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Judge Rules iDevice Speaker Docks Don't Infringe On Bose Patent

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the but-they-are-of-course-computers dept.

Iphone 67

CIStud writes "A U.S. District Court in Massachusetts has ruled that iPod, iPad and iPhone speakers docks do not infringe on a patent owned by Bose Corp. for digital audio conversion. The ruling in the case of Bose vs. small dock speaker makers SDI, DPI, Imation and others reportedly was a test case that would have set precedent for potential patent infringement by other manufacturers... and even Apple... according to the defendant's legal team. At issue: Is an iPhone, iPad or iPod a 'computer.' The judge says they aren't."

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67 comments

This is becoming boring (1, Interesting)

FunkyLich (2533348) | about 2 years ago | (#40647681)

Apple has patented round corners. Apple has patented the double click. Apple has patented the scrollbar. Apple has patented speakers, but only for non-computers.

I'm so tired of this "I can piss while lumping at the same time. Even if you can do it I have patented it so you have to pay me." Fuck these idiots till they die. (Is fuck-till-death patented, by the way?)

Re:This is becoming boring (1)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about 2 years ago | (#40647717)

Is fuck-till-death patented, by the way?

Probably counts as an artistic or cultural expression, so subject to copyright rather than patent (despite its obvious utility). If you make videos, you can copyright them.

Re:This is becoming boring (1)

fatphil (181876) | about 2 years ago | (#40648351)

The act copyrightable, but the name - surely trademarkable! Waste no time registering it.

Re:This is becoming boring (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 2 years ago | (#40650759)

Great, another patent 'category' to go with:

-over the internet
-with a computer
-with a wireless connection
-using a database

we add
-with a mobile device

Re:This is becoming boring (1)

ZosX (517789) | about 2 years ago | (#40647827)

Apple has patented round corners. Apple has patented the double click. Apple has patented the scrollbar. Apple has patented speakers, but only for non-computers.

I'm so tired of this "I can piss while lumping at the same time. Even if you can do it I have patented it so you have to pay me." Fuck these idiots till they die. (Is fuck-till-death patented, by the way?)

I just filed an application! Fuck death copycats look out!

Re:This is becoming boring (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40647895)

Wahhhhhhhhh! Wahhhhhhhhhh! big baby!

Re:This is becoming boring (1)

bruce_the_loon (856617) | about 2 years ago | (#40647897)

Did you actually RTFA, or even UTFS? Bose, not Apple, sued small manufacturers and LOST the case. This is a win for the small chaps!!!!

Re:This is becoming boring (2)

marcello_dl (667940) | about 2 years ago | (#40648017)

I didn't RTF* but it's obvious that Bose has prior art on expensive, shiny, thin stuff to show off to people, that has some audio related secondary function. Waaayyy before apple. Probably they were ashamed of patenting the concept as it is. Too bad, they'd have apple by the cojones if they did.

That was a trade secret, you idea sharer. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40652509)

It is exactly like stealing, and illegal too.

Re:This is becoming boring (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40648395)

Why not take action? Here you go. [pirate.is] Join if possible or set up a chapter in your state. YES WE CAN start a third political movement.

Re:This is becoming boring (3, Funny)

jo_ham (604554) | about 2 years ago | (#40648915)

Maybe they should patent reading the fucking article - you'd be in no danger of infringing.

Re:This is becoming boring (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40649445)

Apple has patented round corners.

No, they haven't.

You wouldn't be tired of this if you actually understood the topic at hand. Instead you've chosen to get all your news from an ad-supported site that, coincidentally, keeps posting stories that perpetuate a massive flame war.

Re:This is becoming boring (2)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | about 2 years ago | (#40649787)

Not to ruin a perfectly good rant, but Apple wasn't actually involved in this case. It was a suit brought by Bose against the makers of third party speaker docks for i-devices.

Computer? (1)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about 2 years ago | (#40647699)

For an iPod, the question is unclear. But for iPad and iPhone, I'd have thought the consensus was that they count as computers. Even Apple thinks so...

iPod == iPhone without a cellular radio (2)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#40647753)

For an iPod, the question is unclear.

