Apple Sued For Patent Infringement Over Passbook

Ameranth, Inc. filed a lawsuit against Apple, Inc. earlier this week in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California alleging that Apple’s new Passbook product infringes on Ameranth’s patented technology.

According to the complaint, Ameranth develops products to generate and synchronize menus and hospitality information across fixed, wireless, and web platforms. It claims to have been nominated by Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, for the 2001 Computerworld Honors Award, which it won. The complaint further alleges that Gates described the company as “one of the leading pioneers of information technology for the betterment of mankind.”

Judging from the complaint, this suit seems unlike a typical “patent troll” suits, in which a small company that owns but often does not itself develop innovations sues a major technology company for infringement of obscure patents. These types of suits are commonly seen as using the patent system to hinder, rather than promote, innovation and creativity. In contrast, Ameranth seems to develop its own technologies and innovations, which could suggest the company’s lawsuit is driven by more than a desire for profit.

Ameranth alleges that Apple’s Passbook product infringes on the following patents:

  • U.S. Patent No. 6,384,850: “Information management and synchronous communications system with menu generation”
  • U.S. Patent No. 6,871,325: “Information management and synchronous communications system with menu generation”
  • U.S. Patent No. 6,982,733: “Information management and synchronous communications system with menu generation, and handwriting and voice modification of orders”
  • U.S. Patent No. 8,146,077: “Information management and synchronous communications system with menu generation, and handwriting and voice modification of orders”

One notable aspect of the complaint is that Ameranth alleges that Apple knows of its patents because Apple cites Ameranth patents as a prior art reference in two of its own patents.

Read the Complaint in Ameranth Inc. v. Apple Inc.