Apple has announced that the Free Labor Association (FLA) has started to conduct special voluntary audits of Apple’s final assembly suppliers—including Foxconn facilities in Shenzhen and Chengdu, China—at Apple’s request. According to a press release issued by the company, a team of labor rights experts led by FLA president Auret van Heerden began the first inspections Monday morning at the facility in Shenzhen known as Foxconn City. As part of the inspections, the FLA will interview “thousands” of employees, seeking information on working and living conditions, inspect manufacturing areas, dormitories, and other facilities, and conduct an extensive review of documents related to employment procedures, all with the full cooperation of Apple. The release claims that the FLA’s findings and recommendations from the first assessments will be posted in early March on its website, with similar inspections of Quanta and Pegatron facilities to be conducted later this Spring. When completed, the FLA’s assessment will cover facilities where more than 90 percent of Apple products are assembled.
“We believe that workers everywhere have the right to a safe and fair work environment, which is why we’ve asked the FLA to independently assess the performance of our largest suppliers,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook. “The inspections now underway are unprecedented in the electronics industry, both in scale and scope, and we appreciate the FLA agreeing to take the unusual step of identifying the factories in their reports.”
Apple has filed a new federal lawsuit against Samsung in the U.S., accompanied by a motion seeking a ban on sales of the Galaxy Nexus. FOSS Patents reports that Apple filed both in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California; the preliminary injunction filing has been released, while the main complaint has not yet entered public record. According to the report, Apple is asserting four patents in its injunction request, including the “data tapping” patent which led the International Trade Commission to order an import ban against HTC, a patent related to Siri and unified search, a new slide-to-unlock patent, and a word completion patent. The report notes that unlike Apple’s prior motion for an injunction against Samsung products—which was denied by Judge Judy Koh, to whom the new case has also been assigned—this filing is based on strong technical patents, as opposed to the design-related patents asserted previously. The move to block the Galaxy Nexus in particular is notable, as the device was developed by Samsung in close cooperation with Google, and serves as the flagship device for Android 4.0, meaning that “Google cannot deny its undivided responsibility for any infringement findings”.
Apple has filed a new lawsuit against Motorola Mobility in an attempt to prevent further litigation. Florian Mueller of FOSS patents reports that the suit, filed in the Southern District of California—close to where Qualcomm is based—claims that Apple, by way of the iPhone 4S’ use of a Qualcomm chip and an existing Motorola-Qualcomm patent licensing agreement, has every right to use Motorola’s patents in the handset. Should that prove true, Motorola may be guilty of breach of contract, which could result in damages awarded to Apple. In any case, a win by Apple is likely to derail any other lawsuits filed by Motorola against Apple over the iPhone 4S, both in the U.S. and internationally.
Motorola Mobility, which recently won its second patent ruling against Apple in Germany, has lost its bid for a third. Bloomberg reports that the Regional Court in Mannheim has rejected a Motorola suit accusing Apple of infringing upon a patent involving the use of mathematical sequences in mobile telecommunications. When delivering the ruling, Presiding Judge Andreas Voss said that Motorola didn’t show that Apple is violating the patent. Two more cases between the two companies are pending in German courts, according to the report. [via MDN]
Apple has started to air two new TV advertisements for the iPhone 4S. Like prior commercials for the 4S, the new spots, entitled “Rock God” and “Road Trip”, spotlight the device’s Siri voice-activated virtual assistant. The former shows a teen using Siri to find a guitar, songs to learn, keep a list of possible band names, and schedule band meetings, all before asking the phone to call him by the titular nickname. In the latter, a couple uses Siri to plan a Road Trip from NYC to Santa Cruz, CA, find places to eat, find directions, ask questions about roadside attractions, find gas stations, and ultimately remind them to take such a trip again. Both ads are available for viewing on Apple’s website via the above links or in embedded form below.
A German court has rejected a request from Apple to block sales of Samsung’s Galaxy 10.1N tablet in Germany. Citing the news agency dapd, the AP reports that a state court in Duesseldorf rejected Apple’s request for an injunction barring sales of the tablet, which is itself a modified version of the Galaxy 10.1 tablet that Samsung is barred from selling in Germany due to its similarity to the iPad. This latest ruling stated that Samsung had changed the design to the extent that the 10.1N did not breach Apple’s rights or German competition laws.
Apple has asked a European telecommunication standards body to set basic rules governing how companies license their industry-standard patents. Citing a recently disclosed letter from Apple to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, the Wall Street Journal reports that Apple said the telecommunications industry lacks consistent licensing schemes for the many patents necessary to make mobile devices, and offered suggestions for setting royalty rates.
