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Patent lawsuit targets Apple's Dock Connector in iPod nano, touch

A new legal complaint accuses Apple of infringing on a patent for a flash memory drive by selling its ubiquitous iPod nano and iPod touch players, among other devices.

The 32-page suit — most of which includes the patent in question — was filed late last week in an Eastern District of Michigan court and claims that Apple's two main flash-based music players use a technology similar to those described in a patent granted in January of 2006.

The patent for a "Flash Memory Drive with Quick Connector" was originally filed in November 2004 by the suit's plaintiff, Henry Milan, and describes flash storage with male and female ends that allow the storage to attach to computers or other electronics through a "plurality" of connectors.

The complaint doesn't directly state what is infringed by the iPods but clearly points to the Dock Connector port, which is used by the jukeboxes to sync with computers as well as charge or stream media through to other devices. Accessories are also said to borrow on some claims made in the patent.

Apple was notified of its alleged violation of the patent in December of last year but has continued causing "irreparable damage" by continuing to sell the iPods without paying royalties, Milan and his representing lawyers from law firm Butzel Long note.

The overlapping timing of the patent and Apple's products may complicate the suit. Milan's filing was submitted just two months before the availability of the iPod shuffle, Apple's first flash-based player. The Cupertino, Calif.-based firm also released its first iPod nano in September 2005, four months before the patent was granted.

As compensation, Milan asks for triple damages and a jury trial. Apple hasn't commented on the matter and typically refrains from discussing ongoing lawsuits outside of necessary filings.