Patents are big money, and when a company with cash reserves like Apple starts pushing out technologies based on shaky patent portfolios, you can bet the patent litigation business is going to benefit. The latest tech company chasing a piece of Apple’s massive cash hoards is Elan Microelectronics. The company claims that Apple is infringing on a “multitouch” patent for detecting two or more finger inputs in a touchpad, and has asked that the US International Trade Commission ban Apple products from the US.
The ITC complaint alleges that Apple’s multitouch-enabled devices – the iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro, Magic Mouse – are violating Elan’s patent and should be stopped from entering the country.
It’s not clear what the ITC will do with the complaint, but if they do decide to pursue the matter, it could go on for 15 months. That wouldn’t be good for Apple, seeing as how the Apple iPad launch is just days from now. This isn’t Elan’s first battle with Apple, either. They previously filed a lawsuit against Apple over the same patent in 2009, after having the patent affirmed by a California district court in 2008.
What’s ironic here is that Apple is now staring down the barrel of a product ban from the ITC, after it sued HTC over 20 potential patent infringements and asked the ITC to ban the import of HTC products into the US. We have to wonder how Apple’s own medicine is starting to taste.
In the end, though, Elan will probably walk away with a princely settlement that absolves Apple of any wrongdoing. That’s just how this game is played.