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Wednesday, January 23, 2008, 10:00 am PT (01:00 pm ET)

Apple faces new lawsuit over iPhone concept

A little-known California company is suing Apple Inc. and satellite phone company Atlantic RT, Inc. for patent infringement after having just recently beat both firms to a new patent covering mobile entertainment and communications devices.

Los Angeles-based Minerva Industries, Inc. filed the patent infringement lawsuit in the Eastern District of Texas on Tuesday, just hours after having been granted United States Patent No. 7,321,783 entitled "Mobile Entertainment and Communication Device."

The 6-page formal complaint alleges that representatives from Minerva informed Apple of their pending application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office covering iPhone concepts back in November, but that Apple "waited until approximately one week before the patent was to issue before sending prior art" in an attempt to trump the filing with one of its own.

After subsequently examining both claims, however, the patent office definitively ruled in Minerva's favor, determining the claims within its application were patentable over Apple's prior art and all other art that had been submitted to the office.

"On information and belief, Apple monitored the progress of [Minerva's Application during the continued reexamination, and became aware on or about November 20, 2007 that the Patent Office rejected its contention that the Apple Prior Art rendered the claims of [Minerva's] Application invalid and had issued a notice of allowance," Minerva's attorneys at Russ August & Kabat wrote in the suit.

"As a result of these Defendants’ infringement of the ‘783 Patent, Minerva has suffered monetary damages in an amount not yet determined, and will continue to suffer damages in the future unless Defendants’ infringing activities are enjoined by this Court."

Similarly, the complaint claims, Atlantic is also liable of infringement of the '783 Patent "by, among other things, making, using, offering to sell, or selling mobile entertainment and communication devices covered by one or more claims of the ‘783 Patent, including without limitation the Thuraya SG-2520."

Minerva is seeking a permanent injunction enjoining Apple and AtlanticRT from further infringement, a judgment and order requiring both firms to pay damages, attorneys’ fees, as well as an award of enhanced damages due to the pair's "deliberate and willful" conduct.

Minerva on Tuesday also filed two additional suits of similar nature. One targets Research In Motion and Cricket Communications, while the other names 29 defendants, including AT&T Mobility, LG, Palm, Motorola, Nokia, Alltel, Dobson Cellular, Helio, HP, MetroPCS Wireless, Sprint Spectrum, Nextel, T-Mobile USA, Tracfone Wireless, Cellco Partnership, Virgin Mobile, HTC, Kyocera Wireless, Pantech Wireless, Sanyo, Sony Ericsson, and Samsung.