‘Immersed in trouble’: Apple sued for touch screen intellectual property violations

© Michaela Rehle
Haptic feedback developer Immersion is suing Apple over its 3D Touch and Force Touch features. Multiple versions of the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch each mark an “infringement” of three patents, claims Immersion, which also seeks an end to their US sales.

Impressive subtleties such as smartphones giving off vibrations to let a user know their touch has been felt may be taken for granted by consumers, but not intellectual property lawyers. The same goes for the technology that differentiates light touches from heavy ones.

The iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6S, and 6S Plus, as well as Apple Watch, Watch Sport, and Watch Edition, all use such Immersion-patented technology, the company claims in complaints that also target AT&T. Those patents are No. 8,619,051 “Haptic Feedback System with Stored Effects,” and No. 8,773,356 “Method and Apparatus for Providing Tactile Sensations.”

For the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, patent No. 8,659,571 “Interactivity Model for Shared Feedback on Mobile Devices” is additionally cited.

“While we are pleased to see others in the industry recognize the value of haptics and adopt it in their products, it is important for us to protect our business against infringement of our intellectual property in order to preserve the ecosystem we have built and the investments that we have made in continuing to advance haptic experiences,” Immersion CEO Victor Viegas said in a statement. “We will vigorously defend the intellectual property we have developed when it is infringed.”

Immersion is known for suing and usually winning. It has won cases against Sony, Google, and Microsoft. In Apple’s case, it is not only pursuing damages, but also seeking cease-and-desist measures that would prevent any more of the listed products from being sold in the US.

Apple already has its hands full with an ongoing class-action lawsuit over what’s come to be known as “Error 53,” when an operating system update mysteriously leaves iPhone 6 devices unusable, as well as another update issue that has gone to court: Updating to iOS 9 on an iPhone 4 causes the phone to slow to the point where users are forced to buy new phones.