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Haptic developer fires patent suits at Apple

Immersion rumbles Cupertino with sueballs

Haptic outfit Immersion, once rumoured to be in talks with Apple, has fired off a lawsuit against Cupertino, AT&T and AT&T Mobility over alleged patent infringements.

Immersion's sueballs have landed in the US International Trade Commission (ITC) and the US District Court in Delaware.

The 2008 talks between Apple and Immersion never amounted to anything, but later that year, the latter company settled a six-year-old lawsuit against Microsoft over its “rumble” technology and became a Microsoft Certified Partner.

Immersion's new lawsuit against Apple is over 3D Touch. The company cites two patents it says is infringed by various iPhone 6 and Apple Watch versions; and one patent it says is infringed by the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus.

The patents in question are 8,619,051 (Haptic feedback system with stored effects), 8,773,356 (Method and apparatus for providing tactile sensations) and 8,659,571 (Interactivity model for shared feedback on mobile devices).

The ITC complaint seeks the usual importation and sales ban, while the District Court suit is to “stop further infringement” and recover damages.

Unlike many patent litigants, Immersion has a long development history, starting in the early 1990s with the development of rumble and force feedback for games controllers.

It's a serial litigant, having also filed complaints against Sony, HTC, Brightpoint, Brightstar and others, with mixed success. Sony paid up US$150 million in 2007. It suffered setbacks in the case against HTC et al, with a judge invalidating some patents in 2015, but the case has been allowed to continue.

The company generated $53 million revenue in its 2014 financial year, currently offers licensing and development kits for mobile, games controllers and wearables. ®

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