3:59pm 12 December 2023
An Australian technology company has secured an overseas legal victory as it nears the end of its local clash against industry giant Apple, over claims Apple breached patents by selling devices with secure unlocking capabilities including TouchID and FaceID.
Global conglomerate Assa Abloy — which offers locks, doors, gates and entrance automation services — last month lost its case against Australian firm CPC Patent Technologies for using biometric data-like fingerprints to unlock controlled items such as doors in the US.
The Australian firm is defending its patents in two other US-based claims launched by Assa Abloy, and has itself also mounted a legal war against Apple in the Federal Court of Australia.
The trial involving Apple took place largely under the radar in Sydney between October 18 and November 3, with hearings intermittently closed to the public due to concerns about sensitive commercial information.
Two Apple executives flew from the US to attend every day of the trial, CPC’s instructing firm Gilbert and Tobin reported in a November update.
They included Apple’s IP litigation principal counsel Garrett Sakimae and senior counsel Jenny Liu.
Following CPC’s most recent win in the US, chief executive Kevin Dart told The Australian his company is also preparing to prosecute its biometric patents in Europe.
“The company is confident that its biometric secure access patents are valid and are being infringed by a number of the world’s leading manufacturers that use biometric devices in the global market today,” he said.
“(CPC Patent Technologies) is well supported by Australian and international legal teams and technology experts that have the integrity and ability to prosecute those that infringe CPC patents in Australia and internationally.”
The US Patent Trial and Appeal Board delivered a judgement on November 30, after the case was filed by Swedish behemoth Assa Abloy in the US District Court of Connecticut in May 2022, claiming the biosecurity technology was “unpatentable”.
But the Appeal Board disagreed: “(the) petitioner (Assa Abloy entities) has not shown by a preponderance of evidence that any of claims 1-17 are unpatentable,” their judgement read.
The Board also found Assa Abloy and Apple have a “sophisticated and substantive business relationship”.
“(Assa Abloy) supplies products, which are locking systems, to Apple, which Apple then sells to customers,” the judgement read.
“Also, Apple’s iPhone is one of the smartphone products that can be used with (Assa Abloy’s) lock products.”
CPC Patent Technologies has been referred to as a “patent troll” by a trade publication, and was accused by Assa Abloy of engaging in an “aggressive litigation campaign” which includes its case against Apple.
The Australian matter will return to court in February next year, when closing submissions are set to be delivered.