Apple’s patent wars have recently taken a strange turn. Apple has apparently handed over some key patents to one of those most horrible denizens of the patent world, a patent troll. And to top it all off, the patent troll is using these patents to sue a number of tech companies, including Samsung, Motorola, Sony, HTC, and RIM, but not Apple.
The patent troll in question is Digitude Innovations, a company that is “focused on the acquisition and licensing of IP and technology in the consumer electronics and adjacent technology fields” — i.e. patent trolling. Jason Kincaid from TechCrunch did a little digging into the relationship between Digitude and Apple and found some strange things. First of all, Apple didn’t transfer the patents to Digitude directly. Instead, this past year, Apple transferred a dozen patents to a company called Cliff Island LLC. But, Cliff Island LLC doesn’t seem to really exist. Pretty much the only info that could be dug up about the company was an address, but no Cliff Island LLC could be found at said address. One of several companies that does call that address home is Altitude Capital, the lead investor in Digitude Innovations. This suggests that Cliff Island LLC is a shell company, possibly being used to hide such transactions.
Kincaid suggests that the patent transfer could be part of a settlement with Digitude. This is a little hard to swallow given the size of Apple’s war chest. A cash settlement would have made much more sense. The other possibility is that Apple may be using Digitude to wage their patent battles. Apple has certainly been in the news a lot lately for a slew of patent-related lawsuits. However, Apple shouldn’t have any love for patent trolls. They came out strong against Lodsys earlier this year when the patent troll started suing iOS developers. In the long run, if this is their strategy, such a shady approach could do more to damage their image than openly fighting over patents.