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Apple forced to deal with patent troll?

Two mobile patents formerly owned by Apple are cited in a recent lawsuit filed against a handful of tech companies, TechCrunch reports.

Apple appears to have entered an unusual deal with a company commonly referred to as a patent troll.

Digitude Innovations--a company known more for obtaining patents for the purpose of suing other companies for royalties than making products--appears to have acquired two Apple patents it's using to press for royalties or product bans from other tech companies, according to a TechCrunch report. Digitude is reportedly using the patents against Amazon, HTC, LG, Nokia, RIM, Samsung, and Sony.

The company may have been forced into the pact to avoid a costly legal dispute with Digitude, a company founded in 2010 to "acquire, aggregate, and license key technology areas within the consumer electronics and related technology fields in a patent consortium." The Virginia-based company announced in April the "completion of its first such strategic partnership with one of the world's leading consumer electronics companies."

Digitude didn't identify that company, but it appears that it may have been Apple. Digitude recently filed a lawsuit with the International Trade Commission, which has the power to block imports, against a handful of companies (PDF) that cites two patents formerly owned by Apple, TechCrunch reports.

The transfers seem to have occurred through a mystery company called Cliff Island, which appears to exist only in name.

The bigger mystery is why Apple would do this. TechCrunch suggests two scenarios: Either Apple is using Digitude as a "hired gun" to go after patent royalties, or Digitude went after Apple and Apple transferred these patents to assuage Digitude.

Apple representatives did not respond to a request for comment.