back to article Apple, Microsoft sued over iPod, Zune controls

Apple, LG, Microsoft, and 20 other companies are being sued for patent infringement by a Texas firm that claims to have invented the touchpad. Tsera LLC, a Texas business that's apparently named after a defunct Native American tribe, filed the suit on Wednesday in the US District Court, Eastern Texas Division. According to …


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  1. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Rubbish, Apple had touchpads in 1994

    Apple's powerbook 500 had a touchpad back in 1994:

    A laptop is a "mobile electronic device" and therefore their patent is rubbish.

  2. Gareth Irwin


    Well played, you should be a lawyer.

    You have to wonder at it all really, as an outsider looking at America it really is a fantastic thing.

  3. Mike Powers

    Okay, now, how many times is this?

    I seem to recall Apple being sued over touch-sensitivity before, by an entirely different firm. And I also recall several lawsuits regarding motion-sensing.

    At what point can the existence of a previous lawsuit become grounds for dismissing future lawsuits?

  4. FOXXX333


    To validate a patent, one must not only define a concept but must demonstrate an embodiment of that concept. Apparently, the claimant has not so demonstrated a concrete example of its idea. Further, the idea as defined in the 2003 patent, may differ materially from Apple's embodiment. Thus, Apple may have ignored the claimant's patent on the basis that it is invalidated without a concrete demonstration and/or that Apple's embodiment is materially different or that it does not depend on a concept defined in the disputed patent.

  5. Anonymous Coward


    From the wording it sounds like they might have a case against Apple's gestures on it's trackpad.

    As in the pinch and zoom or the four finger expose. Then again, that's not what their suing for.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "At what point can the existence of a previous lawsuit become grounds for dismissing future lawsuits?"

    Depends on the judge. If they've got past form they can be made a vexatious litigant, or the claim can just be struck out because of no merit.

    (in this country at least)

  7. smashIt


    just look at all the PDAs that came out since '93

  8. raving angry loony

    it's a joke.

    The US patent system is so broken it's become a joke. From encouraging innovation, it's gone to rewarding patent trolls who add nothing but legal expenses to the field of technological innovation. Let's also mention that anyone suing in a certain Texas jurisdiction for anything obviously doesn't have a case that would stand in any other court, and is just hoping for the partisan jury to award them the equivalent of a lottery prize so they can continue to milk the very sick, very broken US patent cow.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The way the US patent office issue patents willy-nilly, it won't be long before every input method has been covered at least twice.

    Now I must go, I believe I have just discovered the last open patent... The anal mouse clench click.

  10. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    business as usual

    This patent may very well be a dud (like, what, 99.9999% of US patents?) but to be fair one has to note that it is exactly the kind of patent that MS and Apple use by the dozen (dozen thousand, that is. Per year) to nip competition in the bud and make hundred billions per year whithout having to develop anything new/worthy.

  11. Bob Gulien

    Curious how all these lawsuits end?

    Is there a place where one can look how all these lawsuits pan out?

    All we get to know is, that there is another lawsuit, but almost never how it ends.

  12. Richard Guthrie

    @Anonymous Coward

    I'm sorry to say that Dr Arnold Kegel beat you to that patent some time ago...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Sounds like a Newton

    which was discontinued one year BEFORE this patent was filed.

  14. Cliff

    Great response

    I worked for a Canadian guy once, he was being sued by the receivers of a supplier who hadn't delivered what he had already paid for, and he was naturally stunned and somewhat aggrieved by their court threats. He responded...

    "Dear sir,

    Fuck Off. Strong letter to follow.

    Yours etc"

    If I were in Apple's shoes I'd be tempted to use something similar - except they're all as bad as one another as the patents system is well and truly buggered in the name of greed.

  15. rpjs


    The canonical format is to refer the complainant to the reply given in the case of Arkle vs Pressdram.

  16. Captain Thyratron

    2003 seems a little late to the party.

    Haven't they heard of the Newton?

  17. John Tserkezis
    Thumb Down

    Two words: Patent Troll

    When are they going to change their patent rules? It's been about time for a long bloody time.

  18. Mike 119



    Anal clench click, well sorry. Apple have that one coverd


  19. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Once upon a time

    There was a time when you made a product, and then patented it. Nowadays, you dream up a patent and wait until someone else makes a product, then you set the attack lawyers on him.

    I think it should be mandatory to have a product before filing a patent. That would settle 99% of the trolling issues. If you're not capable of making a product, you should have no right to file a patent.

  20. The Original Ash

    @Gareth Irwin

    Not at all. All cases should be assessed on their particular merit. There should never be precident set from prior civil cases, as the whole system is totally different.

    What *SHOULD* happen is an IP Arbitration commitee be set up to handle these cases and keep them from the courts. Qualified legal experts still decide the cases, and the decisions are binding, but costs are far reduced and courts aren't stuck hearing the same cases over and over as more and more small companies try and get their own slice of the pie.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    in a sane world, you could patent a touchpad, that is the specific technology behind it, but not the application of the touchpad.

    why should using a touchpad to control a mobile device be a patentable idea?

  22. George 24

    How about displaying the info

    Someone surely own the patent for displaying images on a monitor... Love the U$A system.

  23. Number6


    "I refer you to the response in Arkle v Pressdram."

    Probably wouldn't work in the US, but that's the UK equivalent.

  24. MyHeadIsSpinning


    Patterns of touches? What, like tap tap tap for fast forward and tap tap for play, or tap for pause?

    No visual feedback needed?

    Crappiest claim I've seen reported on El Reg for a while, a bit of a non story.

    I would be very disappointed if any of the goliaths settled on this one.

  25. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

    Prior Art

    Eh! I remember using a HP touch screen back in the early 80's, and that was the first commerical application, I'm sure the technology predates that.

    Oh.. I see... touchpad to control a mobile device, does that mean the touchpad to control a car, submarine, crane etc. etc. etc. are still up for grabs...

  26. Dave Harris

    @Mike Powers

    It was Creative labs who sued previously, and won, since they not only had the patent but were making better mp3 players. Apple ceded five patents to Creative as part of an out of court settlement, and agreed to label a number of Creative products iPod compatible:,,1857562,00.html

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Erm prior"art"

    Dosnt pattern law say something about it has to be something that several people couldnt come up with independently?

    And forgive my anal retentive attention to detail, but didnt Paramount come up with the idea of a portable device being controlled by a touch sensitive interface in Star Trek? and Want Ziggies controller in Quantum leap not only touch sensitive but gesture controlled, I mean Al had to repeatedly bash and shake it.

    Ok I know its fiction, but this just shows that it is not a unique idea, that it has been around in fiction for a long time, used both several authors.

  28. Michael C

    And I present, the Newton as counter evidence...

    Released in 1993 (and thus clearly predating the 1999 patent filing by this man), and for which the OS was under constant development by Apple as a platform until into 1999 when it was discontinued, and functions were merged into other divisions for future use (of which additional patents for devices that never materialized continue to pop up).

    The newton used a full surface touch screen (albeit requiring a stylus, but the method of input in the patent in question describes techniques, not technologies, and does not preclude the use of "finger" as an input). The newton accepted compands via stokes or guestures as well as text and drawings from the pen. It's existance clearly invalidates the patent in question.

    Guestures themselves as an input method are also protected by patents for multi-touch by Apple, and by others for various Operating system or Browser interfaces. This is a complete shot in the dark, and likely to cost the accuser a significant amount of money paying Apple's lawyers after he looses.

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