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Apple may be liable for Siri-related patent violation

In a case that may generate interest among Ohio residents, a federal judge has ruled that a Colorado-based voice technologies company can move forward with its claim that the well-known Siri application, available on many Apple devices, has infringed on its 1998 patent. The company, Potter Voice technologies, has entered into business litigation against several companies including Apple, Sony, Google, Research in Motion, Samsung and Motorola.

The lawsuit claims that Siri violates the company's patent on a method and apparatus for controlling a digital computer using oral input. Apple filed a motion to have the claims severed and then transferred to San Francisco. It was there that a U.S. District Judge decided to allow the third amended complaint to proceed.

According to the claim, Apple acquired Siri Inc. in 2010 and the inventors whose patent was allegedly infringed upon worked for Siri. Apple attempted to counter the argument that it knowingly used patent-protected information, stating that although the patent had been named as part of an information disclosure statement, the inventors would not have remembered it. The judge disagreed and ruled that Potter had shown, by more than mere coincidence, that Apple was aware of the patent. In addition, the judge supported indirect infringement claims alleging that Apple actively encouraged customers to use the technology embedded in Google Voice Search and Siri, features that are included on several Apple devices including iPhones.

Large companies often purchase or merge with smaller ones, acquiring the smaller company's patents along the way. If a company fails to perform due diligence, such as preparing an information disclosure statement during a merger or purchase, it may leave itself open to patent infringement claims. A lawyer with a background in business and commercial law may be able to document all company-owned patents and perform the necessary due diligence for an upcoming merger or acquisition.

Source: Courthouse News, "Patents Behind Siri Could Leave Apple Liable", Courtney Walters, January 08, 2014

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