Judge steps down from Apple's Siri patent case

Citing conflicts of interest, the judge controlling Apple's latest patent lawsuit has washed his hand of the trial.

New York District Court Judge Gary Sharpe has recused himself from a lawsuit involving Apple as he has an "interest" in the technology firm.

First reported by sister site CNET, the new lawsuit claims that famous Apple virtual personal assistant Siri -- found on iPhones and iPad models -- was developed based on exploiting patented technology.

The case has been brought to the bar by Texas-based Dynamic Advances, who claims Siri infringes on licensed voice recognition technology.

Sharpe claims an "interest" in Apple prevents him from being qualified to judge the case. It is unclear what "interest" Sharpe has in the tech giant, but stocks or shares may be involved. When a judge decides to step down, they can cite conflicts of interest, which in law says "Any conduct that would lead a reasonable [person] knowing all the circumstances to the conclusion that the judge's 'impartiality might reasonably be questioned'" can be considered grounds for dismissal of a case.

The patent in question is U.S. Patent No.7,177,798, which reads:

"A method for processing a natural language input provided by a user includes: providing a natural language query input to the user; performing, based on the input, a search of one or more language-based databases; providing, through a user interface, a result of the search to the user; identifying, for the one or more language-based databases, a finite number of database objects; and determining a plurality of combinations of the finite number of database objects.

The one or more language-based databases include at least one metadata database including at least one of a group of information types including case information, keywords, information models, and database values."

To add a twist to the tale, Dynamic Advances was not the original inventor of the patent. Instead, it owns an exclusive license gained from the inventor's place of work, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Within Dynamic Advances's complaint (.pdf), the firm says that the ’798 patent has been "repeatedly cited" in patent applications filed by companies including Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, IBM, Sony, Google, and Apple. In particular, the complaint says that Apple has cited the technology in three patent applications, alleging that the iPad and iPhone maker "has infringed and continues to infringe" the patent through Siri.

As Sharpe will no longer preside over the case, District Judge David Hurd is due to be instated.