Hey, Look, Everybody! Free Money! (Just Sue Apple!)

Hey, Look, Everybody! Free Money! (Just Sue Apple!)

Everybody and their mother is trying to cash in on Apple’s success, or dictate the evolution of media and technology through the courts.

Shameless gold diggers, grand-standing government attorneys, vindictive rivals, patent trolls and, well, good old-fashioned morons are dragging the world’s most valuable company into court to try and get their piece of Apple’s $110 billion pile of cash.

You won’t believe some of the crazy lawsuits Apple is currently defending itself against.

Some of these lawsuits are about small things. An 83-year-old woman is suing Apple for $1 million because she walked into a glass door at an Apple Store. She says clear glass doors represent negligence.

But others are about huge issues. For example, Apple is being sued by a company called FlatWorld Interactives, which claims that all of Apple’s touch products — all of them! — from iOS devices to Magic Mouse — infringe the company’s patents.

And another company called Potter Voice Technologies is suing Apple, Google and other companies over voice control of computer functions. They claim that the general idea of controlling any kind of computer with voice is their intellectual property.

If these were upheld by the courts, it would mean that Apple would have to pay these two companies a percentage for every product they ship. Wouldn’t that be nice!

Many of the lawsuits appear to involve attempts by Apple’s competitors to use the courts or government lawyers to slow down Apple as an industry rival.

For example, the US Department of Justice is suing Apple, alleging “price fixing” for it’s “agency mode” for selling books on iBooks. So far 16 states have joined in. (Three similar lawsuits have been filed against Apple in Canada.)

There’s some speculation that Amazon is behind the lawsuit. The company is named 90 times in the suit, and is the lawsuit’s sole beneficiary. Apple found a way to compete against Amazon’s strategy, which is to eliminate rivals in the market by selling books at a loss. And now Amazon may have discovered the most ironic way to compete ever: to use federal anti-trust action to protect its anti-competitive monopoly!

Some current lawsuits against Apple are just byproducts of the insanely not-so-great patent system, which results in nearly every major mobile consumer electronics company suing just about every other.

Samsung is suing Apple over alleged patent infringement, claiming that Apple violated eight of its patents. The lawsuit came one day after a federal court ordered the two companies to settle their patent disputes out of court.

Motorola has filed a suit against Apple for the same thing, but over technology for improving the quality of phone calls.

One lawsuit looks to shift the responsibility of parenting from the user to Apple. A class-action suit brought against Apple by parents alleges that some iOS apps make it easy for children to spend their parent’s money without permission. Some children’s “freemium” games, such as Draw Something and Smurfs’ Village make it easy to buy things from within the game with the click of a button. At issue is the 15-minute time limit after an iTunes password is entered on an iOS device. During that time you can buy stuff without re-entering the password, and sneaky kids are using that window to buy games and features with their parents’ credit cards.

Other lawsuits are just an inevitable part of doing business with China, Inc. A Chinese company called Proview Technology Shenzhen is suing Apple over the iPad trademark. Apple bought the rights, but did so under a corporate pseudonym.

Chinese authors are suing Apple for Copyright infringement because they say Apple made available for sale at least 22 Chinese works in the iBooks store that were unlicensed.

In other cases, Apple is dragged into lawsuits as just another Silicon Valley company that acts like a Silicon Valley company. Apple and a gaggle of other California companies are being sued by five Silicon Valley engineers for conspiracy not to “poach” each other’s employees.

Perhaps the flakiest lawsuits are those that claim features clearly labeled as “beta” don’t work right. A Canadian law firm is putting together a class-action suit that claims Siri doesn’t work right, that questions often aren’t understood, or can’t be answered. That suit follows one filed by a New York man for the same thing.

Apple is being singled out here. Imagine if people filed lawsuits every time a tech company shipped a beta product that didn’t work as well as we’d all like.

Long story short: Apple is currently defending itself against a huge number of lawsuits.

