Amazon's Kindle Fire hit with patent suit

Patent suit isn't the first from Acacia-owned Smartphone Technologies, and won't be the last as patent infringement cases relating to mobile devices on rise, lawyer says.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

Amazon's first tablet, Kindle Fire won't be available until November, but it has already become the target of a patent lawsuit.

Smartphone Technologies, owned by patent collecting and licensing firm Acacia Research Corporation, claimed that the Kindle Fire infringes four of its patents, news site PaidContent reported Monday. Amazon unveiled the US$199, Android-powered tablet in late September.

The alleged patent violations cover commonplace features used on many touchscreen tablets and smartphones, including tapping on an icon to perform an action, according to the report.

Smartphone Technologies has also gone after other tech bigwigs including Apple and Research In Motion (RIM), makers of the iPhone and BlackBerry handsets respectively, it said.

PaidContent added that a review of lawsuits filed by Acacia in March and October of last year showed that its corporate targets have so far refused to settle and are digging in for a drawn-out court battle.

In a phone interview with ZDNet Asia Tuesday, Andy Leck, head of intellectual property practice group at Baker & McKenzie.Wong & Leow, said it is currently premature to determine the validity of Acacia's suit against Amazon.

But as with any patent litigation, and from the perspective of Singapore law, the claimant has to show that its patent satisfies certain criteria, such as novelty, inventive step and capability of commercialization, while the defendant will try to invalidate the infringement claim, the Singapore-based lawyer noted.

Acacia's business model is similar to a "patent troll", Leck pointed out. The firm acquires patents, then seeks to license them to various companies, and will not hesitate to commence litigation against businesses that infringe its patents yet have no intention of licensing the technologies.

And with reports that Acacia has already taken similar patent infringement action, notably against Apple and RIM, Leck said it is plausible that where a touchscreen device is involved, Acacia will commence infringement battles against handset manufacturers to try and see if it can enter into a settlement.

"Amazon has no choice but to defend itself, either seek to challenge the validity of the claim or come to a settlement," he said, adding that it is unlikely Acacia will relent given its business model.

Patent fatigue nowhere in sight
Despite the onslaught and ongoing patent battles over smartphones and tablets among industry players, patent fatigue has barely set in, Leck noted. "This is just the commencement, and the phenomenon of the patent troll is not by any measure an old tool. More companies will be looking at this business model."

"Society as a whole is going to see more patent infringements [happening]," he said.

Leck added: "What many companies are doing is making sure they have adequate patent protection and a defensive suite of patents to make it difficult for other companies [to attack]. If they cannot do so through R&D, then through merger and acquisitions--a good example is Google's acquisition of Motorola."

Just last week, Motorola was sued by Intellectual Ventures for allegedly infringing six patents relating to mobile computing and file transfer.

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