- June 23, 2011
Apple has received approval from U.S. antitrust regulators to bid for the assets of now-bankrupt Nortel Networks, according to a statement released by the Justice Department. Citing a person familiar with the situation, Bloomberg reports that the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department reviewed and approved Apple’s request to bid for a number of the defunct company’s patents, although it will continue to review any anticompetitive issues that could arise if an agreement is reached. Reuters reported last December that Apple was expected to bid on the patents, which pertain to third- and fourth-generation wireless technology such as Long Term Evolution (LTE), optical and data networking, Internet video, Internet advertising, voice technologies, and personal computers.
Evidence that Apple is building its own mapping service has been found in the first beta version of iOS 5. Mac Rumors reports that the legal disclaimers found in iOS 5 hold a new section called “Map Data,” which is separate from Google’s own legal terms for its map data. In the new section, references to various companies are found. Those companies include Core Logic, a company offering Parcel data that marks boundaries of properties for positional accuracy, Getchee, which offers positional and market data for the Chinese, Indian, and Southeast Asian markets, Increment P Corp, a company providing location and traffic data for Japan, MapData Sciences, which provides mapping data for Australia and New Zealand, and DMTI, which provides postal code data for Canada. The list also includes TomTom, which provides global TeleAtlas mapping data—also licensed by Google for its map solution—Urban Mapping, a company that provides in-depth neighborhood data and was a prior partner of PlaceBase, a mapping company acquired by Apple in 2007, and Waze, which offers real-time maps and traffic information based on crowd-sourced data.
What the inclusion of these companies in the iOS 5 legal disclaimers means for iOS 5 users is unclear, given Google’s claim that Apple has recently renewed its Map partnership with Google, however it appears that Apple is continuing to work on its own mapping service, even as it continues to include Google Maps in its iOS devices.
- June 23, 2011
Apple is facing some difficulties in its suit to stop Amazon from using the “appstore” name for its Android application store. Reuters reports that District Judge Phyllis Hamilton said during a hearing yesterday that she would reread some of the supporting papers in the case, but added that Apple has a “stumbling block” in proving that anyone would confuse its App Store with Amazon’s Appstore for Android. As such, Hamilton did not make a final ruling, nor did she give any date as to when a ruling might be handed down. Apple sued Amazon over its use of the “App Store” trademark in March, claiming both trademark infringement and unfair competition. [via MDN]
Apple has been awarded a broad, comprehensive Multi-Touch interface patent that experts believe may give it the upper hand in disputes with rivals. Entitled “Portable multifunction device, method, and graphical user interface for translating displayed content,” the patent describes a device with “a touch-sensitive display (also known as a ‘touch screen’) with a graphical user interface (GUI), one or more processors, memory and one or more modules, programs or sets of instructions stored in the memory for performing multiple functions. In some embodiments, the user interacts with the GUI primarily through finger contacts and gestures on the touch-sensitive display. In some embodiments, the functions may include telephoning, video conferencing, e-mailing, instant messaging, blogging, digital photographing, digital videoing, web browsing, digital music playing, and/or digital video playing.”
The patent is broad enough in its wording as to cover not only phones, but also tablets such as the iPad and media players like the iPod touch. In speaking with PC Magazine, Florian Mueller, author of FOSS Patents, indicated that the implications of the patent could be far-reaching. “This patent covers a kind of functionality without which it will be hard to build a competitive smartphone,” said Mueller. “Unless this patent becomes invalidated, it would allow Apple to stifle innovation and bully competitors.” The patent application was originally filed on December 19, 2007 and is credited to Francisco Ryan Tolmasky, Richard Williamson, Chris Blumenberg, and Patrick Lee Coffman.
Federal judge Lucy Koh has denied Samsung’s request for early access to product samples of the next-generation iPad and iPhone in its patent infringement case with Apple. According to FOSS Patents, Koh explained in her decision that while Samsung was entitled to “parity” in relation to Apple’s request for samples of certain unreleased devices, samples of those devices have been in circulation, while Apple has not yet announced any details of its next-generation iPhone or iPad. Despite the favorable ruling, the decision also contained a passage that the report suggests is a hint to Apple that it may not be able to get a preliminary injunction against the sale of the targeted Samsung products in the U.S. at this time.
“Samsung is free to argue, for instance, that there is little likelihood of confusion because consumers will not encounter its products side-by-side with the iPhone 4 or iPad 2, but rather with Apple’s next generation iPhone and iPad,” Koh said. “Similarly, as to proximity, Samsung is free to argue that because the iPhone 4 and iPad 2 will soon be outmoded and reduced in price, they are not being sold (or very soon will not be sold) to the same class of purchasers who are likely to buy new Samsung products. By choosing to allege infringement only of its current products, Apple opens itself up to these arguments.” The report goes on to suggest that Apple may wait until after it publicly announces the next-generation iPhone to proceed with an injunction request, at which time it could display the handset to the court and avoid any such issues.
