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Friday, June 15, 2007, 08:00 am PT (11:00 am ET)

Apple to license interface technology as part of settlement

Apple has reached an out-of-court settlement with little-known intellectual property agency IP Innovation LLC, which earlier this year alleged that the Mac maker's universal use of tabs in its Tiger operating system infringed on a 20-year old interface patent.

As part of the deal, Apple will licensing IP Innovation's graphic user interface technology, Acacia Research Corporation, the parent company of IP Innovations, said Friday. Terms of the deal were not made public.

IP Innovation on April 18th used a US district court in Marshall, Texas — a town frequently recognized as the preferred home for lawsuits by companies that hoard property claims — to file a four-page formal complaint to charge Apple with engaging in "willful and deliberate" infringement of a computer control patent by selling its current Tiger operating system.

The suit, which was reported by AppleInsider, sought perceived damages which "exceed $20 million" in addition to an injunction that would prevent the Cupertino-based Apple from selling its current edition of Mac OS X and any future editions that would draw on the supposed infringements.

The reported violation was an exceptionally specific one, referring to a single US Patent Office filing originally made by Xerox researchers for a "User Interface with Multiple Workspaces for Sharing Display System Objects."

The disputed section referred to the technique of creating a window on a computer screen with controls that switch between views of multiple associated display objects within the window, erasing one view as the user selects another while still giving a spatial frame of reference and the same general interface during the switch.

The agreement between Apple and IP Innovation resolves all patent litigation that was pending in the District Court for the Eastern District of Texas with respect to certain Apple products, Acacia Research Corporation said in a statment.