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Apple stole some of ZiiLabs’ patents after a series of confidential meetings between the two companies in 2006-2007 where ZiiLabs briefed Apple executives on the patents, court documents allege.


When Apple was in the last steps of designing the iPhone representatives of the company met with 3DLabs — the predecessor to Creative subsidiary ZiiLabs — to discuss the potential use and licensing of its media processor technology and other intellectual property. Apple, with full knowledge of the patents 3DLabs’ presented to the company that now are the basis for a lawsuit between the two companies, chose to infringe upon the patents in the development of the iPhone as well as Mac desktops and laptops, according to a court filing by ZiiLabs.

ZiiLabs filed a suit against Apple and Samsung this week alleging that the two are infringing upon a roster of its mobile related patents. ZiiLabs alleges that Apple’s iPhones, Macbooks and Mac Pros infringe upon its patents, as well as virtually every Samsung mobile device made in the last five years. The full list of the patents involved in the suit can be found here in VR-Zone’s earlier coverage of the case.

According to court documents, in 2006 Apple and 3DLabs signed a nondisclosure agreement to begin discussions about a potential media processor licensing deal with executives of the two companies meeting in December of that year to hammer out specifics. During the December meeting 3D Labs disclosed to Apple representatives information on its media processor technology as well as other proprietary intellectual property. A month later, in January, 3DLabs representatives presented to Apple a technical outline of the company’s media processor programming model.

After the iPhone launched representatives from 3DLabs and Apple continued to meet. In September executives from 3DLabs and Apple met to discuss 3DLabs’ roadmap for its next generation of media processor technology.

ZiiLabs Complaint

Between 2007 and 2013 ZiiLabs’ court complaint is sparse on details on further interactions between the two companies, only alluding there was communication between the two parties and Apple was “fully aware” of ZiiLabs’ patent portfolio. On August 7, 2013, ZiiLabs took the first steps towards taking Apple to court by notifying Apple of its portfolio and Apple’s products, particularly the iPhone, iPad and “various MacBooks” potentially infringe upon it. ZiiLabs’ court filing says that Apple and ZiiLabs continued to be in contact throughout 2013 about the patents in question, but Apple took no measures to license the patents from ZiiLabs (it should be noted that Intel is a licensee of many of the same patents) despite full knowledge that they were potentially infringing.

While Samsung is named as an equal party to Apple in ZiiLabs’ complaint, it’s going to require a rather strenuous effort to make the case that Samsung is equally complicit in the apparent wanton patent infringement that the allegations in the court document accuse Apple of. Samsung and Apple are joined in the lawsuit, ZiiLabs’ lawyers argue, because Samsung manufacturers and sells Apple SoCs. But it also points out that Apple, not Samsung, was briefed by 3DLabs on its patent portfolio. For ZiiLabs to prove equal complicity by Samsung, ZiiLabs will likely have to prove that there was a close level of cooperation between Apple and Samsung that involved Apple transferring information about the patents-in-suit to Samsung for the purposes of building future A-series SoCs.

ZiiLabs is seeking damages, costs and an order for Apple and Samsung to stop infringing upon the patents in question.

None of the allegations presented in the complaint have been proven in court, and neither Apple nor Samsung have yet to file a defense. Apple has yet to respond to requests for comment.

More to come as the trial unfolds.

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