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Posted on April 5th, 2012, by

Apple has been a success through the creation and distribution of computers, digital music players in the Ipod and moved on to the smart phone market with the Iphone.  The success the company has enjoyed is arguably due to a business model in which copyright law is utilized in order to maintain an upper hand against competition in their respective markets.  By copyrighting and patenting their software, hardware and other features, they are helping to ensure that they remain at the top (Reder, 2009).  One of the more unique features that the Apple Iphone offers to consumers is the utilization of a fully functional touch screen.  As of 2011, Apple had been granted a patent awarding full ownership of the touch screen interface that is most used by smart phones.  In addition, the patent is wide-sweeping in the technology that is covered under it; tablet PCs and music players that have touch screen technology could be affected as well (Fish, 2011).  With patents such as these, any competitor could easily be in violation of the patent and as such, Apple could pursue legal action against them, as is the case with phone developer HTC, which was sued by the Iphone creator in 2010.

The suit in which Apple had first filed against the Taiwan based company stated that HTC had violated 20 of their patents including those relating to the Iphone’s user interface, architecture and hardware (Patel, 2010).  The case involving Apple and HTC has potentially turned into a legal back and forth, where HTC is awaiting a ruling from the International Trade Commission or ITC panel, the company has purchased S3 Graphics, a company that holds patents that the ITC had decided were being violated by Apple, which HTC could fall back on should the panel decide to find in favor of the Iphone creator (Cheng, 2011).

Through this potential back and forth between the two companies one can see some issues in which patent rules create not only a broad spectrum for the patentee to call violation on another, it also allows for the owner of said patent to amend the scope to any other activity or use that could potentially be a violation as well.  For instance, the examination of The Northern District of California Patent Local Rules yields the following:

Even though the patent owner will have identified a particular activity as infringing in character prior to the initiation of the suit, the patent owner should not overlook the possibility of other activities which better support the case.  Thus, plaintiffs should use discovery to request information concerning activities in an area as broad as any possible scope of the patent in suit. (Turner, 2001)

In other words, the owners of the patent are not only encouraged making their scope of violation extremely broad; they are also given the opportunity to amend this to apply to any other violations they see fit.

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