Judge steps down in patent lawsuit filed over Apple's Siri

In a new lawsuit that claims Apple's virtual personal assistant is infringing on already developed patent technology, the judge recuses himself because of "interest" in the tech company.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read

A recently filed lawsuit over Apple's Siri has already run into a wrinkle -- the judge assigned to the case has stepped down because of his "interest" in Apple.

District Court Judge Gary Sharpe recused himself from the case yesterday, citing a law that says, "Any conduct that would lead a reasonable [person] knowing all the circumstances to the conclusion that the judge's 'impartiality might reasonably be questioned' is a basis for the judge's disqualification."

It's not clear what Sharpe's "interest" in Apple was, but most likely it was something like owning stock in the company.

The case against Apple is the newest in a long line of lawsuits over its Siri voice assistant app. However, what's different in this case is that rather than being about Apple overstating the abilities of the virtual personal assistant, it's over a patent.

Dynamic Advances, a limited liability company based in Texas, is claiming that Apple is infringing on a voice recognition technology patent called '798 Patent. To add another twist to the case, Dynamic Advances did not actually invent '798 Patent but rather has exclusively licensed it from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute -- where the inventors work.

According to the legal blog Justia, Dynamic Advances was created last year by patent monetizer Erich Spangenberg, who is known for a "sue first, ask questions later" approach to patent infringement.

In Dynamic Advances' complaint (PDF), which was filed on Friday in a New York federal court, it says the '798 Patent has been repeatedly cited in patent applications filed by a number of tech companies, including Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, IBM, Sony, Google, and Apple. It says Apple cited it in at least three different patent applications.

"Apple has infringed and continues to infringe, either literally or under the doctrine of equivalents, one or more claims of the '798 Patent by processing natural-language inputs in the United States," the complaint reads. "For example, on information and belief, Apple's Siri personal assistant, available for select iPhones, iPads, and iPods, includes technology claimed in the '798 Patent."

Since Sharpe has recused himself from the case, District Judge David Hurd will now take over the lawsuit.

CNET contacted Apple for comment. We'll update the story when we get more information.