Thursday, February 24, 2011

Summit 6 sues RIM, Samsung, Facebook and others over digital uploading patents

Yesterday a Texas-based patent holder named Summit 6 filed a patent infringement suit with the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas against Research In Motion, Samsung, Facebook, Photobucket and Multiply. Actually, that's the first smartphone patent suit targeting (among others) Android-based devices in 2011. There have been interesting developments in some other such cases during the first part of this year, such as infringement disclosures made in Skyhook vs. Google, but this Summit 6 complaint is the first new suit of its kind this year.

I became aware of this new suit through Priorsmart's daily newsletter that lists new patent suits. If you're also interested in subscribing to it, here's an invitation. I find it really useful. Priorsmart also lists the two "web-based media submission tool" patents Summit 6 asserts.

I then found a Summit 6 press release that announced the suit and was distributed over PRNewswire. It describes the patents as covering "technology used to quickly resize, compress and transmit digital photographs and other media" and "software and methods for pre-processing media, such as digital photographs, before transmission to a remote location." The patented inventions are claimed to deliver increased ease-of-use, significantly faster upload times, reduced network traffic, and enable extensive digital storage and reprocessing by remote servers. All of that describes some kind of efficiency gain -- I'm not sure this was really "groundbreaking" (another word that comes up in the press release), but the USPTO certainly found it deserving of two patents.

Summit 6 claims to have successfully licensed those patents to many customers:

"For more than 10 years, Summit 6's groundbreaking technology has been successfully utilized, with permission, by numerous companies around the world, including more than 100 newspapers and online marketplaces in the United States and United Kingdom. The company's inventions, widely commercialized through Summit 6 predecessors PictureWorks Technology, Inc., Internet Pictures Corporation (IPIX) and AdMission Corporation, have changed the way the public uses digital media on a daily basis."

I looked at the list of accused Samsung products to ascertain that this is yet another patent infringement suit targeting (even if not exclusively) Android, after a dozen of them were filed last year. And it is. The list of accused Samsung products is long, and it contains a variety of Android-based products like the Nexus and Galaxy phones and the Galaxy Tab. Just because it's an unusually long list of accused products, these are the Samsung offerings listed in the complaint:

"Captivate, Continuum, Vibrant, Epic, Mesmerize, Showcase, Fascinate, Nexus S, Gem, Suede, Profile, Contour, Zeal, Solstice II, Messager, R335C, Focus, Freeform, t255, Transform, a187, Intercept, Craft, m340, t249, Gusto, Eternity, Flight II, Seek, SGH-T369, Intensity II, Acclaim, Code, Smiley, Gravity, Rugby, Restore, Rant, Reality, Exec, Strive, Sunburst, Reclaim, t139, Caliber, Finesse, Trill, Behold II, Convoy, Mantra, Flight, Mythic, Moment, Caliber, t401g, Intrepid, Intensity, Smooth, MyShot, Rogue, Gravity 2, Solstice, Highlight, Omnia II, t659, Instinct HD, MyShot II, Axle, Messager II, Exclaim, Adorn, Comeback, Jack, t349, Finesse, Alias, a177, Magnet, t239, Trance, Instinct, Tint, Impression, Propel Pro, Mondi, Memoir, TwoStep, Omnia, Renown, Saga, Hue II, Delve, a777, Epix, Highnote, JetSet, Sway, a637, u430, m320, a237, Blackjack II, t339, z400, t229, m360, Galaxy, and Galaxy Tab"

Samsung is the only Android device maker targeted at this stage. Samsung (like RIM) has an operation in Texas, where the suit was filed, but other defendants like Facebook were targeted without having an office in that state (just for doing business there). Should Samsung end up paying royalties for those patents, I'm sure that other Android device makers will also be required to pay -- if it hasn't happened already...

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