Apple loses bid to dismiss patent infringement suit involving iPhone camera technologies

By Charmaine Little | Nov 6, 2018

SAN JOSE –  A judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California recently denied Apple’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit by camera technology developer Corephotonics accusing Apple of infringing on several of its patents for smartphone and mobile devices. 

U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh, in a decision filed Oct. 1, ruled in favor of Corephotonics in its suit that alleged Apple used its patents for telephoto lens designs, multi-aperture camera technologies and optical processing technologies that Apple was very aware existed. Court filings said Apple and Corephotonics met on several occasions and had discussions that included Corephotonics not only educating Apple on the details of its products but also on the patents.

Apple filed two motions to dismiss after Corephotonics accused the company of infringing on its dual camera feature and others for the iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X. Apple filed two motions to dismiss in response to Corephotonics’ original complaint and its First Amended Complaint (FAC). 

“The court concludes that Corephotonics has stated claims that Apple willfully infringed the asserted patents, and that Apple’s motions must therefore be denied,” the opinion said. The court decided Corephotonics fulfilled its responsibility to state a claim of willful infringement that included proving Apple was aware of the patents and then continued to infringe on them. Corephotonics also had the option of showing that the risk of infringement was clear and obvious.

While Apple said it didn’t have any knowledge of Corephotonics’ patents until Corephotonics sent an email less than a week before its lawsuit, the court determined that wasn’t necessarily true. Even though Corephotonics provided several statements that Apple was aware of the products and patent via meetings and emails, the one that persuaded the court was the argument that Corephotonics said Apple cited one of Corephotonics issued patents in 2016 when it was filing its own patent applications, making it obvious that Apple knew about the patent.

The court also agreed with Corephotonics’ argument that Apple was “willfully blind” to the risk of infringing on Corephotonics’ patents. Corephotonics alleged that Apple knew there was a high chance it was infringing on its patents, and Apple took measures to make sure it steered clear of confirming the patent infringement risks. For example, Corephotonics said when it offered to share its patents with Apple, Apple replied and asked Corephotonics not to send any patents to it.

The court added that Apple tried to get samples of the plaintiff’s prototype telephoto lens modules, and that an Apple negotiator told the company if Apple did infringe on its patents, it would be quite a while before Apple would have to face the consequences for it. Still, Apple kept selling the products in question, knowing that it was infringing on the plaintiff’s patents, the court filings said. Considering this, the court denied Apple’s motions to dismiss.

Their potential working relationship went sour after Apple unveiled its iPhone 7 Plus in 2016, which came with a dual camera, a feature Apple had never used before. 

“The hardware specifications and important software functionalities were similar to what Corephotonics had shown and demonstrated to Apple,” the opinion said. After that, while Corephotonics offered to have an agreement with Apple regarding its patents, Apple not only declined but asked Corephotonics to not send any more patents to it.

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