In addition, the company claimed that the lack of clear guidelines for the licensing of patents on a fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory basis — otherwise known as Frand— has led many companies to demand abnormally high royalty rates from one another, and has thus led to patent infringement lawsuits. “It is apparent that our industry suffers from a lack of consistent adherence to Frand principles in the cellular standards arena,” wrote Bruce Watrous, VP and Chief IP Counsel with Apple. Apple has asked the body to set “appropriate” royalty rates for technology, relative to the number of industrywide patents required to make a device, and has also said that royalties shouldn’t be beyond a common base. Earlier this week, it was revealed that Motorola asked Apple to pay a royalty of 2.25 percent for sales of some iPhones and iPads, a deal that would have been worth over $1 billion in 2011 alone.
Apple quietly lost one of its most important iPhone and iPod executives late last year, according to a new report. Citing anonymous sources, 9to5Mac reports that David Tupman, Apple’s Vice President of iPhone and iPod engineering for over a decade, left the company late last year. Tupman was hired by the company shortly before the introduction of the original iPod, and was soon promoted to vice president of iPod engineering, a position that saw him help in the development of every iPod released to date. Tupman was also tapped to help build the iPhone, and, as a result, his title was expanded. In addition, Tupman is listed on around 70 Apple technology patents, including filings related to power and battery life management, noise-canceling ear buds, iPhone power adapters, and interaction with accessories. According to the report, a successor has yet to be named, but Apple is said to be actively pursuing a replacement from inside the company.
Apple and Walmart subsidiary Sam’s Club are in early discussions over the possibility of the latter’s warehouse club stores playing host to Apple Store-within-a-store locations. Citing anonymous sources, 9to5Mac reports that Apple is looking to expand the store-in-a-store program beyond its existing partnerships with Best Buy and Target. According to the report, a secondary plan is also being discussed, which would involve Sam’s Club selling Mac computers alongside its existing iPhone, iPad, and iPod offerings. The report notes that whatever the outcome of the discussions, it is unlikely such store-within-a-store locations would appear any time soon.
Apple has released a minor maintenance update to iBooks, addressing an issue where iBooks textbooks may not open under certain circumstances. An update to iBooks Author has also been released on the Mac App Store expressly to provide an updated version of the End User License Agreement. The original iBooks Author EULA drew criticism for a clause suggesting that Apple was potentially claiming exclusive distribution rights for any commercial work produced with the iBooks Author application, preventing users from distributing such works in other formats. The new EULA adds some necessary clarification, with an update to section 2.B.(ii) which now reads
The new EULA clause clarifies that Apple is enforcing exclusive distribution rights solely on content packaged in its own proprietary iBooks format, but that users retain their rights in their original content and may distribute this content outside of the iBookstore in any other format.
Motorola Mobility has won a second patent ruling against Apple in Germany, even as the latter has been forced to remove some iPhone and iPad models from its online store thanks to the prior ruling. Bloomberg reports that the Mannheim Regional Court found that Apple infringed upon a Motorola patent used to synchronize email accounts with its iCloud service, a ruling that allows Motorola hold Apple liable for damage. “The court has come to the conclusion that the wording of the patent does cover functions that were at issue here,” said ruling Judge Andreas Voss. Apple “wasn’t able to convince the court that it isn’t infringing.” Apple spokesman Alan Hely said that “Apple believes this old pager patent is invalid and we’re appealing the court’s decision.”
In addition, Apple overnight removed some iPhone and iPad models from its online store in Germany in response to a ruling from December claiming that the products infringe upon a Motorola patent related to GPRS technology. Specifically, the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and all Wi-Fi models of the iPad are affected—according to BBC News—but not the iPhone 4S or Wi-Fi-only models of the iPad. “While some iPad and iPhone models are not available through Apple’s online store in Germany right now, customers should have no problem finding them at one of our retail stores or an authorized reseller,” Hely said. Apple has appealed the December ruling, arguing that Motorola refuses to license the industry standard patent on fair and reasonable terms.
Update: Apple has since been granted a suspension of the injunction against the iPhones and iPads mentioned previously. ”All iPad and iPhone models will be back on sale through Apple’s online store in Germany shortly” Apple told SlashGear in a statement. “Apple appealed this ruling because Motorola repeatedly refuses to license this patent to Apple on reasonable terms, despite having declared it an industry standard patent seven years ago.”
Apple has hired former Xbox Live marketing boss Robin Burrowes. According to MCV, Burrowes, who had worked at Xbox for seven years, will become Apple’s marketing head for the App Store in Europe. Prior to his work with Microsoft, Burrowes worked for MSN and HMV. As noted in the report, Burrowes is the latest in a sting of high-profile British gaming executives Apple has added to its team, with most new additions focused on the marketing of either apps or iOS hardware.
