Robocast Sues Apple For Infringing Its 'Automated Browsing' Patent

Apple is on the receiving end of yet another patent infringement lawsuit. A company called Robocast alleges that Apple has willfully incorporated its patented automated browsing technology in a number of products, including iTunes, Apple TV and Front Row, without licensing their ‘invention’.

Robocast, which was founded by Damon Torres, who claims to have pioneered the use of automated web browsing in the nineties, has earlier sued Microsoft on similar grounds.

The court documents offer a fascinating read – as far as I’m concerned – so I’ve embedded them below.

The patent-in-suit is U.S. patent 7,155,451, entitled “Automated browsing system for publishers and users on networks serving internet and remote devices”.

According to the plaintiff, a provisional patent application was filed back in 1996, and issued in December 2006. The summary reads:

A method of sequencing and scheduling web resources, via a software application that collects URLs and feeds them to a Web browser, so that the amount of clicks and decisions are reduced when browsing the Internet. The method begins after a computer user with Net-access encounters a URL that leads to a collection of other URLs that the software application has arranged to be presented in a continuous, show manner.

This collection of resources then plays automatically, going from one resource to the next without the user being required to make a decision or click.

The decision-making process is not inhibited, it is made optional. A method of inserting full-screen advertising, public service announcements, news, etc. has been developed. The server software application module described herein allows a publisher to stream URLs to a user who does not have the client-side software. The publishing module allows a user to format resources to a particularly desirable size and characteristic that promotes readability during a show viewing session.

This same module can publish collections of nodes for others to view as a whole sequence, accessible via e-mail, screen saver or as a web resource.

Robocast says it has developed a number of software applications utilizing the patented technology. Hands up if you’ve ever heard of, let alone used, tools like Robocaster, RoboGuide, RoboMobile, RoboPublisher, RoboSearch, RoboStats or RoboSurf.

Now on to the good stuff.

According to the complaint, Robocast demonstrated its technology at a trade show in Los Angeles back in 1999, after which “at least one” Apple employee visited the company’s booth to learn more about it. Still according to the court documents, Torres met with an unnamed iTunes executive at a conference in San Diego, informing the Apple employee of his patent.

This is of course all meant to demonstrate that Apple knew about the ‘451 patent and willfully infringed it by making and selling products and services such as iTunes and Apple TV, which allegedly incorporate aforementioned automated web browsing technologies.

Robocast seeks damages and for Apple to start coughing up an ongoing licensing fee.

(Via patent litigation news site PriorSmart)