updated 02:05 am EST, Sat December 10, 2011
Apple has unusual Digitude pact on mobile patents
Apple may have been pressed into an unusual deal with a company to avoid a legal dispute. An ITC complaint (PDF) from Digitude Innovations, a company commonly seen as a patent troll through its lack of real products, is using two patents formerly owned by Apple as well as two more to push for royalties or a ban on Amazon, HTC, LG, Nokia, RIM, Samsung, and Sony. Although routed through Cliff Island, a shell company for Digitude's funding firm Altitude Capital Partners, a "Digitude-Apple" license document at the ITC confirms that Digitude had made the deal with Apple directly.
The reasons for the trade may have come a unique approach Digitude takes to profiting from others' patents. Rather than buying them outright and then suing, Digitude asks companies for their patents and then forms a "consortium" where the companies that gave their patents get a license to all of the group's other patents, avoiding the lawsuits and ITC complaints they would otherwise face. A number of deliberately anonymous companies agreed to patent deals in April and June, one of which would have had to be Apple given an early 2011 transfer of ownership.
Apple is most likely to have given the patents under the threat of an ITC trade ban, although why wouldn't be clear. The iPad maker often tends to resist such companies and regularly disdains even cross-licensing patents, let alone shifting ownership to someone else. It may have either seen the patents as not worth enough to keep directly or decided that the likelihood of winning its defense wasn't worth the risks.
Still, the deal is odd as Apple could have tried offering cash or otherwise something else besides offering patents. That most of Apple's key enemies are targets of the Digitude complaint may have been convenient, but likely not the main focus. [via TechCrunch]