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Wednesday, July 02, 2008, 04:00 am PT (07:00 am ET)

Apple named in lawsuit over wireless data, circuits

A small patent holding firm claims that Apple and other large PC makers are violating broadly-worded patents for encrypted wireless signals as well as the inner workings of many computer circuits.

Saxon Innovations LLC's lawsuit was filed in late June with the Eastern District court in Tyler, Texas, a town which along with Marshall has become well-known for siding with companies that base their businesses on patent lawsuits.

The ten-page brief accuses Apple and rival PC builders Acer, Dell, Gateway and Hewlett-Packard of knowingly treading on four Saxon-held patents that were granted over ten years ago.

Most of Saxon's attention centers around a first patent, granted in 1997, which addresses the process of encrypting, sending, and then decrypting data over a wireless signal. The patent is written broadly enough to apply to many technologies and is described as applying equally to cellphones as well as to virtually any secure data stream — potentially affecting both iPhones and any computers with enciphered wireless data signals, such as a Wi-Fi connection.

No specific products are mentioned as prompting the lawsuit, however.

The lawsuit also challenges that all five of the defendant PC makers are abusing a Saxon-owned 1996 patent for circuity that generates clock signals. More specific claims also accuse Apple, Dell, and HP specifically of violating a patent from the same year that covers triggering hardware interrupts in circuits that are hidden by software.

A fourth claim targets HP alone and says the computer giant has violated a 1993 patent for a keypad monitor.

In keeping with its official policy, Apple has declined to comment on the lawsuit, as have the other defendants as well as Saxon itself. However, as is often the case with such suits, Saxon is looking to receive "enhanced" damages should it win an intended jury trial.