An iPod touch is an iPhone without a cellular radio. As far as I can tell, Apple has been deemphasizing its iPod shuffle, iPod nano, and iPod classic product lines in favor of iPod touch and other iOS devices.

But for iPad and iPhone, I'd have thought the consensus was that they count as computers.

The microcontroller in a microwave oven is a "computer". The engine control unit in a car is a "computer". A video game console is a "computer". But that doesn't make them general-purpose computers in the sense that the average person thinks of when hearing "computer". An iOS device is not general-purpose because Apple bans some purposes.

But this is all a moot point, as the ruling doesn't define computer [slashdot.org] .

Re:iPod == iPhone without a cellular radio (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 2 years ago | (#40647857)

Besides, this stuff is getting crazy. Somebody designs a system. Somebody else says, hey, if we moved this component of the system from right here to over there, making one wire longer, and one wire shorter, then it would have some benefit. It sounds like this hinged on where the DAC was placed.

Is that the kind of "innovation" that warrants patent protection?

Re:iPod == iPhone without a cellular radio (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 2 years ago | (#40647927)

It's because patents are completely out of control and ALL OF THEM need to be thrown out, Every one of them. Let's start over. If your patent application documents something that is world changing and is in no way the same as anything else, you get a patent. anything else, the patent office wipes their butts with the application and by law the lawyer that filed it must sniff it with their nose 2 mm from the page for a minimum of 30 seconds.

Re:iPod == iPhone without a cellular radio (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 2 years ago | (#40648295)

Besides, this stuff is getting crazy. Somebody designs a system. Somebody else says, hey, if we moved this component of the system from right here to over there, making one wire longer, and one wire shorter, then it would have some benefit. It sounds like this hinged on where the DAC was placed.

It hinged on whether the DAC was part of the docking station (which was accused of infringing on a Bose patent) or part of the iDevice. If I'm accused of stealing your car, surely whether the car is placed in my garage or whether it is still placed in your garage makes a difference.

Re:iPod == iPhone without a cellular radio (1)

fatphil (181876) | about 2 years ago | (#40648381)

> It sounds like this hinged on where the DAC was placed.

Long precendent for that. Mobile phones that vibrate patented? Simple - put the vibrating element in the (removable) battery. So it's no longer the phone that does the vibrating, and your product is no longer infringing.

I would suggest that more than 99% of patents have precisely no innovation of worth at all nowadays.

Re:iPod == iPhone without a cellular radio (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#40648135)

But that doesn't make them general-purpose computers in the sense that the average person thinks of when hearing "computer". An iOS device is not general-purpose because Apple bans some purposes.

I wasn't aware that the term "general purpose" implied being able to do everything.

Presumably the machine I'm typing this on isn't a general purpose computer either, since I banned software from it for solving that thing that's like Pythagoras' theorem for cubes which I can't be arsed to look up.

Re:iPod == iPhone without a cellular radio (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#40648465)

I wasn't aware that the term "general purpose" implied being able to do everything.

A general purpose computer is turing-complete and offers the opportunity to load arbitrary code. Since the restrictions on what code you can load are artificial (main point) and fairly easily bypassed (supporting point) I would argue that the various touch screen iDevices are clearly all general-purpose computers.

Re:iPod == iPhone without a cellular radio (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about 2 years ago | (#40648495)

> I wasn't aware that the term "general purpose" implied being able to do everything.

What rock have you been hiding under for the last 30 years.

General purpose clearly implies the ability to do things with it that the manufacturer did not consider or consent to. This is what separates a PC from a toaster.

iPods are in a strange middle ground made up of PCs that are trying to pretend to be appliances. Technically they are PCs but they are subject to "policy" that prevents them from acting that way.

It's like a Mac running Front Row or MythTV except the user can repurpose the Mac any time they like.

The end user gets to decide what kind of appliance it is.

Re:iPod == iPhone without a cellular radio (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40648559)

General purpose clearly implies the ability to do things with it that the manufacturer did not consider or consent to. This is what separates a PC from a toaster.

