Apple faces a lawsuit alleging that its app multitasking and Safari tab features on iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch violate a patent for 3D user interfaces.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas on Thursday, targets some of Apple’s interface features. Plaintiff SpaceTime3D, Inc. is a software company that “delivers seamless digital experiences to consumers.”
There are three U.S. patents at issue that demonstrate user interface mechanisms in a 3D manner. In 2007, SpaceTime3D submitted a patent application for one of the patents.
The lawsuit alleges that Apple’s app switcher and its Safari tab view features violate these patents because they improve the user experience on smaller devices by displaying content in a three-dimensional space. Using these features, users can view multiple tabs or open multiple apps and switch between them on devices such as the iPad or Apple Watch
A non-practicing entity didn’t file the lawsuit against Apple on Thursday, unlike other lawsuits against the company. SpaceTime3D, Inc. maintains an application that displays pages in a tabbed, three-dimensional stack, allowing users to browse the web in an interactive, intuitive, and fun manner.
SpaceTime3D’s technology was also featured at CES 2008 and covered by news outlets such as the San Jose Mercury News and TechCrunch.
According to the lawsuit, Apple found out about the technology from news coverage. It adds that SpaceTime3D founder Ezra Bakhash showed the technology to an unnamed Apple executive, who said that he had forwarded it to “various groups within Apple.”
Bakhash was also allegedly told by another Apple executive that he was “blown away” by SpaceTime3D’s technology and that the platform would help him save “significant” time. That Apple executive told Bakhash to keep him updated and that he would “definitely spread the word.”
Due to Apple’s alleged prior knowledge of the patented technology, the complaint alleges that Apple is willfully, intentionally, and deliberately infringing upon the intellectual property. SpaceTime3D also accuses Apple of attempting to patent the tech itself. The lawsuit adds that those attempts were rejected because of SpaceTime3D’s existing patents.
This lawsuit, which demands a jury trial, seeks a declaration that Apple has infringed the patents, as well as damages and attorney’s fees.