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Minerva Industries: We Own Your Smartphone

 Smartphone 26th January 2008

You probably have never heard of Minerva Industries - they are a California based company that doesn't appear to have any noticeable products. But the US Patent Office have recently granted them a patent that seems to cover just about every reasonably high end phone and smartphone produced over the past couple of years.

US Patent 7,321,783 covers the following:

    A mobile entertainment and communication device in a palm-held size housing has a cellular or satellite telephone capable of wireless communication with the Internet and one or more replaceable memory card sockets for receiving a blank memory card for recording data directly from the Internet and, in particular, musical performances that then can be selectively reproduced by the device for the enjoyment of the user, including both audio and visual recordings and reproductions. The device also includes a camera and microphone for recording images and sound within the range of the device that can be wirelessly transmitted, either selectively or automatically to a remote telephone. Further, the device includes sensors for sensing unusual conditions that may also be transmitted to a remote telephone, together with the location of the device as determined by a GPS section of the device.

 US Patent and Trademark Office That patent was filed in November 2003, and it follows on from US Patent 6,681,120 which is almost identical, filed in March 2000. Of course, the Nokia N95 does all of those things today, but back in 2000 you could perhaps see individual elements in the Nokia 9110 (Internet connection, memory card), the Sharp J-SH04 was released later that year (first camera phone), digital audio players had already been around for a few years with the first MP3 capable phone, the Samsung M100, following later in 2000. Furthermore, GPS has been available to civilians since the mid-1990s. So, are these patents really valid, or do they just lump in obvious developments?

It's likely that we will find out. Almost immediately after being granted the patent, Minerva Technologies filed a lawsuit again several companies, including Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Apple, HTC, Palm, Samsung, RIM, T-Mobile and Virgin Mobile plus many others.

This looks like yet another case that will be dragged through the courts. Perhaps Minerva Industries are a Patent Troll, or perhaps they have a valid claim. One thing is for certain, there is a lot of money at stake.

You can read more about this case at Patent Troll Tracker and Techdirt.

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