No it doesn't. General-purpose computing has to do with being able to program the computer to do tasks and nothing more. An iDevice can be programmed and is not a fixed-function device so it is a general-purpose computer.

iDevice becomes programmable when combined (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#40649625)

An iDevice can be programmed

The bundle consisting of a combination of an iOS device, a Mac, and a certificate renewed for the life of the device can be programmed. The iOS device alone cannot.

Re:iPod == iPhone without a cellular radio (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40649483)

general - applying to all or most members of a category or group; "the general public"; "general assistance"; "a general rule"; "in general terms"; "comprehensible to the general reader"

general-purpose - having a range of uses or applications; not restricted to one function
general-purpose - not limited in use or function

all-purpose - Having many purposes or uses.

Clearly the i-devices are computers, and they are even capable of being general purpose computers if their components were arranged in a manner more conducive for general use. However, the i-devices are confined for specific non-general uses by the design and arrangements of the component parts, and in the software implementation that only exposes a specific set of functionality.

Re:iPod == iPhone without a cellular radio (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#40658809)

So have you installed software to solve Fermat's last theorem? If you haven't, then by tepple's logic your computer isn't general purpose.

That is not my point of view.

Perhaps you should read the whole post - and understand it if you can - before making retarded smug comments and showing how fucking dumb you are.

Re:iPod == iPhone without a cellular radio (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 2 years ago | (#40649555)

An iPod touch is an iPhone without a cellular radio. As far as I can tell, Apple has been deemphasizing its iPod shuffle, iPod nano, and iPod classic product lines in favor of iPod touch and other iOS devices.

But all the other iPods precede the touch in terms of existence. It appears that these iPods (while they have chips in them) are probably safe from this.

Well that's wrong... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40647701)

They are computers. Judges really should be qualified in the areas they presiding over.

Re:Well that's wrong... (1)

theNetImp (190602) | about 2 years ago | (#40647729)

agreed. Even the iPod classic had the ability to play video games on it. I use to play tetris on it regularly when commuting to work (via train).

Ruling doesn't define computer (5, Informative)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#40647735)

From the summary: "At issue: Is an iPhone, iPad or iPod a 'computer.' The judge says they aren't."

From page 13 of the memorandum and order [cepro.com] : "This Court declined to construct the term 'computer'." Instead, the ruling is based on where the DAC is located. The DAC in this case is inside the iDevice, rendering the claimed infringing "interface" a fancy headphone jack.

Re:Ruling doesn't define computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40647807)

So, bad summary then. Typical.

Anyway, the ruling is still bogus. These are not "inventions", the hardware was always capable of doing this anyway. You can't really claim to have invented anything by re-arranging someone else's hardware.

That is just "use", not "invention".

Non-obvious combination (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#40647949)

You can't really claim to have invented anything by re-arranging someone else's hardware.

You can if the combination of the two is novel and non-obvious.

Re:Non-obvious combination (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40648201)

Outboard DAC certainly isn't novel or non-obvious.

Re:Non-obvious combination (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40648275)

Every combination is obvious...they existing hardware was designed to do that.

Otherwise, the combination could never be made.

Combination of 7400 series ICs (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#40654885)

If every combination of existing hardware were presumed obvious, then there would be no such thing as hardware patents, as everything could be created from a combination of 7400 series discrete logic ICs.

Re:Ruling doesn't define computer (1)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | about 2 years ago | (#40648195)

If I were able to rewire an iPod to work as a teleportation device, I certainly would count that as an invention.

Re:Ruling doesn't define computer (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 2 years ago | (#40649885)

    If I teleported your iPod with a trebuchet, would that be an innovation? It'd sure be more likely to work than an iPod based teleportation device. :)

Re:Ruling doesn't define computer (2)

chrb (1083577) | about 2 years ago | (#40648637)

The DAC in this case is inside the iDevice, rendering the claimed infringing "interface" a fancy headphone jack.

What these manufacturers have successfully argued is that because the DAC is in the iPod, rather than their devices, then they aren't infringing a patent that covers devices that convert digital audio to analog. The judge agreed that the digital to analog conversion happens inside the iDevice, so the external device is not infringing. The open question is whether Bose will now sue manufacturers who stream or transfer digital audio to external devices that do include a DAC for playback.