John Herbold, former Senior Product Manager for the iCloud team at Apple, has left the company to join the youth health organization HealthTeacher. In a press release from HealthTeacher, Herbold is credited with playing a key role in the creation, development, and launch of iCloud, and for leading the development of the service’s Photo Stream feature. Herbold will serve as Vice President of Product at HealthTeacher.
“To dramatically bend the curve on youth health, we must create engaging and innovative experiences that make good health cool and aspirational—all while encouraging kids to move beyond the screen and be more active,” said John Herbold. “HealthTeacher is already playing a significant role in improving youth health through its work with teachers and schools. I look forward to leading the effort to enhance digital engagement that will equip our youth for a more successful future.” He added on his LinkedIn profile, “I’ve been fortunate enough to define, ship and market a variety of products for one of the world’s most admired product companies. That opportunity was a great privilege. Now I get to take that experience and apply it to the enormous challenge of materially improving youth health.” [via 9 to 5 Mac]
Apple has started to air its latest TV commercial for the iPad 2. Entitled “Now,” the 30-second spot is similar in tone to the company’s first to iPad 2 commercials, and features a narrator—Peter Coyote—saying, “Now we can watch a newspaper, listen to a magazine, curl up with a movie, and see a phone call. Now we can take a classroom anywhere, hold an entire bookstore, and touch the stars… because, now, there’s this.” The commercial is available for viewing on Apple’s website.
- June 17, 2011
Apple has amended and expanded its complaint against Samsung ahead of a ruling as to whether or not Apple will receive samples of upcoming Samsung devices. FOSS Patents reports that new language in the amended complaint portrays Samsung as being “even bolder” than other competitors in copying Apple’s designs and has created “products that blatantly imitate the appearance of Apple’s products to capitalize on Apple’s success.” Apple also added a portion explaining the time and work that went in to create the basic iPhone look and feel, as well as examples from journalism which directly call out certain Samsung products as being copies.
Added to the devices listed in the prior complaint—the Samsung Captivate, Continuum, Vibrant, Galaxy S 4G, Epic 4G, Indulge, Mesmerize, Showcase, Fascinate, Nexus S, Gem, Transform, Intercept, and Acclaim smart phones and the Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet—are the Droid Charge, Exhibit 4G, Galaxy Ace, Galaxy Prevail, Galaxy S (i9000), Gravity, Infuse 4G, Nexus S 4G, Replenish, Sidekick, Galaxy Tab 10.1, and Galaxy S II (aka Galaxy S 2). Finally, Apple also removed two utility and one design patents from the complaint while adding three utility and five design patents, and also clarified its trade dress claims to make clear distinctions between different product generations.
Apple has been sued in federal court by publisher John T. Colby, which is claiming trademark infringement over the use of the term “iBooks.” Bloomberg reports that Colby purchased the assets of various entities owned by New York publisher Byron Preiss, who had published more than 1,000 books under the “ibooks” name, beginning in 1999. Apple has a trademark on the term “IBOOK” as it relates to computers and once sold a laptop called the iBook, which was replaced by the MacBook when the company switched to Intel processors. The lawsuit argues that Apple never used the term as a designation for electronic books or an application for the delivery of electronic books until it launched the iPad. “Apple’s use of the mark ‘iBooks’ to denote the electronic library that can be accessed via its iPad tablet computer and its iPhone is likely to overwhelm the good will of plaintiffs’ ‘ibooks’ and ‘ipicturebooks’ marks and render them virtually worthless,” the lawsuit says.
Apple has officially launched its annual Back to School promotion. Unlike past years, which saw the company bundle a free iPod with the purchase of a qualifying Mac with Education Pricing, Apple is now offering a $100 Gift Card under the same conditions. The Gift Card can be used on the iTunes Store, App Store, iBookstore, or Mac App Store, although the focus of the promotional materials is on the latter. Qualifying systems include the company’s MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro laptop computers, as well as its iMac desktops. Full terms and conditions are available here.
The switch to a Gift Card instead of an iPod may indicate a sea change at Apple, as the iPod + Mac promotion ran for six straight years, beginning with an offer of a free iPod mini, then changing to include an iPod nano, and eventually adding the iPod touch. The change is also notable in that Apple has also traditionally used the promotion as a tool to help clear out iPod inventory prior to its annual music event, traditionally held in early September.
