As Evidence of Prior Art, Defendant Apple Cites Gene Roddenberry’s Tricorder and Maxwell Smart’s Shoe Phone
In 1999, a company called NetAirus Technologies applied for a patent on a “wireless handset communication system,” and though laughably broad, the United States Patent and Trademark Office granted it in 2006. Now, four years later, the company is using it to come after Apple (AAPL). On Friday, NetAirus filed suit against Apple, alleging that the iPhone–as a concept–infringes on its intellectual property.
Given the breadth of NetAirus’s patent, it’s hard to disagree. As best I can tell “Wireless Handset Communication System” describes all smartphones and ultraportables. From the patent abstract:
A small light weight modular microcomputer based computer and communications systems, designed for both portability and desktop uses. The systems make use of a relative large flat panel display device assembly (2), an expandable hinge device (10), battery power source (9), keyboard assembly (16), and wireless communications devices (32, 51). The systems are capable of bi-directional realtime communications of voice, audio, text, graphics and video data….
An objective of this invention is to provide for full Internet access on a wireless mobile platform, where the user can access the World Wide Web and execute most of the available Internet browser functions and plug-ins. The computer system would be capable of performing most of the Internet data access, download, upload and conferencing functions.
Quite the blanket description, no? How a patent so overly board could have made it through the USPTO is beyond me. The agency’s mandate is to protect and promote innovation, isn’t it?