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Apple’s interface held to the fire in dubious suit

An Illinois-based company and its Nevada partner have filed a lawsuit against Apple Inc., alleging that Mac OS X 10.4 “Tiger” treads on an interface patent that affects the operating system’s nearly universal use of tabs.

Little-known intellectual property agency IP Innovation LLC and its parent Technology Licensing Corporation this week became the latest to claim that Apple had abused a patent they hold.

Filed in a US district court in Marshall, Texas — a town frequently recognized as the preferred home for lawsuits by companies that hoard property claims — the four-page formal complaint purports that Apple has engaged in “willful and deliberate” infringement of a computer control patent by selling its current Tiger operating system.

P Innovation is demanding a jury trial and asks for reparations for perceived damages which “exceed $20 million,” according to the suit. It also seeks an injunction that would prevent the California-based defendant from infringing on the patent, essentially blocking Apple from continuing to sell its current edition of Mac OS X and any future editions that might draw on the supposed infringements.

The reported violation is an exceptionally specific one. It refers to a single US Patent Office filing originally made by Xerox researchers for a “User Interface with Multiple Workspaces for Sharing Display System Objects” — and, in turn, a lone claim within that patent.

The disputed section refers to the technique of creating a window on a computer’s screen with controls that switch between views of multiple associated display objects within the window, erasing one view as the user selects another while still giving a spatial frame of reference and the same general interface during the switch.

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Apple, Mac, OS X, Xerox

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