- June 15, 2011
An extensive profile of Apple’s retail stores by the Wall Street Journal has revealed some interesting facts about the decade-old chain. Although Apple’s attention to detail in its stores’ designs is evident, the company also stresses over customer service details, going so far as to instruct its Genius Bar staffers to use “as it turns out” rather than “unfortunately” to sound less negative when they are unable to fix a problem, and to forbid employees from correcting customers when they mispronounce an item name because that might make them feel patronized. The report also references an Apple employee training manual as using the acronym APPLE for its steps of service, which include “Approach customers with a personalized warm welcome,” “Probe politely to understand all the customer’s needs,” “Present a solution for the customer to take home today,” “Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns,” and “End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.”
The report also goes into detail about the stores’ financial performance, citing investment bank Needham & Co. as saying that Apple’s annual retail sales per square foot have risen to $5,914—including online sales—compared to $3,070 for Tiffany & Co. and $880 for Best Buy. Despite the $880 mark, Best Buy’s profit margin is roughly one percent, according to the report, while Apple’s retail profit margin is said to be 26.9 percent. The comparison between the Apple and Tiffany is perhaps more fitting, as both companies’ stores are similar in size, use high-end fittings and materials in their construction, and sell mostly smaller items that retail for hundreds of dollars, while Best Buy carries a number of larger items—such as appliances and home theater packages—in more warehouse-like stores.
- June 14, 2011
Ron Johnson, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Retail, is set to leave the company in order to take a position as the president, and eventually CEO, of J. C. Penney. The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple is expected to announce Johnson’s departure later today; Johnson will succeed long-time Penney leader Myron Ullman in the CEO position. Apple hired Johnson away from Target in 2000 in order to build out its retail stores, which have grown to over 300 outlets during his 11-year tenure. The report does not indicate whom Apple might have in mind as Johnson’s replacement.
Update: In a J. C. Penney press release announcing the move, Johnson said, “I’ve always dreamed of leading a major retail company as CEO, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to help J. C. Penney re-imagine what I believe to be the single greatest opportunity in American retailing today, the Department Store. I have tremendous confidence in J. C. Penney’s future and look forward to working with Mike Ullman, the Executive Board and the Company’s 150,000 associates to transform the way America shops.”
The release also notes that Johnson has committed to make a personal investment of $50 million in the company “through the purchase, at fair market value, of 7 1/2-year warrants on 7.257 million shares of J. C. Penney Company stock. The warrants cannot be sold or hedged for the first six years of their term and have a strike price of $29.92, the closing price of the stock on the business day prior to Mr. Johnson’s commitment to purchase the warrants.”
Apple has also responded to the departure, with a spokesperson telling AllThingsD, “Ron is excited about this opportunity and we hope it goes well for him. We’ve got a great retail team in place and are actively recruiting for his replacement.”
Apple has responded to a Samsung request to provide its lawyers with samples of its next-generation iPhone and iPad an “improper attempt to harass” Apple. FOSS Patents reports that Apple, in its response, argues that delivering such samples would result in the exposure of “extremely sensitive trade secrets,” that Apple is not claiming infringement of future products, but of current offerings, and that the request goes far beyond Apple’s own, which requested “expedited discovery” of Samsung products that, at the time of the request, had already been unveiled publicly. The report also notes that Samsung’s law firm, Quinn Emanuel, also represents a variety of Android device makers against Apple and others, and might therefore be able to make use of any confidential information on future Apple products to developer infringement cases that its clients could bring against Apple in a later stage.
Apple first sued Samsung this past April, claiming that products such as the Galaxy S 4G, Epic 4G, Nexus S, and Galaxy Tab copy the look and feel of the iPhone and iPad; Samsung quickly countersued in South Korea, Japan, and Germany, before filing a separate countersuit in the U.S.
- June 14, 2011
Nokia has announced that it has signed a patent license agreement with Apple. Under the agreement, Apple will make a one-time payment to Nokia, as well as on-going royalty payments. In addition, the agreement will result in the settlement of all patent litigation between the companies, including the withdrawal of both companies’ respective complaints with the U.S. International Trade Commission. “We are very pleased to have Apple join the growing number of Nokia licensees,” said Stephen Elop, president and chief executive officer of Nokia. “This settlement demonstrates Nokia’s industry leading patent portfolio and enables us to focus on further licensing opportunities in the mobile communications market.”
As previously reported, Apple has started selling unlocked GSM iPhone 4 units through its stores in the U.S. and online. Apple is pricing the handsets at $649 for 16GB units and $749 for 32GB models; black iPhone 4s are given a shipping estimate of 1-3 business days, while white units are listed at 3-5 business days. In its description for the handset, Apple says, “If you don’t want a multiyear service contract or if you prefer to use a local carrier when traveling abroad, the unlocked iPhone 4 is the best choice. It arrives without a micro-SIM card, so you’ll need an active micro-SIM card from any supported GSM carrier worldwide.”
