A patent infringement lawsuit filed against Apple has been resolved in the tech giant’s favor. A federal jury in Texas concluded last Friday that Apple did not infringe five digital rights management (DRM) patents held by privacy technology company ContentGuard.
After about three hours of deliberations, eight jurors in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas unanimously found that Apple Inc.’s computer applications didn’t infringe ContentGuard Holdings Inc.’s patents. The jury also found that Apple did not owe any damages. Several months earlier another Texas jury cleared Google and Samsung of similar infringement claims.
ContentGuard accused Apple of applying DRM technology illegally to its digital content distribution services. Apple insisted that those claims were baseless. ContentGuard maintained that many of the world's mobile phones, tablets and e-readers rely on ContentGuard's digital rights management technologies to safeguard content from piracy.
The company sued Apple in 2013, and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Google Inc. a year later, claiming that the firms infringed several of its anti-piracy patents, which help restrict content access only to approved users. In September, a jury ruled that Google did not infringe on the same five patents. Then Samsung was also found not to have infringed on the patents.
We reached out to independent technology analyst Jeff Kagan to get his thoughts on the outcome of this lawsuit. He told us that ContentGuard likely had an uphill battle in taking on some of the world’s biggest tech companies in court.
"We've seen many of these kinds of cases over the years," he said. "Technology is one of the toughest areas to understand. This is obviously a clear victory for Apple."
ContentGuard, a digital rights management business, is a subsidiary of Pendrell Corp. The company was formed in 2000 as the result of a partnership between Microsoft Corp. and Xerox Corp. The company, now owned by Time Warner and Pendrell, holds close to 1,200 patents worldwide through its subsidiaries. The company has technology partnerships with LG, Microsoft, Nokia, Panasonic, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba, Casio, Hitachi, Time Warner and Xerox, but not Apple.
ContentGuard asserted that Apple infringed its five DRM patents by developing and retailing devices using such Apple programs as iBooks and iTunes to dispense movies, songs, books and shows that were DRM-protected.
At the time of the initial suit, James Baker, ContentGuard's vice president for licensing and strategic development, stated that a number of major companies worldwide recognized the value of the company’s technological innovations and were willing to pay reasonable amounts to lawfully use these innovations in their own products.
"Unfortunately, other companies have chosen to take the opposite approach, continuing to unlawfully use ContentGuard's intellectual property even after acknowledging that they should pay for its use," Baker said.
ContentGuard’s attorney, Samuel Baxter, said the company was disappointed by the outcome of the Apple case and is evaluating its options.