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Apple sued over Apple TV

Patent suit filed by EZ4Media alleges that Apple hired away from Universal Electronics three employees who had confidential knowledge of technology ultimately included in Apple products.

A maker of wireless set-top boxes has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Apple, claiming that the Cupertino, Calif.-based company hired away three employees with knowledge of technology that would be included in Apple TV.

In a six-page complaint filed Tuesday with the Illinois Northern Federal District Court, EZ4Media claims that Apple TV, AirPort Express, and Macintosh computers infringe on patents owned by the set-top box maker. The patents--specifically 7,130,616, 7,142,934, 7,142,935, and 7,167,765--were obtained in March by EZ4Media from Universal Electronics, according to InformationWeek, which first reported the suit.

In its suit, Bannockburn, Ill.-based EZ4Media claims that Apple hired three former Universal Electronics employees-- Nick Kalayjian, Bruce Edwards, and Wendy Goh--during the development of Apple TV.

"Each of these employees had access to (Universal's) confidential and proprietary information, and left (Universal) for Apple within 30 days of each other in the second quarter of 2005," the complaint says. "Apple TV was commercially introduced in September 2006."

Kalayjian, who now works at Tesla Motors, told InformationWeek that he wasn't involved in the development of Apple TV and declined to comment further.

EZ4Media is seeking an injunction prohibiting Apple from further acts of infringement, as well as "damages adequate to compensate it for the infringement that has occurred, but in no event less than a reasonable royalty."

This is not the first lawsuit EZ4Media has filed over these patents. In June, the company filed two suits, the first against Logitech, Netgear, and D-Link, and the second against Samsung, Pioneer, Yamaha, D&M Holdings, and Denon. Samsung was dropped from the lawsuit after an undisclosed out-of-court settlement.

Apple representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.