Btw, here's the patent. [google.com]

Re:Ruling doesn't define computer (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 2 years ago | (#40649641)

Depends on what "sound reproduction device" means. Reading the patent it seems intended more for professional mixing/editing scenarios and not to hook up your computer to your receiver. Because if you read the patent that way, every converter that hooks up between a computer and audio equipment is susceptible. Like this toslink to digital coax converter [monoprice.com] . I use one because my receiver is already receiving optical out from my TV and has only one optical in port. If I'm hooking up my computer which only has optical out I have to convert to digital coax.

Re:Ruling doesn't define computer (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about 2 years ago | (#40652495)

Wait a moment. Does this mean that I'm forced to use whatever DAC Apple deigns to put it its products-- if I want to use SPDIF, or whatever, Bose gets a cut?

Re:Ruling doesn't define computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40653673)

The interesting part of this!! Turn the tables or if it was the other way around Apple probably would have won over Bose...

An US judge favors an US company (1)

santax (1541065) | about 2 years ago | (#40647881)

Yes, that is really new.

Re:An US judge favors an US company (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40648435)

Yes! Where is the justice when a US judge finds for a US companies over a company from Massachusetts?!

Re:An US judge favors an US company (1)

santax (1541065) | about 2 years ago | (#40648763)

Boss is Japanese these days you know ;)

Re:An US judge favors an US company (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40649395)

Boss is Japanese these days you know ;)

Boss has always been a Japanese company, but I'm not sure what they have to do with Bose, which is largely owned by MIT these days.

Re:An US judge favors an US company (1)

HarrySquatter (1698416) | about 2 years ago | (#40650901)

Great. What does that have to do with the case at hand? The case was about Bose suing other companies.

Re:An US judge favors an US company (1)

santax (1541065) | about 2 years ago | (#40653135)

Yes, but at least I got to drink some really nice wine before posting yesterday! My bad :)

Iran Bombed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40647885)

That was fast.

Not a computer? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 2 years ago | (#40647987)

What is the definition of a computer then?

To me all 3 qualify. At the very least if you are going to narrowly define it, at the least the iPad is.. iPhone should be. iPod, depends on which one. A classic is an embedded computer, a touch, well, its a computer too...

Re:Not a computer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40648029)

I would say the freedom to run your own software, without any lockdown at hardware level.

Re:Not a computer? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 2 years ago | (#40648315)

While a nice goal, its not a good definition of a computer if you ask me.

A ECM is considered a computer by nearly everyone. But its not 'open' in the slighted. ( or the billions of other embedded computers.. )

Mainframes are considered computers, and if you just a user, you get no choice. What about a network switch? Yup, its a computer too.

Re:Not a computer? (1)

HarrySquatter (1698416) | about 2 years ago | (#40648113)

See a few comments above. You got trolled by a bad summary. The judgment had to do with the placement of the DAC not with them not being a computer.

Re:Not a computer? (1)

Rob Y. (110975) | about 2 years ago | (#40648463)

Of course the DAC is in the dock. The dock in this case is the computer, and the iThingy is the server. It's just downloading a file and playing it. How that's patentable in this day and age boggles the mind. Just because they take a traditional 'computer' app to play digital music files and package it in a single-purpose device doesn't mean they've invented anything.

Re:Not a computer? (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 2 years ago | (#40649461)

Of course the DAC is in the dock. The dock in this case is the computer, and the iThingy is the server. It's just downloading a file and playing it. How that's patentable in this day and age boggles the mind. Just because they take a traditional 'computer' app to play digital music files and package it in a single-purpose device doesn't mean they've invented anything.

You should really have read what this is about, because what you are saying here has nothing whatsoever to do with the case. Hint: This whole case has nothing, nothing whatsoever, to do with Apple. Apple isn't suing anyone, and Apple isn't being sued.

Re:Not a computer? (1)

jo_ham (604554) | about 2 years ago | (#40648929)

The judge didn't make that determination - the summary did, badly.

The ruling didn't hinge on whether or not the iPhone/iOS devices are computers or not.

Re:Not a computer? (1)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about 2 years ago | (#40648935)

What is the definition of a computer then?

