling on regarding the California law doesn't address the merits of Apple’s claims, but it will allow the company to proceed with pretrial information-sharing if the judge decides to make it final.

Claude Stern, Williams' lawyer, said he would contest the judge's findings at a hearing in San Jose on Tuesday. He argues that Williams can't be sued for simply coming up with a new business idea while working at Apple, as opposed to taking inventions he worked on that belong to his previous employer.

Tag: lawsuit

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Apple and M. Night Shyamalan Sued Over ‘Servant’ TV Show’s Similarity to 2013 Movie ‘The Truth About Emanuel’

Apple and M. Night Shyamalan, producer of Apple TV+ show "Servant," are being targeted in a new lawsuit that accuses "Servant" of copying 2013 film "The Truth About Emanuel," according to The Blast.

"The Truth About Emanuel" director Francesca Gregorini claims that "Servant" appropriates the plot of her movie and uses the same "cinematic language," resulting in a "substantially similar feeling, mood, and theme."


Along with parallel plot points, Gregorini says that Servant also features "strikingly similar--and highly idiosyncratic--characters, scenes, directorial choices, and modes of storytelling."

Released in 2013 with Kaya Scoddelario and Jessica Biel, "The Truth About Emanuel" involves a 17-year-old babysitter who looks after a baby that turns out to be a doll replacing a baby that has died, which is indeed similar to the plot of "Servant."


The lawsuit targets ‌Apple TV‌+, show creator Tony Basgallop, producer M. Night Shyamalan, and other producers on the series. Shyamalan and the other show creators say that "Servant" was in development prior to the release of "The Truth About Emanuel."
"Defendants have arrogantly dismissed Ms. Gregorini's protests by vaguely claiming that Servant was in development long before Emanuel was made, and that any similarity is a coincidence. Indeed, Mr. Shyamalan and Mr. Basgallop implausibly claim they have never seen Emanuel--apparently not even curious enough to watch after hearing Ms. Gregorini's objections. Worse, Apple has brought stonewalling to a new level by simply referring inquiries to Mr. Shyamalan's lawyer (who in turns says he cannot speak for Apple)."
Gregorini is seeking unspecified damages, profits Apple made from the show, and an injunction to prevent "Servant" from being further distributed.

"Servant," which debuted on November 28, is wrapping up its first season with the final episode set to be released on Friday, January 17. Apple has already renewed the series for a second season. Given that the show is still in development and the last episode hasn't debuted, it's not yet known how similar it will end up being to the movie in question.

Based on the description of the film, there already seem to be significantly divergent plot elements, so it's not clear how the lawsuit will progress.


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