According to a new report, Apple has moved some of its patents to the patent-licensing firm Digitude Innovations, which is prompting accusations of the Cupertino giant aiding a so-called “patent troll.” Digitude Innovations filed a suit against a number of tech giants this week including RIM, HTC, LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sony, Amazon, and Nokia. Apple was one of the few companies notably absent from this list.
Further investigation from the folks over at TechCrunch
revealed that two of the patents wielded in the lawsuit had belonged to Apple earlier this year. The report noted that documents had been uncovered confirming a license agreement between Apple and Digitude, though the details of the agreement were not made available to the public. Apple apparently transferred a number of patents to a shell company named Cliff Island LLC earlier this year. Though there was little information provided on the topic, Jason Kincaid was able to ascertain that the company’s address is the same as Digitude investor Altitude Capital. Furthermore, it was later revealed that Cliff Island subsequently transferred the patents to Digitude.
A report from Forbes
from June also noted that Digitude Innovations was created by Altitude founder Robert Kramer. Altitude proceeded to invest $50 million for the purpose of purchasing consumer electronics patents that would be used to sue big tech companies. At the time, Kramer mentioned he had “reached out to many of our prospective customers to encourage them to become early strategic licensees” while a formal licensing program was amidst a fourth quarter launch. It was also noted that Digitude is utilizing a new invest strategy of allowing investors to contribute patents instead of money. The companies that participated would then receive a license for all of the firm’s patents. Since Digitude is primarily in the business of acquiring patents only to use them to sue others, the company has been labeled a “patent troll.” However, Kramer asserts that he is a financial investor with legitimate claims.
It isn’t completely clear whether Apple entered a more formal agreement with Digitude beyond a licensing agreement. Kincaid does offer several plausible scenarios for its relationship with the company though. According to him, Apple could be using Digitude as a “hired gun” in its patent battles. It was pointed out that Apple didn’t hesitate to sue its competitors outright when the company felt its intellectual property was being infringed upon. There is a possibility that Apple may have traded its patents to Digitude as part of a settlement and to be fair, Kincaid did note that this scenario “seems more likely,” while noting that it is hard to see Apple in a “positive light” if that were to be true.
"The idea that the company didn’t have any options other than handing over valuable patents to a patent troll — knowing full well that it would then use those patents to sue other tech companies — seems ludicrous," he wrote. He also mentioned that Apple is by no means strapped for cash with $81 billion in the bank. It is a bit disturbing to think of a company doing so well possibly using dirty tactics such as providing aid to a “patent troll” to benefit.
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