Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is being sued by Rembrandt Patent Innovations LLC and Rembrandt Secure Computing LP for allegedly infringing on a patent that the companies hold, Patently Apple reports. According to the filed complaint, the patent in dispute is titled “Secure and Reliable Boot Strap Architecture” and was issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2001.
The patent summary describes “an architecture for initializing a computer system that ensures the integrity of the bootstrap process and provides reliability. Integrity is validated at each layer transition in the bootstrap process and a recovery process is included for integrity check failures.”
The plaintiffs claim “Apple’s servers and other Apple electronic devices that support iTunes functionality, and any Apple electronic devices configured or adapted to operate with Apple’s iPhone OS or iOS” are infringing on this “bootstrap architecture.” Although the patent holders list almost all of Apple’s products, it is the systems and methods for secure booting and recovery used by these devices that are at the heart of the complaint.
The patent holders say the infringing products include but are not limited to the “Apple iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, iPod Touch 1st Generation, iPod Touch 2nd Generation, iPod Touch 3rd Generation, iPod Touch 4th Generation, iPod Touch 5th Generation, iPad, iPad 2, iPad 3rd Generation, iPad 4th Generation, the Apple iPad mini, and all reasonably similar products.”
On top of the usual patent-infringement lawsuit boilerplate, the complaint also contains the startling accusation that the California-based company knew about its infringement of this patent since at least 2008. According to the plaintiffs, “The ’678 Patent was cited by the European Patent Office, the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and Apple during the prosecution of Apple’s own patents and patent applications.” Based on this evidence, the plaintiffs believe “Apple has willfully infringed and/or does willfully infringe the ’678 Patent.”
The plaintiffs are seeking a damages award that includes “reasonable attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses” and “treble damages for willful infringement.” Rembrandt Patent Innovations and Rembrandt Secure Computing filed their lawsuit on January 10 in the District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, a popular venue for many intellectual property licensing companies, per Patently Apple.
According to PatentFreedom, an NPE (non-practicing entity) is a company that derives “the majority of its revenue from the licensing or enforcement of its intellectual property.” These entities are also popularly referred to as “patent trolls,” although PatentFreedom prefers to avoid the use of that term. PatentFreedom is an organization that caters to companies that are being sued by NPEs. PatentFreedom said Apple was the No. 1 target of NPE lawsuits in 2013.
The website of Rembrandt IP Management provided a company description that appears to fit PatentFreedom’s definition of an NPE: “Rembrandt IP Management’s mission is to provide the necessary resources, including professional expertise and financial capital, to maximize the value of infringed intellectual property. We work with owners of strong patents that have great market value, and we enforce these patents against major companies that may infringe upon them.”
It should be noted that Rembrandt IP Management shares the same address as Rembrandt Patent Innovations LLC and Rembrandt Secure Computing LP. The case is Civil Action No. 2:14-cv-00015-JRG filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas with judge Rodney Gilstrap presiding.