And this is why you should tell your kids to become lawyers, not innovators. Kidding! If you’re good enough at creating awesome consumer electronics, you can afford to hire an army of lawyers to keep the gold diggers at bay.

See you in court!

  • iamiJohn

    Just because they’re Apple doesn’t mean they are 100% clean. All big corporations get their share of frivolous lawsuits. That doesn’t mean that all of them are.

  • JonnyPC12

    Apple deserves it for suing Samsung for (apparently) compying the ipadbthe the galaxy tab!

  • Dave

    Recall back 15 years or so and Apple was suing Microsoft because MSFT was at the top and had money. What goes around, comes around.

  • nodnerb93

    “clearly marked beta”???? Siri was the main advertising point for the iPhone 4s and I didn’t hear them say it was beta once. Also, I though it was absolutely ridiculous when my friend said, “Read me that last text” like on the commercials but it didn’t work because there were no “unread” texts. I don’t understand how reading a text would make it invisible to Siri. -_-

  • MacAdvisor

    Viewed by any reasonable standard, the article doesn’t prove its case. The thesis here is Apple is getting sued just because it has money, not because the suits don’t have merit. First, law suits for money damages are rarely filed against people without money. There is little point to the suit as the ultimate goal of gaining compensation for a wrong will not be fulfilled as the target can’t pay the bill, however valid the claim. This is not being able to get blood from a stone. Apple is not judgment proof, so, yes, people will sue it. That isn’t unusual.

    Next, there wasn’t any exploration of the merits of the cases. In the glass door case, for example, if the store has had repeated problems and many previous injuries due to the door being entirely glass, then, yes, Apple is negligent for not correcting the door. Negligence is the breach of a duty that causes harm to a person. As customers are invitees, Apple owes the highest duty of care to them and not seeking out and correcting defects is a clear and long-established breach of the duty of care. The invitee is not only entitled to compensatory damages, that is damages to compensate for the damage caused by the breach of duty, but also to punitive damages, that is damages sufficient to push the negligent actor to change his ways. Hence, a million dollar claim for negligence is actually rather small given Apple daily income. A million dollar punishment to Apple is rather like a ten dollar parking ticket to the rest of us.

    As the article never examined the merits of the cases, we don’t have any basis to judge their worth. While I doubt they are all winners, they may all still have merit (merit is a question of law or fact or the reasonable extension of current law to a question). If Apple has harmed someone through negligence or has stolen someone’s property through patent infringement, why shouldn’t the aggrieved party seek redress? What is the author’s solution? Let Apple have a free ride to harm people and steal?

    The thesis of the article is wholly unsupported. This is a meritless article.

  • lwdesign1

    Recall back 15 years or so and Apple was suing Microsoft because MSFT was at the top and had money. What goes around, comes around.

    This is utterly false. Apple sued Microsoft because they stole the whole GUI idea (Graphical User Interface) that had icons, windows, a mouse and click to open. Before Apple researched, developed and made the GUI into a simplified workable system, Microsoft had only MSDOS as their operating system, a text-only command line interface with no graphics, icons or windows anywhere. Bill Gates’ crew then pirated all these insanely great ideas and came out with “Windows”, and this is why Apple sued. It was a very obvious case of intellectual property theft of groundbreaking ideas–except that Microsoft got away with it. It’s a nearly identical situation where Apple created iOS on the iPhone, iPod and iPad, and then Google copied it nearly down to the pixel level with Android.

  • Dave
    Recall back 15 years or so and Apple was suing Microsoft because MSFT was at the top and had money. What goes around, comes around.

