Are Apple and Samsung Coming Under Fire by Patent Trolls?

Attribution @ContandoEstrelas, SamuelM.Livingston, and
Attribution @ContandoEstrelas
Attribution @SamuelM.Livingston


FirstFace, a patent venture firm based in Korea, has filed patent infringement lawsuit against both Apple and Samsung. The lawsuit was filed in California in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The main issue at hand, which was first discovered by Patently Apple, deals with three patents regarding touch based ID. FirstFace is claiming that Apple’s iPhone 5 all the way to the iPhone 8 Plus, and also iPads from the fifth generation onward, infringe on their three patents. They allege that Apple stole their fingerprint scanning technology, claiming that they are the original inventor of the fingerprint sensor that unlocks a smartphone and shows the home screen, and that Apple has been using their technology without their consent.

Shim Young-tack, one of the co-CEOs of Firstface, stated that they tried to contact Apple regarding a licensing deal, but Apple “rejected the offer,” and that this is part of the reason why they now want to file a lawsuit against Apple along with a demand for financial compensation for using their technology without their consent. Young-tack mentioned in an interview with Korea Herald, that “[t]he solution that activates the smartphone screen upon authenticating a user’s fingerprint was something unprecedented before Jung’s invention.”

The Korea Herald reported that Samsung is being sued in United States District Court in the Eastern District of Texas by data security company PACid for infringing its patents related to how the operating system works with Samsung PASS and Samsung KNOX to verify users with fingerprint, iris, or face recognition. Biometric technologies were adopted in the sixth generation Samsung Galaxy S series of smartphones, and have been integrated in Samsung’s smartphones since. Some news sources have actually reported that PACid is known as a patent troll. Potential damages in the suit were reported to be up to approximately $2.8 billion dollars, based on Samsung’s sales volumes and the possibility that Samsung might have knowingly infringed the patents, which could lead to the amount being tripled for willful infringement.

Apple has already moved on from the Touch ID technology in favor of the Face ID facial recognition system on the iPhone X. There are many speculations that the Apple will completely cut ties with the Touch ID technology with the launch of this year’s iPhones. Other recent reports have suggested that three iPhones of Apple’s 2018 lineup will include the Face ID instead of the Touch ID, and that Apple’s stance is that Face ID is substantially more secure than Touch ID security measures on a device. FirstFace apparently has several patents related to unlocking technologies based on face recognition, iris recognition and fingerprint-based user identification in multiple countries. This means that almost all of Apple and Samsung devices are subjected to the current or future patent infringement lawsuits by FirstFace.

Multiple news sources all seem to wonder why FirstFace waited until now to file a suit against Apple since it seems like several cases of the alleged infringement happened several years ago. Patently Apple noted that the language used in all three infringement counts against Apple is language usually associated with patent trolls. Patent trolls are companies that obtain the rights to one or more patents in order to profit by means of licensing or litigation, rather than by actually producing their own goods or services; basically they are ‘companies’ that make money by filing patent infringement lawsuits. Whether FirstFace actually is working as a patent troll here has yet to be determined, but either way, Apple has not released a statement addressing FirstFace’s claims against them. Samsung has also declined to make any official statement regarding the lawsuit against them, but has said that the company had just learned of the suit and it was too early to estimate a damages amount. They plan to look into PACid’s claims and evaluate their opportunities for any countermeasures.

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