Optics startup claims Apple stole its design for dual-lens iPhone camera

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iPhone 8 camera
The iPhone dual-lens cameras are the subject of a lawsuit claiming deliberate Apple patent infringement.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

A small company that makes dual cameras for cellphones claims Apple is infringing on several of its patents. The Israeli startup says it showed Apple prototypes for a miniature telephone lens, and Apple used them to create its own.

According to Corephotonics, the iPhone X, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone 7 Plus all use technology for which it holds patents.

Unlike many of the companies that sue Apple, Corephotonics isn’t a patent troll–a company that produces nothing but lawsuits. The Israeli business actually makes cameras. The startup received funding from Samsung Ventures,  Foxconn, and MediaTek.

It’s run by David Mendelovic, an optics expert formerly with the Israeli Ministry of Science. He’s now a professor at Tel Aviv University in addition to being CEO of his own company, which employees about 50 people.

Deliberate Apple patent infringement?

Mendelovic claims he began meeting  with Apple in 2012, with Apple engineers looking at his company’s prototypes for a telephoto lens small enough to fit in a smartphone. In 2014, Apple supposedly asked to borrow one of the prototypes.

Mendelovic met with Apple again in 2016 “in the hopes of establishing a strategic partnership.” However, Apple chose to not license Corephotonics technology.

A few months later, the iPhone 7 Plus debuted with a camera that the Israeli company claims infringes on its patents.

Corephotonics filed its first lawsuit against Apple last year, claiming infringement in the iPhone 7 Plus. A second lawsuit filed in the Northern California District Court claims that the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 also infringe. 

Apple has its own patents for a dual-lens smartphone cameras, so Corephotonics’ lawyers will have to prove that Apple based its designs on “borrowed” technology.