The biometric identification and payment systems of the Apple Touch, Face ID and iPhone Wallet could be infringing at least three USA patents. This is the core of the claim filed last February 23rd before the Western District de Texas (USA) by the Australian Patent Assertion Entity (PAE) by Cpc Patent Technologies PTY Ltd.
The three patents (numbers 9,269,208 , 9,665,705 and 8,620,039 also filed as European patent) protect, by extremely wide claims, amongst others, “A method to authenticate a physiological biometric signal of an individual, obtained from a fingerprint, retinal eye pattern or face “. As it is usual in this type of procedure, the patents – with priorities exceeding fifteen years – have not been exploited by their successive holders and only now, in the last years of their legal life, an attempt to maximize their value by claiming damages for lost royalties is filed.
After the recent precedents of Tesla (sued for the LTE connectivity of its vehicles, a caser finally settled) and of Apple itself (which in August 2020 was ordered to pay USD 506 million for the same matter) the activity of the NPEs (or trolls patent as they are commonly known) seems to have re-emerged after the pandemic parenthesis
The disputes have not yet reached the EU although the concerns are mounting. The European Commission, nevertheless, rules out that the situation at this stage should be preoccupant since, in its opinion, the existent legal mechanisms in the EU members are in principle enough to avoid “large-scale actions” of NPEs in the EU territories
Some neighboring countries, such as Germany, are already preparing legislative reforms aimed at minimizing the direct impact that this type of lawsuit may have on the daily activity of large manufacturers (such as the automobile industry), taking into account proportionality criteria (even when its assessment is relegated to the courts, the legislator suggests, among other factors, to take into account the actual use of the patent by its owner, a requirement that paradoxically disappeared in the Spanish Patent Law of 2015).
Jorge Oria Sousa Montes