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Tuesday, February 26, 2008, 05:10 pm PT (08:10 pm ET)

Lawsuit claims iPhone infringes call display patent

A new Massachusetts complaint accuses Apple of violating a patent for a basic call display system.

The five-page complaint by Romek Figa, who does business in the eastern US state as Abraham & Son, claims that "certain Apple telephones" use technology at the heart of a 1990 patent that describes a system which displays both the phone number of an inbound call. The technique matches up phone numbers with a contact list stored on the phone, allowing the device to associate a name with any incoming calls.

At least superficially, Apple's iPhone recalls the patent through its software database of contacts. Inbound calls to an iPhone from a number associated with a contact display the caller's name. However, the patent also references 1990s-era technologies, including a two-line LCD as well as a separate receiver.

Figa, who created and continues to own the patent, says that he has contacted Apple about licensing the patent. The California company, however, has reportedly declined the request "on the terms offered," though these are not mentioned in the lawsuit.

The complaint demands a jury trial and, if victorious, would seek an injunction against Apple barring it from selling the iPhone and infringing on the patent. It also seeks triple damages for knowing infringement.

Apple has not commented on the suit, which was filed late last week in a Massachusetts district court.