Apple has lost its bid for a preliminary ban on sales of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1N and Galaxy Nexus in Germany. Bloomberg reports that the Munich Regional Court rejected the motion today in one of many patent disputes between the two companies. “Samsung has shown that it is more likely than not that the patent will be revoked because of a technology that was already on the market before the intellectual property had been filed for protection,” Judge Andreas Mueller said when delivering the decision. As noted in the article, the ruling comes just one day after a separate German court upheld a sales ban on Samsung’s original Galaxy Tab 10.1 model; the 10.1N is a modified version, created by the company to circumvent the sales ban.
Samsung was dealt another blow in its ongoing patent battle with Apple as a court in Germany has upheld a ruling barring sales of its Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet in the country. Reuters reports that a higher regional court in Duesseldorf, Germany, said that Samsung may not sell the older version of the 10.1 in Germany. Samsung redesigned the Galaxy Tab 10.1 for the German market only and named it Galaxy Tab 10.1N to get around the sales ban; Apple subsequently challenged that version in court, but had its claims rejected in a preliminary judgement. A final ruling in that case is expected on February 9.
Apple has announced that John Browett will join the company as senior vice president of Retail. Browett, who will report to Apple CEO Tim Cook, was previously CEO of European technology retailer Dixons, a title he had held since 2007. Browett will join Apple in April, and be responsible for Apple’s retail strategy, as well as the continued expansion of Apple retail stores around the world. Prior to Dixons, Browett held a series of executive positions at Tesco, advised retail and consumer goods clients at Boston Consulting Group, and earned a degree in Natural Sciences from Cambridge University before receiving his MBS from Wharton Business School. He replaces Ron Johnson, who left Apple late last year to become CEO of retailer J.C. Penney.
“Our retail stores are all about customer service, and John shares that commitment like no one else we’ve met,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We are thrilled to have him join our team and bring his incredible retail experience to Apple.”
Apple has implemented a new lottery reservation system for iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S sales in Hong Kong that it hopes will help limit the efforts of scalpers. 9to5Mac reports that the new system should prevent the scalpers from using automated bots to overwhelm Apple’s reservations servers by requiring prospective buyers to give both a name and ID number, which need to match a government ID presented at the time of purchase. It is unclear if Apple plans to expand the use of the system to other areas and countries; the full text of Apple’s message regarding the change appears below.
“Due to high demand, we are accepting a limited number of iPhone reservations per day. To request an iPhone reservation, please choose your store and the iPhone you want. If we have an iPhone reservation for you, you’ll receive a confirmation email by 9:00 p.m. tonight that includes the time when you can pick up your iPhone tomorrow. A government-issued photo ID matching the name and ID number on your reservation is required for iPhone purchases. If you don’t receive an email, we were unable to reserve an iPhone for you, and you can try again another time. Only those who receive an email confirming their reservation will be able to purchase an iPhone; we will not be selling iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S to walk-in customers.”
After months of backlog, Apple appears to have finally reached a supply/demand balance on the iPhone 4S, at least in the United States. A quick check of the company’s online store shows all three iPhone 4S capacities—in both black and white—as “In Stock”, suggesting that new orders likely ship out as soon as the payment can be processed. During last week’s financial results conference call, Apple CEO Tim Cook discussed the overwhelming demand for the iPhone 4S, saying that the company made a “large bet” in building as many units as it did, but still “bet too low”, as it ended the quarter with a backlog of orders. [via Electronista]
After being fined late last year by the Italian antitrust authority for failing to inform its customers of their legal right to two years of technical support, Apple has posted a new notice regarding the case on its online store in the country. Ars Technica reports that the Italian Apple Store now features a prominent link at the top which leads to directly to the court decision, which contains an explanation of how Apple must change its marketing language for its AppleCare Protection Plans to reflect the mandatory two-year warranty. Apple’s products typically come with only a one-year limited warranty.
Samsung has lost its second patent infringement against Apple in Germany. A spokesman for the Regional Court in Mannheim, Joachim Bock, told Bloomberg that the suit—related to three telecommunications standards—has been rejected, while Samsung claims that the ruling relates to only one of several patents asserted against Apple. “We are disappointed that the court did not share our views regarding the infringement by Apple of this specific patent,” Samsung said in a statement. “We will wait for the written grounds of today’s judgment, and after thorough review make a decision about a possible appeal.” Apple had no specific comment on the ruling, according to the report.
Following yesterday’s report in The New York Times highlighting the sometimes hard lives of those who work in the factories where Apple’s products are made, Apple CEO Tim Cook has sent out an email to all Apple employees in response. “As a company and as individuals, we are defined by our values. Unfortunately some people are questioning Apple’s values today, and I’d like to address this with you directly. We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain”, Cook writes in the lengthy email, which was reprinted by 9to5Mac. “Any accident is deeply troubling, and any issue with working conditions is cause for concern. Any suggestion that we don’t care is patently false and offensive to us. As you know better than anyone, accusations like these are contrary to our values. It’s not who we are.” The email continues for several more paragraphs, in which Cook reiterates the company’s commitment to being a leader in this area. For the full text of the email, visit the link above.