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Tuesday, January 10, 2012, 01:33 pm PT (04:33 pm ET)

Apple accused of extortion by Spanish tablet maker

Spanish computer company NT-K has filed an indictment against Apple for the alleged act of extortion, a response to a 2010 patent dispute that culminated in the Cupertino, Calif., company filing criminal counterfeiting charges against the small Valencia tablet maker.

In a press release on Tuesday, Nuevas Tecnologías y Energías Catalá (NT-K) announced that it had filed charges against Apple with Valencia's district attorney for alleged acts of extortion following an aggressive patent litigation campaign, reports FOSS Patents.

The filing is part of an ongoing court battle between the two companies that has been active for over a year, instigated by Apple's initial November 2010 accusation that NT-K's tablet copied the iPad's design. A short-term customs ban was sought and granted against the small tablet maker's products, and Apple went so far as to file criminal charges following correspondence between the rivaling companies.

NT-K successfully defended itself against the patent attack by Apple against its Android-based tablet, winning a dismissal of the case in November 2011, and is now attempting to prove that the tech giant's litigation was aggressive enough to be considered extortion under Spanish law.

According to FOSS Patent's Florian Mueller, Spanish extortion "comes down to someone with the intent to enrich himself forcing, through violence or intimidation, his victim to commit or desist from an act or transaction to the economic detriment of the victim or a third party."

Mueller goes on to say that while NT-K's argument that Apple sought to enrich itself through legal action against the small company is cogent on the surface, aggressive enforcement of patent rights is not a necessarily a criminal offense.

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NT-K Pad | Source: NT-K


Since Apple's allegations were dismissed, NT-K can possibly recover damages and pursue other legal action, but the iPad maker's actions are likely to fall short of being interpreted as extortion. Mueller notes that while Apple's litigation may be characterized as "bullying," there was most likely reasonable foundation for a dispute and as such both parties have the right to state their grievances and threaten legal action.

The small Spanish tablet maker is planning to publish documentation regarding the extortion case against Apple on its blog in the coming week.