    This is utterly false. Apple sued Microsoft because they stole the whole GUI idea (Graphical User Interface) that had icons, windows, a mouse and click to open. Before Apple researched, developed and made the GUI into a simplified workable system, Microsoft had only MSDOS as their operating system, a text-only command line interface with no graphics, icons or windows anywhere. Bill Gates’ crew then pirated all these insanely great ideas and came out with “Windows”, and this is why Apple sued. It was a very obvious case of intellectual property theft of groundbreaking ideas–except that Microsoft got away with it. It’s a nearly identical situation where Apple created iOS on the iPhone, iPod and iPad, and then Google copied it nearly down to the pixel level with Android.

    You mean the GUI idea that Apple stole from Xerox first? That GUI? Hence the reason MSFT was not found guilty in the case.

  • James_Ala1

    Mr. Mike Elgan,

    The government of the U.S. has a case, Eric Holder is not grandstanding. Apple’s “Agency” method skates perilously close to a conspiracy to restrain trade, an anti-competitive act. That Amazon is also anti-competitive is of no matter. There Warehousing model is a tried and true model which violates no law. Apple can:

    1 Defend itself in court.
    2. Counter-sue Amazon for restraint of trade, unfair practices. As you pointed out, they have the money; they can buy a few suits themselves.

  • Tallest_Skil

    *ahem*

    “But… but these aren’t patent trolls! They’re legitimately protecting their stuff!”

    O~R…

    “Ah, see what you get when you let Apple get these “incredibly generic” patents? Other people get generic patents and they’re obviously entitled to them because of how “broad” and “sweeping” Apple’s patents are. Take that, Apple fans!”

    O~R…

    “… Maybe I should have actually done something with my life so that I could have a patent to sue Apple with. Maybe I’d have some money that way…”

    I think that covers it.

  • Erik Maier

    Holy fucking balls I was going to respond to the idiocy of the commenters in this thread but there’s just too much of it.

  • ApplePr0n

    People can’t stand to see something or someone become succesful. Its ridiculous that people spout off ridiculous things like “Apple never said Siri was in Beta” actually, they did, numerous times. It’s a beta product (which i will say is very non-Apple to release a product in beta)

  • gavernmusic

    While it seems obviously apparent that since Apple’s mass rise to success that people are suing Apple which is obviously motivated by the wealth, I do agree that the Smurfs Village app was a very bad judgement on Apples part to allow a company that predominantly advertised its game to children as young as 5 to sell a “virtual basket of berries” for €79! Which is over $100! A lady I was teaching on her new Apple computer & her iPad, and all her kids’ iPod touches was outraged when one month she got a bill for over €890! from Smurfs Village via the app store. Yes, I understand that it’s the parents responsibility to restrict certain elements of in app purchases etc but this women knew nothing about Apple products a year ago and here I am teaching her and telling her how “great Apples reputation is and what a great company they are etc” and then she gets this bill. It was highly embarrassing and extremely deceptive of the makers of smurfs village. Apple is very much do responsible because the approved the app and they approved the sale of virtual berries for €79 as an in app purchase. Whilst 90% of the time Apple is a great and well respected company, this instance of deception via third party apps has made a lot of people livid. And it makes me as a trainer weary of recommending the app store for games etc when stuff like this happens. I would also sue them for this considering that this lady has tried for two months to get her money back and it’s been a huge deal of work etc. You just feels deceived but as far as the other stupid reasons for suing Apple, well those folks are wasting everybody’s time and are just selfish in my opinion.

  • technochick

    You mean the GUI idea that Apple stole from Xerox first?

    Xerox tried that claim only to have it dismissed by the courts, likely on the grounds that the idea of a GUI isn’t something worthy of a patent, only the mechanisms to achieve it would be.

  • technochick

    Mr. Mike Elgan,

    The government of the U.S. has a case, Eric Holder is not grandstanding. Apple’s “Agency” method skates perilously close to a conspiracy to restrain trade, an anti-competitive act.

    No it isn’t. The separate Favored Nation clause might be but not the agency model. Especially since the publishers could still demand some level of pricing control even in the wholesale model.

