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US trade cops agree to investigate Apple's 'embrace and extend'

Remote desktop dev claims Cupertino froze them out

A patent lawsuit alleging that Apple froze out a third-party software developer has been given credence by America's International Trade Commission (USITC), which will investigate the complaint.

Los Angeles-based Aqua Connect Inc claims to have created the market for a Citrix-like multiuser Mac desktop system, only to see Apple destroy it.

Aqua, which builds remote desktop software, and a fellow LA-based biz Strategic Technology Partners are together seeking an exclusion order against Apple over Screen Sharing and AirPlay mirroring.

The case, filed in a central California court a month ago, is at least worth a hearing, the USITC says.

Aqua's product is much like the original Citrix thin client system, but for Mac desktops. The work, Aqua Connect says, was done in 2008. Until then nobody had a Citrix-like solution for Macs. Aqua Connect serves up Mac desktops from a server, via its own protocol or Microsoft's RDP protocol.

The lawsuit shows evidence in the form of emails that Apple "worked closely" with Aqua Connect, developing and helping to sell the latter's product until early 2011. That summer Apple released Mac OS X Lion, which included Screen Sharing for the first time. iOS 5 released that year also saw the debut of Airplay Mirroring. Aqua Connect alleges that Apple changed the EULA to specify that any connection to control a separate graphical desktop session of macOS "may only be made through the Screen Sharing feature of the Apple Software" – freezing out third parties.

The lawsuit names a developer, Dan Crosby, who developed Aqua Connect Terminal Server then left to join Apple.

Aqua Connect filed suit that Apple violated section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 by importing "certain personal computers, mobile devices, digital media players, and microconsoles" that infringed their patents. The patents are US Patent No. 8,924,502 and RE46,386. The former ("System, Method and computer program product for updating a user session in a Mach-derived system environment") was granted last December. The latter ("Updating a User Session in a Mach-derived computer system environment") was filed in 2014 and reissued this year. AquaConnect's lawyers argue that when a Mac shares its screen (using Screen Sharing or Remote Management) it is violating its patent.

The USITC has a terse public statement here

The Register asked Apple to comment. ®

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