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Apple Sued By Immersion For Allegedly Infringing Haptic Feedback Patents Used In 3D Touch

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Apple has its fair shares of patent trolls, and now its got another one on its heels.

Immersion, a haptic technology company, is suing Apple for an undisclosed amount for allegedly infringing on Immersion's patents for providing feedback to the user when the screen of an electronic device is touched.

Apple incorporates these kinds of features on a number of its products. On its latest MacBooks, Apple calls it "Force Touch." On the iPhones, it's "3D Touch." On the Apple Watch, it's the "Digital Touch."

Same thing, different name. Instead of simply tapping on the screen, a user can press down on it to open up and access a different set of actions. Immersion says Apple infringes on its patents which have offered this kind of technology in a variety of medical devices, gaming systems and other kinds of electronics.

Specifically, Immersion seeks damages from Apple infringing on three of it's patents:

  • U.S. Patent No. 8,619,051: "Haptic Feedback System with Stored Effects"
  • U.S. Patent No. 8,773,356: "Method and Apparatus for Providing Tactile Sensations"
  • U.S. Patent No. 8,659,571: "Interactivity Model for Shared Feedback on Mobile Devices"

"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," states Victor Viegas, Immersion's CEO.

Besides seeking damages against Apple, Immersion is also seeking an exclusion order with the U.S. International Trade Commission to prevent the sale of Apple devices using its technology in the country. Moreover, Immersion is also targeting AT&T in its suit as well for encouraging infringing use by others since the telecom company sells Apple devices.

Earlier this year, Apple was ordered to pay over $626 million to another patent troll, VirnetX. That's on top of the $368 million the same company won from Apple in another case in 2012.

Immersion's case is especially particular, however, as it's only targeted AT&T even though there are quite a few companies selling Apple's products, as well. In addition, Samsung and other Android OEM's are also expected to follow Apple's lead by incorporating similar haptic feedback features in their devices, so it remains to be seen if Immersion will go after them as well.

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