    And while they have leaked emails between the publishers no one has given out any proof that Apple was part of the whole “we have to stand together” business that would be likely viewed as collusion. Apple offered the same terms they do all other sales by, nothing more or less.

  • technochick

    People can’t stand to see something or someone become succesful. Its ridiculous that people spout off ridiculous things like “Apple never said Siri was in Beta” actually, they did, numerous times. It’s a beta product (which i will say is very non-Apple to release a product in beta)

    Even if you argue that they didn’t ever say it was Beta they have been very clear that not all services work every where etc.
    Just like they have been clear that LTE is only in the US etc.

  • technochick

    While it seems obviously apparent that since Apple’s mass rise to success that people are suing Apple which is obviously motivated by the wealth, I do agree that the Smurfs Village app was a very bad judgement on Apples part to allow a company that predominantly advertised its game to children as young as 5 to sell a “virtual basket of berries” for €79!
    .

    1. There’s a thing called restrictions
    2. there’s a thing called watching your kid and what’s he’s doing it

    3. they refunded all those initial charges despite Terms that users agree to that said that all sales are final. and they enabled users to adjust the time for the password to kick in.

  • voloder
    Recall back 15 years or so and Apple was suing Microsoft because MSFT was at the top and had money. What goes around, comes around.

    This is utterly false. Apple sued Microsoft because they stole the whole GUI idea (Graphical User Interface) that had icons, windows, a mouse and click to open. Before Apple researched, developed and made the GUI into a simplified workable system, Microsoft had only MSDOS as their operating system, a text-only command line interface with no graphics, icons or windows anywhere. Bill Gates’ crew then pirated all these insanely great ideas and came out with “Windows”, and this is why Apple sued. It was a very obvious case of intellectual property theft of groundbreaking ideas–except that Microsoft got away with it. It’s a nearly identical situation where Apple created iOS on the iPhone, iPod and iPad, and then Google copied it nearly down to the pixel level with Android.

    You mean the GUI idea that Apple stole from Xerox first? That GUI? Hence the reason MSFT was not found guilty in the case.

    Wow…the typical Apple hater comeback. There’s just one problem, Apple didn’t steal it. They ga e Xerox lots of stock in return for a look around the research labs. They laid for it fair and square. Sorry to rain on your parade.

  • voloder

    Holy fucking balls I was going to respond to the idiocy of the commenters in this thread but there’s just too much of it.

    Well put.

  • gavernmusic
    While it seems obviously apparent that since Apple’s mass rise to success that people are suing Apple which is obviously motivated by the wealth, I do agree that the Smurfs Village app was a very bad judgement on Apples part to allow a company that predominantly advertised its game to children as young as 5 to sell a “virtual basket of berries” for €79!
    .

    1. There’s a thing called restrictions
    2. there’s a thing called watching your kid and what’s he’s doing it

    3. they refunded all those initial charges despite Terms that users agree to that said that all sales are final. and they enabled users to adjust the time for the password to kick in.

    There is no way you can justify €79 for a box of virtual berries in a game advertised for children. Ok. You know just as well as I do that the makers of that game were well aware of the deception they were creating because no parents in their right mind would authorise $100 for a stupid box of virtual berries. And Apple has not refunded all of the charges, not even near. That is why they are being sued by many people over this App. You cannot in any way justify apples approval of the app when it comes to €79 for a virtual picture of berries that is smaller than a peanut on your screen. This case has been all of the newspapers in Europe because it reeks with complete intentional deception. Plus if Apple intends to make sure that parents know the “Clear terms & conditions” of their app store etc, they need to educate the phone stores that sell the iPhone so that their customers are WELL AWARE of how it works, instead they hand it to them and let them guess after they’ve taken your money. If everybody had time to read the terms and conditions of every bloody app and thing you download and buy we would be a 100 by the time we finished reading it. Their needs to be a CLEAR statement in RED writing next to games that are geared at kids that sell in app purchases. And no one can justify €79. Please don’t even try and defend Apple here, they approved the app.

