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Apple iPhone targeted in patent lawsuit over sync, Bluetooth

Apple — along with AT&T, Research in Motion and a number of other mobile companies — is the defendant in a new patent suit that covers a broad range of smartphone related technologies, including e-mail syncing and Bluetooth connectivity.

The suit, filed earlier this month in a U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas, is on behalf of a company called SmartPhone Technologies LLC, based in Frisco, Texas. It accuses Apple of violating six patents owned by the company covering a range of topics, including Bluetooth connectivity, e-mail syncing, bandwidth conservation and general smartphone functionality.

The suit alleges that Apple and its iPhone are liable for infringement of the patents and have caused damage to SmartPhone Technologies. In addition to Apple, a number of prominent smartphone companies and mobile operators are named as defendants, including RIM, AT&T, Samsung, Sanyo, LG, and Motorola.

The suit asks the court to find all of the named parties in violation of their respective patents, and seeks damages, costs and expenses from all of them. SmartPhone did not specify damages, but requested a jury trial in the Eastern District of Texas, where patent lawsuits are often filed in hopes of a favorable outcome.

The six patents specifically aimed at Apple are:

Patent No. 6,950,645: "Power Conserving Intuitive Device Discovery Technique in a Bluetooth Environment."

Patent No. 7,076,275: "Method and System for Single-Step Enablement of Telephony Functionality for a Portable Computer System."

Patent No. 7,506,064: "Handheld Computer System that Attempts to Establish an Alternative Network Link Upon Failing to Establish a Requested Network Link."

Patent No. 7,533,342: "System and Method of a Personal Computer Device Providing Telephone Capability."

Patent No. 6,711,609: "Method and Apparatus for Synchronizing an Email Client on a Portable Computer System with an Email Client on a Desktop Computer."

Patent No. RE40,459: "Method and Apparatus for Communicating Information Over Low Bandwidth Communications Networks."

The suit also includes a seventh patent of which Apple is not accused of violating. However, Motorola, Samsung and RIM are accused over U.S. Patent No. 5,742,095, entitled "Personal Communications Internetworking."

Apple and its iPhone are the frequent targets of patent-related lawsuits. Some of the most recent and prominent cases involve a lawsuit from Finnish phone maker Nokia and camera maker Kodak.

In its annual Form 10-K filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last October, Apple said it was then defending itself from more than 47 patent infringement cases, 27 of which were filed during the 2009 fiscal year. Those suits prove costly to defend, and sometimes Apple comes out on the losing end of a large payout. Last year, a Texas patent suit resulted in a 21.7 million ruling against Apple.