updated 07:44 pm EDT, Mon July 9, 2012
Company claims demoes and loans of tech facilitated theft
California noise reduction company NoiseFree claims that Apple has pilfered its technology for use in the iPhone 4 and other devices. According to the court filing (seen below), NoiseFree engaged in behind-closed-doors demonstrations of its technology with Apple engineers and the head of iPhone development. The company claims Apple then attempted to patent the idea under its own name, and used the technology in a variety of iOS devices without permission or licensing.
The technology that NoiseFree developed is a combination microphone and waveform injector that listens for ambient noise. The ambient noise, such as wind or other white noise, is actively reduced by the injection of a reverse-waveform into the audio stream minimizing the impact of the noise. Given the bi-directional nature of a phone call, NoiseFree's implementation is similar, but not identical, to noise-reducing headphones.
NoiseFree claims that it provided Apple with presentations, documentation, and samples of its technology in 2008, and restarted the demos in 2010 after Apple "abruptly ceased communications" with the company in 2009. During the 2010 demos, Apple applied for its own patent on noise reduction technology that it contracted with a third party, Audience, to provide Apple with noise reduction systems and software for the iOS line.
NoiseFree is suing both Apple and Audience for patent infringement of a patent awarded in April 2012, misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract for violating Apple's and NoiseFree's two non-disclosure agreements, sacrifice of an Apple-filed (but not yet awarded) patent on the noise reduction technology, and violation of the California statutory Unfair Competition Act.
The suit seeks unspecified damages, legal fees, and a sales injunction of Apple's infringing products which include the iPhone 4, 4S, iPad 2, current-generation iPad, and presumably the next release of the iPhone and iPad. Apple has not responded to the suit, and declined MacNN's request for a comment.
Noise Free v Apple