Noise Free Wireless, a small company in Silicon Valley, is suing Apple for allegedly infringing on its patent that covers noise-reduction technology for cell phones. The small company said it had brought forth this technology at a number of meetings at Apple’s Cupertino, California, headquarters and had provided detailed technical information before Apple filed its own patent for a technology similar to what they were showing off in meetings. According to Noise Free Wireless, the technology is already in the iPhone 4 and 4S as well as all three iPad models.
Noise Free Wireless filed the noise cancelling technology patent in May 2007 and it was awarded in June 2010. The patent covers a method for reducing or cancelling environmental noise, like wind, from a voice transmission on a cell phone. A similar technology has been built into Siri, and has been spoken about extensively by the company as the reason why Siri isn’t included in the iPhone 4, or iPad and iPad 2.
Upon filing for the patent, Noise Free began approaching different consumer electronic companies with information on the technology. According to the complaint, Noise Free first had contact with Apple in mid-2007 and presented its work to the company in September of that year.
Over the next three years a number of meetings were held between Noise Free and Apple, where confidential material, including an evaluation circuit board, were made available, Noise Free said. A verbal agreement to confidentiality was made initially and then both companies reportedly signed a formal non-disclosure agreement in September 2008.
It was in August of 2010 that Apple and Noise Free began to have problems when Noise Free found out that Apple had decided to use technology from a rival company, Audience, for its products.
In June of the same year, while the two companies were still in talks, Apple filed a U.S. patent covering a system for suppressing noise in a signal while retaining the user’s voice.
According to the complaint filed by Noise Free, Apple “extracted Noise Free’s proprietary and confidential object code, determined Noise Free’s noise reduction software and measured and duplicated the signal traces from the circuit board and microcontroller,” and then supplied this information to rival company Audience.
Noise Free also accuses Apple of filing a patent that contains some of the ideas and inventions that it had disclosed to Apple during previous meetings.
As a result of all this, Noise Free Wireless is asking the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to find Apple guilty of misappropriating trade secrets, breaching contract, and engaging in unfair business practice and wants damages for the alleged patent infringement. Further, Noise Free is looking for Apple’s patent to be deemed invalid.
Neither Apple, nor Noise Free Wireless have commented on the issue.
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