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Monday, October 08, 2007, 11:10 am PT (02:10 pm ET)

Apple sued over iPhone locking, DRM patent violations

Apple has been hit with two new lawsuits: one which charges the iPhone maker with antitrust violations for permanently disabling unlocked versions of its touch-screen handset, and another that accuses the company — along with several other tech giants and adult media publishers — with violating a DRM-related patent.

Suit over bricked iPhones

On Friday, California resident Timothy Smith filed a class-action lawsuit against Apple, alleging that the company is violating the state's Cartwright Act by prohibiting iPhone consumers from using and purchasing cell phone service other than through AT&T.

Filed on behalf of Smith by Damian Fernandez, the attorney who's been seeking plaintiffs for a class-action case against Apple over iPhone bricking, the suit claims that cell phone unlocking is completely legal and cites traditional copyright law as well as the more recent Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The formal complaint, which does not yet seek monetary damages, asks the court to issue an injunction that would prevent Apple from selling the iPhone with any software lock. It also asks that Apple be enjoined from denying warranty service to users of unlocked iPhones and from requiring iPhone users to get their phone service through AT&T.

Suit over DRM patent violations

Meanwhile, AppleInsider has learned that Apple on Friday was also named in new patent infringement suit along with digital media heavyweights Microsoft, Blockbuster, Sony, and Macrovision, as well as adult content providers Playboy and Hustler.

The 11-page complaint, filed in the patent litigation-friendly district of Tyler, Texas, charges each of the firms with violating U.S. patent #6389541 for "Regulating Access to Digital Content," which was issued to Digital Reg of Texas, LLC in May of 2002.

"Upon information and belief, Apple has infringed and continues to infringe the [...] patent by making, using, providing, offering to sell, and selling (directly or through intermediaries), in this district and elsewhere in the United States, digital content incorporating DRM technology," the suit claims. "Apple provides such content through its iTunes Music Store and its iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store. Apple further provides controlled access and play out of digital content incorporating DRM technology through its iTunes Player. Apple also provides controlled access of digital content through its FairPlay Platform."

Digital Reg is seeking damages as a result of each defendant’s infringement, a permanent injunction barring the companies from further infringement, attorney's fees, and an award of enhanced damages "up to and including trebling" those deemed suitable by the Court as a result of each company's "willful and deliberate" actions.

Digital Reg is requesting a trial by jury.