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

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freemoney2

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!