Apple, AT&T, 31 others sued for smart phone patent violation

Suit was filed on the same day as the patent’s approval

Last week, the United States Patent and Trademark Office granted a patent to Minerva Industries, a Los Angeles-based patent-holding firm. On the same day it received the patent, Minerva proceeded to sue 33 companies for patent infringement.

In three separate patent suits filed last week in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Minerva accused Research in Motion, Apple, Motorola, Nokia, AT&T Mobility, Alltel, Samsung -- and just about every other major company involved in the design, production or sales of smart phones -- of infringing on its patent, which is for a "mobile entertainment and communication device" that has "a cellular or satellite telephone capable of wireless communication with the Internet."

Although Minerva specifically names only the Apple iPhone as a device that allegedly infringes on its patent, the company accuses all the defendants of "making, using, offering to sell, or selling mobile entertainment and communication devices" covered by the patent.

"Troll Tracker," an attorney who blogs anonymously about patent litigation issues, calls the patent issued by the USPTO overly broad and says that its "broadest claim appears directed to a cell phone with a wireless Internet connection, a memory card, a microprocessor, a display panel for displaying Internet data." The Troll Tracker also notes the patent "has a little over four columns in the specification, but has almost 32 columns of claims."

The Minerva suit is one of several major patent-infringement suits surrounding wireless technology that have been brought against multiple companies in recent months. In September, for instance, patent-holding firm NTP sued Verizon, AT&T, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile for allegedly infringing on patents related to the delivery of e-mail to mobile devices. And in November, Canadian wireless network vendor Wi-LAN sued Apple, Dell, HP and 19 others for allegedly infringing on its Wi-Fi technology patents.

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