Apple's iPhone sued for infringement of touch feedback patents

Carrier AT&T has also been named in the complaints filed

Generic snap for court issues
Credit: IDGNS

Haptic technology company Immersion has accused Apple and carrier AT&T of infringement of three of its patents in the latest iPhone models and Apple watches.

Immersion, which claims over 2,100 issued or pending patents worldwide covering various aspects and commercial applications of haptic or touch feedback technology, has asked the U.S. International Trade Commission to ban the import of the specified iPhone and Apple Watch models in the U.S., besides suing for damages in a Delaware federal court, company CEO Victor Viegas said in a conference call Thursday.

Under the rules, it will take the ITC 30 days to decide on instituting an investigation, and the subsequent proceedings could take another 16 months, making an appeal to the ITC the most effective and quick way for redress, Viegas said.

Immersion claims over 3 billion digital devices use its technologies.

The Apple products named in the actions are the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition. Haptics play a central role in these products, according to the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, which added that the 3D Touch and Taptic Engine features in the latest iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus provide haptic feedback, "including feedback based on pressure-sensitive interactions with the touch screen."

The Apple Watch likewise has haptic features promoted under the names Force Touch and Taptic Engine, according to the complaint.

Immersion decided to include AT&T and subsidiary AT&T Mobility in the action because the carrier is the most significant distributor of the iPhone in the U.S. Its decision to sue at this point, some months after Apple started selling its latest products, like the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 6s Plus, was a matter of strategy, Immersion said. It also described as strategy its decision to name in the complaint only AT&T and not the other carriers that offer the iPhone in the U.S., such as Verizon and T-Mobile.

The patent company alleges that the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition infringe two of its patents.

These are U.S. Patent No. 8,619,051, which refers to a haptic feedback system with stored effects,  and U.S. Patent No. 8,773,356, which refers to a method and apparatus for providing tactile sensations. The complaint also charges the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus with infringing its U.S. Patent No. 8,659,571, which refers to an “Interactivity Model for Shared Feedback on Mobile Devices.”

Apple declined to comment on the charges by Immersion.

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