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Tuesday, August 05, 2008, 03:55 pm PT (06:55 pm ET)

Apple, Palm among the targets in GSM smartphone lawsuit

A small patent licensing firm hopes to skim profits from Apple and other top smartphone makers by suing them for allegedly violating no less than ten patents relating to GSM phone technology and voice encoding.

WiAV Solutions — a company that files patent lawsuits often enough to trigger preemptive complaints by those that know it will sue — submitted its lawsuit late last month to an Eastern District Virginia court.

The 23-page complaint asserts that Apple, Palm, and BlackBerry inventor Research in Motion are all violating as many as ten patents WiAV is allowed to use that concern either the use of the GSM cellular network standard in smartphones or the Adaptive Multi-Rate (AMR) format for compressing voice in the process of making a phone call.

In a fashion not uncommon in these lawsuits, the patents are non-specific and touch on technology as generic as systems for detecting voice and silence, altering music to accommodate voice, and power management in a mobile device.

It's not known as to how well Apple or any of the other defendants can respond to the allegations, although GSM itself is far from a new standard and first saw use in cellphones during the early 1990s. AMR became an official part of the GSM format in 1998, two years before the first of WiAV's patents.

The lawsuit isn't helped by WiAV's insistence on the participants in the suit. It only has ownership of two of the patents and is hinging the rest of its case on the terms of its license with Mindspeed, which owns the remaining eight. The plaintiff has the right to sue as part of its patent licenses but is forcing Mindspeed into the complaint as at least an involuntary plaintiff and even hints that the license holder may become another defendant if the court sees fit.

Expectedly, the lawsuit asks for a permanent injunction barring all three of the smartphone designers from continuing to make and sell products it believes violate the patents, and hopes to collect a "reasonable royalty" plus interest as its reward.

Neither Apple, its fellow defendants, nor unwitting lawsuit partner Mindspeed have commented on the filing.