Apple and Samsung Sued For Patent Infringement Over Touch Screen Functionality

Plaintiff Neonode Smartphone LLC filed suits against Apple and Samsung, alleging the device manufacturers infringed on touchscreen interface patents. The patents-in-suit are 8,095,879 (the ’879 patent), entitled “User Interface for Mobile Handheld Computer Unit” and 8,812,993 (the “’993 Patent”), entitled “User Interface.” Neonode created the Neonode N1 and N2 mobile phones, which “incorporated the company’s zForce and Neno touchscreen and interface technologies, which enabled production of a phone small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and allowed the user to navigate menus and functions with simple finger-based taps and swipes.” Apple and Samsung each allegedly infringe both the ’879 and ’993 patents.

The complaint said Apple and Samsung were aware of Neonode’s patents; they claimed that it had its patents long before Apple sued Samsung for the “slide to unlock” patent, which covers similar technology, and Samsung filed information referencing Neonode’s devices as a principal prior art reference. There were also numerous articles written about Neonode and its patented technology, according to the complaint. Moreover, Apple discussed acquiring Neonode’s patent family with Neonode, but passed on the opportunity. Additionally, in 2005, Neonode and Samsung entered into a research and development and license agreement; where Neonode license some patents “in the zForce and Neno portfolios” to Samsung.

Apple’s infringing devices include the iPhone X, all subsequent iPhone models, as well as third and fourth generation iPad Pro models, which all require a swipe to open. Samsung’s infringing devices include the Samsung Galaxy S line of smartphones, Samsung’s Galaxy Note, Galaxy Tab, and Galaxy A series devices, among others.

In 2014, Apple introduced the idea of swipe typing; this was already available in Samsung phones beginning in 2012. This feature, and others, utilize the technology in Neonode’s patents.

For example, Apple and Samsung infringe on at least claim 1 of the ’879 patent through the use of a control bar. Apple’s Accused Devices include “a display that is touch sensitive” where one or more representations of functions are displayed. The control bar represents the function to open the control center and use the displays within the control center. Further, the “Control Bar consists of only one option for activating the function, and the function is activated by a multi-step operation comprising (i) an object (such as a user’s finger) touching the display at the location of the Control Bar and (ii) gliding along the display away from the touched location.” Thus, Neonode states that this functionality directly represents and utilizes the patented information. Apple also infringes from its QuickPath swipe-typing functionality, third party keyboard apps, and swipe typing. Samsung allegedly infringed through its lock screen, where a user transitions from a lock screen to a passcode entry screen, which requires using a “swipe to unlock” feature. This is allegedly “a representation of a function, the representation consists of only one option for activating the function.” Specifically, a user’s finger touches the display screen and performs the “swipe to unlock” function and representation then may glide and tap the pass-code. Neonode claimed that this represents a transition, which infringes this patent. Samsung also allegedly infringes through the use of swipe typing and incoming call features.

Both Apple and Samsung were accused of direct and indirect infringement, as well as contributory infringement. Neonode states that neither Apple nor Samsung are licensed or authorized to use this patented technology.

Neonode has sought a declaratory judgment in its favor, an award for damages, injunctive relief, treble damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, an award for costs, and other relief as determined by the court.

The suit is filed in the Western District of Texas. Neonode Smartphone is represented by Haley & Olson, P.C., as well as Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP.