DRM tech inventor Intertrust sues Apple, alleges breach of 15 patents

Intertrust logo (large)

The Wall Street Journal reports that Intertrust Technologies, which holds more than 150 patents related to digital rights management, is taking Apple to court over an alleged infringement of more than two dozen of its patents on security and distributed trusted computing. Filed in U.S. Federal Court in the Northern District of California, the suit covers a broad range of Apple products.

Specifically, iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad are named, as are Mac computers and laptops, Apple TV and online services including iTunes, iCloud and the App Store. Intertrust licenses its patents to the likes of Adobe, Motorola, Samsung, Panasonic, LG, Nokia and HTC…

Interestingly enough, the firm is backed by Sony and Philips, with each holding a 49.5 percent stake in Intertrust.

Headquartered in Sunnyvale, California, Intertrust won a similar patent infringement case against the Windows maker Microsoft in 2004, with the latter coughing up a cool $440 million for rights to use Intertrust’s patented technology.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

The company, the products of which include a technology called Marlin for digital content protection, said it has licensed its software or patents to large electronics companies, including Samsung, Nokia Corp., Fujitsu Ltd., HTC Corp. and Huawei Technologies Inc.

A note on Intertrust’s web site doesn’t detail the patents involved in the case, though they likely cover various media technologies as Intertrust is an early pioneer in digital copyright protection (the firm was founded back in 1990 by entrepreneur Victor Shear).

“Apple makes many great products that use Intertrust’s inventions,” Intertrust CEO Talal Shamoon said, expressing regret that his company had to “seek Court assistance to resolve this matter.”

He’s also “proud” of Intertrust’s record of “peaceful and constructive licensing” with industry leaders.

You can read the lawsuit in a Sribd document embedded right below.

Intertrust Patent Suit Against Apple

It is not unusual for tech giants to have a controlling stake in startups that own valuable patents and sometimes they hide behind patent trolls as well. For example, a company called MobileMedia Ideas sued Apple over the iPhone screen rotation and call rejection features (and won).

The really telling thing about MobileMedia Ideas is its involvement with Sony and Nokia, who use MobileMedia as a proxy to fend off patent suits from rivals. Jointly owned by the two firms and a Denver-based company called MPEG LA that licenses patents for the MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 standard, MobileMedia today owns 300+ patents.

Conveniently enough, most of them were originally granted to Sony and Nokia, including the said screen rotation patent.