Apple Gets Lawsuit Happy: The Target? iOS Accessories
Apple likes to file lawsuits. To be fair, lawsuits are the bread and butter of any high tech company that lives on its patents. However, its lawsuit against Sanho Corporation might irk some Apple customers and will test the limits of patent law.
Sanho makes the HyperMac external batteries that many Macintosh users use on the road for their MacBooks to keep them running far longer than the internal batteries can. That was all fine and dandy with Apple. What pushed Apple over the edge apparently was that Sanho started adding connectors to their batteries so they could power iOS devices as well through 30-pin connectors. You might wonder what the big deal is. Well, Apple claims that because it owns the patents to the 30-pin connector that iOS devices use, and MagSafe—which is the connector for MacBooks—Sanho needs to stop selling both products and turn over all of its profits, stop selling them, etc.
Things get interesting when you consider the concept of the ‘Exhaustion Doctrine’ that is a legal defense for patent infringements. Wiki it if you want the full details, but basically it says that a company’s control over its patent ends when it sells an item incorporating it for that specific item sold. Sanho claims that it uses real Apple connectors in its products. It buys them and then modifies them for its products. Thus, it thinks it is not infringing Apple’s patents over the 30-pin and MagSafe connectors. However, Apple seems to think it is.
I don’t know who is right in all of this, but I am sure users of HyperMac batteries for their MacBooks and iOS devices are going to be upset if they are pulled from the market.
Let me know if you think Apple is just protecting its intellectual property or going a little too gungho on companies that are trying to fill a niche that Apple is not filling. This might just be the first in a wave of lawsuits by Apple against everyone and everything iOS related. It wouldn’t surprise me.