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Apple sued for alleged security patent infringement

Intertrust, a company backed by Sony and Philips, says Apple needs to license its security patents.


Intertrust, a company that received hundreds of millions from Microsoft over a patent infringement case in 2004, is now suing Apple.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company announced today that it has filed a patent infringement suit (PDF below) for 15 patents on "security and distributed trusted computing."

Intertrust is asking the court for an injunction to stop Apple from selling or importing products in the U.S. that fall under the patents, and it wants Apple to pay for allegedly using the patents without licensing, according to the complaint. The company is asking for damages and a "reasonable royalty," but the specific amount will be decided in court.

Apple has not responded to a request for comment.

"It's a potentially huge damage award," says Mark McKenna, a law professor at Notre Dame. "It's almost every Apple product."

The suit applies to multiple Apple products and services, including the iPhone, iPad, Mac computers and laptops, Apple TV, iTunes, iCloud, and the Apple App Store.

While Intertrust is not a household name, it's been around since 1990, owns more than 250 patents, and has some well-known backers. Electronics companies Sony and Philips each hold a 49.5 percent stake in the company, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Plus, the company has seen success in the courtroom. In 2004, Microsoft struck a $440 million settlement and licensing deal with Intertrust over anti-piracy tools. The company mentions the Microsoft case in its complaint multiple times to emphasize that Apple was well aware of Intertrust's ownership of the patents.

Intertrust CEO Talal G. Shamoon said his company approached Apple about licensing the patents, but no agreement was reached.

"We've been talking to them a long time; it's been a complex set of discussions," Shamoon told CNET, adding that he couldn't provide more details because of nondisclosure agreements.

The 15 patents in the case, Shamoon explains, relates to creating safe operating systems where programs and content are processed. This covers a wide range of actions.

"Protecting apps and killing apps -- we believe we play a role in enabling that," he said.

McKenna said that Intertrust's complaint over 15 patents is not unusual for a case involving software. "The patents overlap and they apply in different contexts," he said. Intertrust used 11 in its case against Microsoft, for instance.

Of course, Apple is no stranger to patent litigation. It's long been locked in battle with rival smartphone and tablet maker Samsung over allegations of patent infringement.

Here is a PDF of Intertrust's complaint:

Intertrust's Complaint for Patent Infringement

Update, 2:35 p.m. PT: Updated with comments from Intertrust and more information and analysis.