To me all 3 qualify. At the very least if you are going to narrowly define it, at the least the iPad is.. iPhone should be. iPod, depends on which one. A classic is an embedded computer, a touch, well, its a computer too...

computer /kmpyootr/ Noun: 1. An electronic device for storing and processing data, typically in binary form, according to instructions given to it in a variable program. 2. A person who makes calculations, esp. with a calculating machine. Synonyms: calculator Wikipedia Dictionary com

Profit?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40648293)

Cat software_patents.txt |sed -i s\"On a computer"\"On a smartphone"\g > Patent_Office

Profit!

That judge is a crack head then. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40648751)

Show me a phone with no computer and install an application on it.

sex with A 3um (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40650359)

of /*BSD as5wipes

USB? (1)

pbjones (315127) | about 2 years ago | (#40651137)

So at issue is the external device, not the source, which is the 'MP3' player/function thingy. What would be at risk is any USB connected Audio device because USB is almost always associated with a computer. My guess is that this goes back to the Apple/Bose iSub days.

How old is this patent? (1)

AmberBlackCat (829689) | about 2 years ago | (#40652423)

If the patent covers receiving digital audio and converting it to analog, aren't there like a million audio receivers and amplifiers that did this before iPods existed? How old is this patent? My receiver from the 90's had a digital input. My brother's Pentium 3 computer had an external speaker system with a digital input and its own amp.

Re:How old is this patent? (1)

jrumney (197329) | about 2 years ago | (#40660359)

The patent is from 2000. It only covers systems where the digital-audio conversion takes place inside the same enclosure as the speakers. So 1990's era receivers with digital input are not quite prior art (though whether the idea of moving it into the speaker enclosure is novel is something that should be challenged in court IMHO, given the prior existence of both receivers with digital inputs and single-box amplifier and speaker combinations).

Interesting read... (1)

BillX (307153) | about 2 years ago | (#40653209)

I know reading the friendly article (and especially PDFs linked from it) is not a certainty around these parts, but this one's pretty interesting. The article itself kind of entirely misses the point (whether the iDevice is a "computer" was pretty much completely irrelevant*), but the opinion itself taught me a lot. In particular, there are such things as "contributory infringement" and "inducement" in patent law. I did not know of such a thing until now.

All of the independent claims of the patent [google.com] explicitly require a music source whose files have at least two types of metadata and a sorting feature (probably because "DAC-in-a-box" on its own is as old as the hills and not patentable). Assume for the purposes of discussion that the patent is valid (it's not**) and that an average mp3 file + iDevice (or most any mp3 player software) meets the metadata + sort criteria (doubly so if "file name" counts as one of the metadata).

Clearly, these companies are selling only the DAC-in-a-box, *not* including any kind of "computer", user interfaces, mp3 files, metadata or sort capabilities (although the end user can trivially add one and thus infringe the patent). Thus, most of the opinion - including a treasure trove of references to deciding cases - centers on whether the companies were liable for end-user infringements by encouraging and/or inducing them. The gist I got from the opinion is that merely knowing that a user *could* infringe is not enough - the manufacturer must either know of the patent (or believe beyond reasonable doubt that such a patent must exist), be shown to believe that it is valid, AND knowingly encourage an end user to commit actual infringement, or else be shown to have purposely avoided awareness of the existence of the patent ("willfull blindness"). Showing that you believed the patent invalid - in particular, obtaining and relying on an expert legal opinion of invalidity - is a strong defense against such "indirect infringement" claims. In other words, the burden is on the plaintiff to show indirect infringement, and the bar is pretty high.

* There is nothing about a "computer" in the independent claims (although one is briefly mentioned in a dependent claim) - only a list of features which could be performed by a computer (or iDevice). In fact, a footnote in the case notes mentions: "This Court declined to construct the term 'computer' and in this case the analysis need not turn on that definition." . For reasons I don't entirely understand, the check for direct infringement centered on the "interface" part of the claims, which the court constructed to mean a DAC (more or less).

** All of the claims were invalidated upon re-examination, several times (e.g. through several Bose objections to the reexamination results, including to the "Final Decision").

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