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Apple Sued Over iPhones Making Calls and Sending Email

May 23, 2016, 3:29 PM UTC
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A customer tries the Siri voice assistant function on an Apple Inc. iPhone 5 at a Telstra Corp. store on George Street in Sydney, Australia, on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012. Apple Inc. is poised for a record iPhone 5 debut and may not be able to keep up with demand as customers line up from Sydney to New York to pick up the latest model of its top-selling product. The device hits stores in eight countries today at 8 a.m. local time, giving customers in Australia the first chance to buy the device. Photographer: Ian Waldie/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Ian Waldie—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Apple has been hit by one of the more shocking patent lawsuits in recent memory.

A company that seemingly does nothing but license patents or, if necessary, sue other companies to get royalties, has taken aim at Apple (AAPL). But here’s the kicker: the lawsuit alleges that Apple’s last several iPhones and iPads violate a slew of patents related to seemingly standard features, including the ability to place calls as well as sending and receiving emails.

A total of six patent infringement claims were brought against Apple by Corydoras Technologies on May 20, according to Apple-tracking site Patently Apple, which obtained a copy of the lawsuit. The case was brought against Apple in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. Corydoras is headquartered in Texas, where many similar companies that buy up or file their own patents and sue others for royalties operate. That’s mainly due to some success the companies have had in Texas courts.

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According to Patently Apple, the counts against Apple cover every iPhone dating back to the iPhone 4 and every iPad dating back to the iPad 2. In addition to taking issue with Apple’s devices placing calls, the lawsuits also allege that the tech giant violates patents Corydoras holds related to video calling, which is similar to Apple’s FaceTime, as well as displaying a person’s geographic location through a feature like Find My iPhone and the ability to block unwanted calls.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment on the report. Corydoras is only listed as a limited liability company in Texas, but it does not appear to have a website or any other method of communication and was not contacted on its lawsuit.

Corydoras has been called a “patent troll” by Patently Apple, among other critics. The term is used to define a company that doesn’t actually sell anything, but buys up intellectual property designed by others (or invents its own technologies) to profit. While these companies are often viewed in a negative light and try to skim royalties off seemingly ridiculous features in some cases, it can pay off. Some patent trolls make millions each year off the sale of devices they don’t make.

For those companies, therefore, there is little risk. Patents can often be acquired for a small amount and a simple court filing is sometimes enough for major companies to settle out of court and pay a nominal royalty. Others like Apple, however, like to battle it out.

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That said, it hasn’t always worked out in the company’s favor. Last year, for instance, Apple went to court in what was called the “plaintiff friendly” U.S. District Court in Texas, only to lose the case. That one was brought against Apple by Smartflash LLC for the company allegedly violating three patents related to copy protection. Apple was ordered to pay $533 million.

For its part, Corydoras hasn’t only targeted Apple. In March, the company brought a similar suit against the world’s top smartphone maker, Samsung. That case is still pending.