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Monday, August 06, 2007, 07:00 am PT (10:00 am ET)

Apple faces new suit over iPhone's touch-screen keyboard [updated]

A small Florida-based firm is suing iPhone maker Apple Inc, alleging that handset's new touch-screen keyboard interface infringes on patent claims dating back over 7 years.

After writing Apple in late February and receiving no response, SP Technologies, LLC on Thursday turned to a patent litigation-friendly federal court in Tyler, Texas, where it filed a formal complaint against electronics maker.

Specifically, the 4-page suit charges that Apple's iPhone keyboard interface treads on four claims outline in an August 4th, 2000 U.S. patent titled "Method and medium for readable keyboard display incapable of user termination."

The 7-year-old filing describes a "method of providing a user interface for receiving information from a user using a user immutable graphical keyboard linked to an input area, [...] invoking the graphical keyboard on a touch screen display to receive input from a user, and [...] maintaining the graphical keyboard on the touch screen display such that the user cannot move, resize, remove, or close the graphical keyboard through the user interface while the input area remains and requires input."

SP Technology argues that by selling and offering to sell its iPhone through Apple and AT&T stores located in the Texas district, Apple has and continues to commit acts of patent infringement.

"Apple’s advertisements, operating instructions and product descriptions direct users to purchase and use the iPhone as called for in the asserted claims," the firm wrote.

In return for Apple's "willful and deliberate" infringement, SP Technology is seeking damages adequate to compensate for the number of iPhones sold thus far, as well as a permanent injunction prohibiting the company from further infringement.

Apple iPhone Keyboard

Apple's iPhone Keyboard Interface (left), A concept drawing from SP's patent (right).


Although Apple has yet to formally respond to the suit, chief executive Steve Jobs in January confidently claimed to have patented nearly every aspect of his firm's iPhone interface through a series of more than 200 patent filings.

Update: InformationWeek notes that Peter V. Boesen, the owner of the patent in question, is a surgeon who was recently sentenced to 51 months in federal penitentiary for defrauding the healthcare system.

"Civil court records show that Boesen, through SP Technologies, has filed a number of patent suits in the past, including claims against Canon, LG Electronics, and Kyocera."

In the case regarding the healthcare system, Boesen was ordered to repay the state and private insurers more than $900,000.

"Boesen is free pending an appeal," wrote InformationWeek. "No word on whether he is using an iPhone to text his lawyer."