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iPhone & iPad Touch ID technology at center of suit filed by probable patent troll

A South Korean company, First Face, has launched a U.S. patent infringement lawsuit against both Apple and Samsung over their implementation of fingerprint detection to unlock smartphones.

The case was reportedly filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose on Apr. 10, BusinessKorea claimed on Thursday. The company is said to have three U.S. patents on the technology, and is accusing Apple of violating of them with all Touch ID devices, and Samsung of infringing with products like the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy Tab S2.

AppleInsider was not able to find the suit paperwork on Thursday morning for the suit, nor any suit filed against Apple in the entirety of April, minus the Qualcomm matter ongoing in Texas. It is possible a filing irregularity has led to it not being entered, but if the suit had actually been filed on April 10 it should be available for digital retrieval by now.

Business Korea describes Firstface as a "venture company" — a term it reserves for so-called "patent trolls" using sold or purchased patents as a moneymaker in lawsuits, without producing any actual products, or having done the research itself.

Citing fellow Korean publication FN News, the Korea Herald noted that First Face claims fingerprint unlocks were "unprecedented" before an invention by co-CEO Jung Jae-lark. Jung is working with co-CEO Shim Young-tack and U.S. attorney Lee Jae-gyu on the lawsuit.

Both CEOs allegedly offered a licensing deal to Apple, but were rejected. Notably First Face also has patents on facial and iris recognition in several countries, but isn't pursuing them in the current matter despite the existence of technologies like the iPhone X's Face ID.

Apple has used Touch ID in most iPhones and iPads since the arrival of the iPhone 5s in 2013, later adding it to the MacBook Pro. The company is expected to transition entirely to Face ID, starting with updated iPad Pros this summer, then three new iPhones in the fall. That includes 5.8- and 6.5-inch OLED models as well as a somewhat cheaper phone with a 6.1-inch LCD. In fact the LCD model may be largely identical to its counterparts, the difference being its slightly inferior screen.

Apple first filed for a patent on the iPhone 5s Touch ID sensor in March 2013.