Apple is sued for allegedly infringing on a patent with its Shortcuts application
Published by Scribd (via AppleInsider), a company called Aftechmobile filed a lawsuit on Friday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In the filing, the company accuses Apple of infringing on at least one of 28 claims related to a patent it owns (US Patent No 10,133,558, dated November 2018). The suit states that Apple has infringed on claim 5 of the patent by "making and selling the Shortcuts application." This app allows users to create "custom shortcuts" that allow them to combine a number of steps across multiple apps. An example that Apple uses on its support page involves the creation of a "Surf Time" shortcut. When activated, the iPhone can show the latest surf report, give you your ETA to get to the beach and stream your surf music playlist. Or you can set up a Shortcut for your commute home from work. This could include sending a text to the spouse and getting the house ready for your arrival by lowering the thermostat.
Apple bought Workflow, a third-party app that debuted in 2014. Apple renamed the app Shortcuts and made it free; it is shipping with iOS 13 and iPadOS.Each task used to create a shortcut is called an action. In the suit, Aftechmobile calls these actions "pre-coded software components" and shows how Apple's description of Shortcuts is similar to the wording used in the patent. As one example, the plaintiff says that "Claim 5 (of the '558 Patent) includes, 'inserting one or more of said pre-coded software components into said launched mobile application creation interface; assembling said inserted one or more of said pre-coded software components..." The suit goes on to say that "Apple describes inserting one or more of said pre-coded software components into said launched mobile application creation interface as 'to add an action to your shortcut, touch and hold an action in the list, then drag it to the position you want in the shortcut editor." In 2017
In addition to filing suit against Apple, on Friday Aftecmobile also sued Salesforce.com in the Northern District of California. So far, Apple has not released a public statement pertaining to the legal action. As for Aftechmobile, it does not appear as though the company is operating an on-going business; the firm's website does not load. The suit states that the company is located in Ashburn, Virginia and on LinkedIn, there are two employees listed.
Workforce launched in 2014 and Aftecmobile didn't receive its patent until November 2018
The suit asks the court to return a judgment against Apple for infringing on the '558 patent, fair and reasonable royalty payments, pre and post-judgment interest at the highest rate allowed by law and a post-judgment injunction. The filing also includes a copy of the patent awarded to the plaintiff by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The applicant and inventor of the patent is one Arshad Farooqi who shows up in Crunchbase as the founder and CEO of a company called Mobrise. Also located in Virginia, this company provides mobile strategy and next-generation mobile solutions focused solely on delivering user experiences."
Apple, with its deep pockets, is obviously an enticing target for patent trolls, not that we're calling a company with two employees and no operating business a patent troll. What does seem a bit strange is that a technology that was first launched in 2014 (as Workforce) allegedly infringed on a patent that was not granted until November 2018. If this proves to be the case, a judge will have no choice but to grant a request from Apple to dismiss the case.