  • mysteryliner

    Oh, gee! So should the creators of star trek sue every single company? Every tablet on this entire earth looks like the one on star trek. And voice control… I’m pretty sure they used voice control in star trek. and didn’t they use fingers to control the tablet on star trek? sue sue sue.
    oh jeez

  • Rob Bowers

    Viewed by any reasonable standard, the article doesn’t prove its case. The thesis here is Apple is getting sued just because it has money, not because the suits don’t have merit.

    Spoken like a true bottom-feeder…er ah lawyer.

    The premise is, lawsuits abound when one becomes successful. Merit or not, the observation holds some truth to the casual observer. We see it all too often when an individual or business becomes successful, hoards try to whittle in with their claims of being wronged by those who succeed.

  • chabig

    You mean the GUI idea that Apple stole from Xerox first? That GUI? Hence the reason MSFT was not found guilty in the case.

    Although Xerox invented the “idea” of a GUI, the Mac GUI was entirely invented by Apple. Look around the web to see what Xerox’s GUI looked like–nothing like the Mac. Apple sued Microsoft because Microsoft didn’t do the same development work. They essentially copied the Mac GUI (except they made it upside down and backwards). The reason Apple lost the case had nothing to do with Xerox. Apple lost because Microsoft had a license from Apple and the court determined that Windows GUI was permitted under the license.

  • Tallest_Skil

    You mean the GUI idea that Apple stole from Xerox first? That GUI? Hence the reason MSFT was not found guilty in the case.

    Yes, the one that Apple legally purchased from Xerox and the one stolen from Apple by Microsoft. Or perhaps you believe that Apple stole iTunes by buying the company that made it?

    Better sue Apple for stealing Siri, Final Cut Studio, and Logic Studio, too!

  • Shawn Waszak

    I think if you sue Apple, you should be denied future Apple products.

  • Nathan Buth

    Just saying, this whole well so and stole this from so and so is ridiculous. Should certain things be completely protected in the world of technology? Yes but not every last thing. You see different tech companies utilizing what others have put out is the only thing that really causes new inventions and innovations to happen. The GUI case between Apple, Microsoft, and Xerox is a messy one but it is ridiculous to think that the world of technology would have been better off not happening the way it has. Anybody who has used a Windows PC and a Mac can tell you that there are huge differences in how their OSs are set up and work. Do they have similarities? Absolutely but that is a good thing. Think about it as borrowing or copying certain functionalities and adapting them to your purpose. Without that we would have no variety in any kind product from complicated pieces of technology like computers and phones down to things as simple as hand tools. Imagine where we would be at today if back when everything was done manually there was a person freaking out because somebody else decided to put a wooden handle on their tool. Sorry this is not on topic completely with the post, the immature comments that saw made me have to type this out. XD

  • Viksit Taliyan

    apple is garbage !!! peace

  • Viksit Taliyan

    pointless garbage text.. dont waste your time in such things dear!!

  • Viksit Taliyan

    dear dont write such garbage text… u just wasting your time.. do some better things in life

  • bmeeks

    Apple does deserve it they are sue happy because other company’s make better products than them. Its sad you would think a company like apple would make a better example for the rest of us that you don’t win bye sueing you win bye making better products I don’t buy Samsung phone because they are similar to apple I buy them because they are very superior and open source. Apple in general is a square while the rest of the world is abstract shapes which can be minipultedinto anything instead of being locked down to a specific program cause apple says so. I feel bad for all of you closed minded people I loved my iPhones from the first to the 4s but I finally got tired a few months ago and bought a galaxy note GAME OVER. I’m no longer a fan boy of any brand all I have to say is whoever builds the best device I’ll buy their products period.

  • savarona

    or there is other way,get money from apple and defense them on your column.

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Mike ElganMike Elgan writes about technology and culture for a wide variety of publications. Follow Mike on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

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