- June 13, 2011
Bluewater Productions has announced that its Steve Jobs: Co-Founder of Apple comic book biography will be released this August. The 32-page publication will be penciled by Chris Schmidt with cover art by DC artist Joe Phillips, and will chronicle Jobs’ now-legendary career. “Admire him or hate him, Jobs’ vision and business acumen revolutionized the world,” said writer CW Cooke. “Between he and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, you would be hard pressed to find someone with greater influence over how we communicate, interact and do business over the last 30 years.” Steve Jobs: Co-Founder of Apple will be available in comic shops, bookstores, and from online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and will sell for $4.
A company named iCloud Communications has filed suit against Apple, alleging infringement over the name of the company’s new iCloud service. The Next Web reports that iCloud Communications is claiming Apple’s heavy promotion of the new service is damaging to its business, which it contends are closely related to the services that Apple’s iCloud will offer. As noted by Mac Rumors, iCloud Communications does not appear to hold any registered trademarks associated with the iCloud name. The suit is seeking an injunction barring Apple from using the iCloud name, destruction of all marketing materials and other items referencing to the service, and monetary damages.
Apple has filed a motion to intervene in the patent infringement lawsuit filed by Lodsys against seven third-party iOS developers. FOSS Patents reports that if the court grants Apple’s motion to participate as an intervenor—something the publication feels is “fairly likely”—Apple will have already submitted its answer to Lodsys’ complaint, as well as a counterclaim. The report also notes that while no one has yet confirmed that Apple has agreed to cover those developers’ costs and potential risks, it is unlikely the situation could work in any other manner. In its motion, Apple states that the defendants “are individuals or small entities with far fewer resources than Apple and [...] lack the technical information, ability, and incentive to adequately protect Apple’s rights under its license agreement.”
Apple’s proposed defense against Lodsys is related to the assertion that the alleged infringements are covered by an existing Apple license. Lodsys’ claims are related to the developers’ apps’ use of In-App Purchases and “upgrade” buttons. Interestingly, an unrelated company—ForeSee Results of Michigan—filed a declaratory judgement suit against Lodsys’ four patents earlier this week, seeking to have them invalidated.
In a new twist on an old problem with stolen Apple devices, a thief successfully convinced the Apple Store to swap a stolen iPad 2 for a new device with a different serial number, after which Apple refused to help the victim of the crime. iLounge reader Dan Chang says that he purchased a black 64GB iPad 2 with Wi-Fi + 3G from the Apple Store Tysons Corner in May, and the device was stolen less than a week later. Chang filed a police report and was told that the iPad’s serial number would show up as a stolen item if sold to a pawn shop. On June 6, Chang used Apple’s Service and Repair tool to check the serial number of the stolen iPad, and received the following message: “We’re sorry, but this is a serial number for a product that has been replaced… If your information is correct, you may need to contact us.”
Chang followed the instructions and contacted Apple Customer Service, providing the company with his serial number. Apple confirmed that the iPad 2 had been replaced at another local Apple Store based on a battery-related complaint, and told Chang to visit the Store in person to discuss the matter. During his visit, the manager told Chang that she was not responsible for his stolen iPad, and told him to call Apple Customer Service, which he had already done.
Again following instructions, Chang was told that the iPad had been “recycled” and was no longer traceable; further, the representative said that Apple was not responsible for the stolen item, and that he should contact the police to try and catch the thief. In the end, Chang ended up without his $870 iPad 2, which he says he will not be replacing with another iPad or any other Apple product. He says he wishes that the thief had taken the stolen iPad to a pawn shop, where at least it could have been reclaimed thanks to the serial number tracking system, instead of to an Apple Store, where it was accepted with no questions asked and with no recourse available to the victim. The absence of a simple online Apple tool enabling users to report the loss or theft of their devices is at least partially to blame for this problem.
In another change to its App Store Review Guidelines, Apple has removed several widely criticized restrictions it put in place with the launch of In-App Subscriptions, according to a Mac Rumors report. Perhaps most importantly, the new terms no longer demand that any content or subscriptions sold outside an app must also be available via In-App Purchase for the same or lower price. The prior text of section 11.13 read: “Apps can read or play approved content (magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, video) that is sold outside of the app, for which Apple will not receive any portion of the revenues, provided that the same content is also offered in the app using IAP at the same price or less than it is offered outside the app. This applies to both purchased content and subscriptions.” The decision to attempt to control pricing outside third-party apps drew the ire of many companies, some of which threatened to leave the App Store altogether should they have gone into effect on June 30 as expected.
Section 11.13 has since been replaced by section 11.14, which reads: “Apps can read or play approved content (specifically magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video) that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app, as long as there is no button or external link in the app to purchase the approved content. Apple will not receive any portion of the revenues for approved content that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app.” This is a significant change in policy, and should help encourage more publishers and media companies to release offerings for iOS.