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Apple hit with patent lawsuit over iPhone's use of headphones

An apparent shell company files a $3 million lawsuit over a 2008 patent covering an interface for sending and receiving audio signals from a phone.

Apple has been handed a lawsuit over its use of headphones on the iPhone.
Josh Long/CNET

An apparent shell company has filed a $3 million patent infringement lawsuit against Apple for including headphones with its iPhones.

A company called Intelligent Smart Phones Concepts sued Apple last week in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleging that Apple infringed on U.S. Patent No. 7,373,182. The abstract for "Wireless Mobile Phone Including a Headset" describes an interface that allows a removable headset "to receive at least telephony audio signals from the phone, and to provide audio signals to the phone."

Art included with the patent application and subsequent lawsuit demonstrates how the interface works:

The "Wireless Mobile Phone Including a Headset." USPTO

ISPC is seeking $3 million in lost revenue and royalties, as well as an injunction preventing Apple from further infringement of the patent. CNET has contacted Sepehr Daghighian, described in court documents as ISPC's attorney, for more information about the company and will update this report when we learn more. The only information available via Internet searches was related to its lawsuit against Apple, suggesting the company is a nonpracticing entity created to extract licensing fees from other companies rather than making products based on the patents.

CNET has also contacted Apple for comment on the lawsuit and will update this report when we learn more.

The patent was granted in 2008 and assigned to Varia Mobil, a Seattle-based company connected to Varia Holdings, which earlier this year sued Samsung and Research In Motion for installing emoticon shortcut menus on their mobile phones.

The lawsuit against Apple was filed the same day that David Kappos, the outgoing head of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, told critics of the patent system to "give it a rest already."

A study released earlier this year found that patent infringement lawsuits are on the rise, costing U.S. companies $29 billion in 2011. The explosion in patent lawsuits, especially in the software and pharmaceutical industries, led one judge presiding over high-profile cases to declare that "patent protection is on the whole excessive and that major reforms are necessary."

[Via GigaOm]

Intelligent Smart Phone Concepts v. Apple