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Patent troll targets Apple's Safari, Cover Flow and Time Machine UIs in new lawsuit

In a new patent lawsuit with the Northern California District Court on Tuesday, so-called "patent troll" TriDim Innovations claims Apple infringed two 3D user interface patents with Safari for iOS 7 and iOS 8, Cover Flow and Time Machine.

Safari 4

Cover Flow as seen in Safari 4.0.

TriDim, a patent holding firm, is asserting two patents against Apple, claiming it has suffered and continues to suffer damages through distribution and sale of iOS 7 and iOS 8 devices running Safari, as well as various implementations of Cover Flow and Time Machine. The suit was spotted by MacRumors on Wednesday.

According to the filing, Apple willfully infringed on U.S. Patents No. 5,838,326 and No. 5,847,709, both of which cover three-dimensional user interface workspaces similar to Apple's Cover Flow. The inventions were filed for in 1996 and subsequently assigned to Xerox in 1998.

Plaintiffs argue that Apple had knowledge of the '326 patent from at least 2009, when it filed for its own patents covering similar display technology. Further, the suit notes Apple has cited the '326 patent as prior art in 23 inventions relating to the Cover Flow interface.

As for the '709 patent, Apple supposedly knew about that particular invention from at least August 2014, as evidenced in another disclosure covering a patent for Safari.

Illustration of TriDim's 3D user workspace. | Source: USPTO

This is the second time Apple has been sued for its use of Cover Flow and, as an extension, Time Machine. In 2008, a firm called Mirror Worlds brought suit against the Cupertino tech giant in Southern Texas, a court jurisdiction known to be patent owner-friendly.

Mirror Worlds won an initial $625.5 million ruling in 2010, but Apple successfully appealed and in 2012 had the verdict tossed.

Apple took on legal responsibility for Cover Flow after purchasing the technology from a small software company called Steel Skies in 2006. The feature was originally implemented as a way for iOS device users to browse through collections of iTunes music using multitouch. Apple later ported the function to Safari, but discontinued the rarely used viewing option in OS X Mavericks with the introduction of Safari 7.0.

TriDim is seeking a trial for undetermined damages, lawyer fees and post-judgment interest, as well as an injunction against further use of the IP described in the two patents.