Apple, LG, Huawei, ZTE, HTC accused of pilfering 'find my phone' tech

Military comms developer says Android and iOS are trampling its patents

A software company that makes tracking tools for military and 911 crews says some of the biggest mobile phone makers on the planet are stealing its technology for their own security tools.

AGIS Software Development LLC this week filed suit in the East Texas District Court against Apple, LG, Huawei, ZTE and HTC for violating four of its patents related to tracking the location of mobile devices.

AGIS is no patent troll, but rather an established software house in its own right. The company develops a mobile and desktop app called LifeRing that is intended to allow military units, law enforcement, and emergency first responders to track individuals through their mobile phones or tablets.

The company also holds a number of patents, including the four it says are being used by consumer phone makers in their own tracking tools:

  • Patents 9,467,838, 9,445,251, and 9,408,055, each described as a "method to provide ad hoc and password protected digital and voice networks."
  • Patent 8,213,970, a "method of utilizing forced alerts for interactive remote communications."

The patents were granted between 2012 and 2016.

In the case of Apple, AGIS says the iOS Find My iPhone, Apple Maps, Find My Friends, and iMessage apps all use the technology described in its patents. For the Android products, the patents are said to be used for Google Maps, Android Device Manager, Find My Device, Google Messages, Android Messenger, Google Hangouts, Google Plus, and Google Latitude.

AGIS charges that while Apple directly infringed with its iOS software, each of the other mobile device manufacturers violate the patents through their use of Android software, though Google is not a party in the suit.

"The Accused Devices include functionality that allows users to form groups with other users such that users may view each other's locations on a map and engage in communication including text, voice, and multimedia-based communication," AGIS says in its complaints.

"Additionally, the users may form groups that include their own devices in order to track their own lost or stolen devices as shown below."

The complaints – here's the one against Apple, for example – seek damages for the infringement and, if needed, an injunction on the infringing handsets. Far more likely – should the claims survive motions to dismiss – is one or more out-of-court licensing agreements. ®

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