Several technology companies have been told they are at the centre of a patent complaint concerning touchscreen technology, filed by Ireland’s Neodron.
Although there is little information regarding Neodron as a company, it appears to be what some would describe as a patent troll. Having been founded in December 2018 after purchasing the patents in question, there seems to be little other point to the business than to squeeze the technology giants for licence fees. The investigation will focus on Section 337, known as ‘Unfair Import Investigations’.
Having filed the complaint with the US International Trade Commission (USITC) on February 14, the authority will now begin an investigation into the matter. The companies which will come under the microscope are Amazon, Apple, ASUS, LG, Microsoft, Motorola, Samsung and Sony.
The investigation will concern four patents relating to the touchscreen functionality of various smartphone, tablets and laptops:
US Patent No. 7,821,425
Prevents ‘key overlap’ by measuring signal strength associated with each key on the screen, mitigating confusion should a user’ finger overlap from a desired key to onto adjacent ones.
US Patent No. 7,903,092
Another patent to prevent ‘key overlap’ though this one allows for certain keys to be supressed should the user persistently wrongly select it
US Patent No. 8,749,251
Effectively measures the amount of time in which a key has been pressed, and, if the amount of time that has elapsed exceeds a predetermined time duration, a particular function or feature is initiated
US Patent No. 9,411,472
A method to measure and store the data associated with touch sensors. Also includes methods to access a stored threshold value, determine the strength of a charge return path between the touch sensor and a ground, and adjust the stored threshold value
While it is hardly uncommon for companies to prod and probe in pursuit of licensing fees associated with technology patents, the fact this complaint has been escalated to an investigation suggests there could be some credibility. For every investigation which is announced by the USITC, there are numerous complaints which are dismissed. And this is not the first time Neodron has been in the headlines as a Patent Troll.
Last year, several US companies were targeted for a similar series of patents. Samsung, Amazon, Microsoft, Dell, HP, Lenovo and Motorola were the respondents during that investigation. This investigation is scheduled to end on March 27 and is focused on four different patents; US Patent No. 8,432,173; 8,791,910; 9,024,790; 9,372,580. These patents are also focused on touchscreen technologies, though more directional related than pressure.
Should Neodron be successful in its venture it could prevent the import and/or sale of devices which are in breach of the patent, though we suspect that a large enough cheque might make the complaints disappear.