Apple Sued Over iPhone Browser

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EMG Technologies, a holding company that manages patents held by Los Angeles real estate developer Elliot Gottfurcht, has filed a lawsuit against Apple, claiming the company’s iPhone violates a patent covering converting HTML-based Web pages into a simplified mobile-friendly XML format. In a statement, EMG claims the iPhone uses the same technique described in their patent 7,441,196, which they applied for in March 2006 but was only granted last month. The lawsuit is being spearheaded by Stanley Gibson of the law firm Jeffer, Mangels, Butler & Marmaro, who specializes in intellectual property law and recently won a $1.35 billion payment in a case against Medtronic. The suit was filed in the Eastern District of Texas, which has generally been sympathetic to patent-holders.

It’s unclear why EMG believes their patent applies to the iPhone—which uses a mobile version of Apple’s full-featured Safari Web browser—and not to Web-enabled phones from any number of other vendors. The patent application also describes a method for controlling a region of a screen for scrolling and zooming; while those may be signature features of the iPhone, they are also far from unique.

Industry watchers are dubious that a patent with such wide-spread implications for the mobile Internet industry will stand up to scrutiny, an speculate EMG may simply be targeting Apple for the visibility factor, which may encourage other mobile systems makers to license the patent rather than risk a court battle.

An Apple spokesperson declined to comment on the EMG suit.