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Maxell sues Apple over navigation, camera & data tech patents

Long-time magnetic storage and electronics maker Maxell on Friday launched a lawsuit against Apple, accusing it of violating 10 U.S. patents, some of them inherited from Hitachi.

Three of the patents — 6,748,317, 6,580,999, and 6,430,498 — are connected to walking navigation, and Maxell cites features like Find My Friends and pedestrian routes in Apple Maps as infringements. A third patent, 8,339,493, involves Apple camera design, while a fourth (7,116,438) relates to wireless communication and AirDrop file transfers.

Also cited are Maxell's 6,408,193 covering cellphone technology, 6,928,306 for ring alerts, 6,329,794 for controlling power consumption, 10,212,586 for unlocking one device with another, and 10,084,991, which the company says is violated by FaceTime video calls and iTunes video.

A wide range of Apple devices are listed as infringing, including iPhones, iPads, and Macs up to 2018 models. The iPhone XS is repeatedly cited as an example in Maxell's complaint, filed through a U.S. District Court in Texarkana, Tex.

The company is seeking a jury trial, compensatory damages, and both preliminary and permanent injunctions.

"Since at least June 2013, Apple has been aware of Maxell's patents and has had

numerous meetings and interactions regarding its infringement of these patents," the complaint charges. "These meetings included Apple's representatives being provided with detailed information regarding Maxell's patents, the developed technology, and Apple's ongoing use of this patented technology. Through this process, Apple's representatives requested and received detailed explanations regarding Maxell's patents and allegations. Maxell believed that the parties could reach a mutually beneficial solution and to that end considered a potential business transaction and continued to answer multiple inquiries from Apple over the course of several years, including communicating with Apple as recently as late 2018."

Based on its track record Apple will mostly likely try to get the case dismissed or settled out of court, given the potential cost of losing a trial. This often succeeds, but Maxell is more prominent than most plaintiffs, and the company isn't immune — earlier today a judge ruled against it a Qualcomm patent suit, awarding the latter $31 million in damages.