Apple's success in transforming itself from a niche player into a major manufacturer has generated the usual US response to success - litigation.
The company's Form 10-K released yesterday reveals 27 categories of outstanding litigation against Apple. Cases range from complaints over iPod battery life to iPod nano scraches, class actions to patent abuse claims, and Apple's legal department has several busy months to look forward to.
Perhaps the highest-profile piece of litigation is the case bought against Apple Computer by Apple Corps. The case was filed July 4, 2003 in the UK High Court. Apple is accused of breaching a 1991 agreement over the use of the Apple trademark and the computer companies move into music services. After years of legal fandango, this case is set for trial in the UK courts for the week of March 27, 2006, the 10-K reveals.
Another case relates to claimed defects in Apple's "yo-yo" power adaptors. All parties have now agreed a settlement on the matter, and the courts will hold final settlement approval hearings on January 10, the same day as Apple CEO Steve Jobs climbs the stage at Macworld Expo San Francisco.
A slew of iPod battery life actions continue. While a tentative settlement of these reached preliminary approval on May 20, 2005 and was finally approved on August 25, 2005, an appeal challenging the settlement was filed on October 24, 2005. The case is ongoing. A similar case filed in Canada is set for the next phase of its action (to achieve class action status) in spring 2006.
February 6 sees another case go to trial, between Gobeli Research and Apple. Gobeli alleges that Apple's operating systems infringe a patent (5,418,968 related to a "System and Method of ControllingInterrupt Processing.") it holds. Apple denies the claim.
Apple's Software Update feature is also facing action, from Teleshuttle Technologies. This case was filed on July 20, 2004. A technology tutorial and Markman hearing are scheduled for January 13, 20, and 27, 2006.