AT&T customer wins in 3G throttling case, could open floodgates for similar lawsuits against carrier

Posted by:
Date: Monday, February 27th, 2012, 07:18
Category: 3G Wireless, iPhone, Legal, News

attlogo

Sometimes you CAN fight the giant and win.

Per the Associated Press, in a California court ruling on Friday, an AT&T customer who saw a reduction in his iPhone’s download speed due to high usage was awarded US$850 on claims that the telecom’s throttling measures are unfair to consumers.

Pro-tem Judge Russell Nadel handed down the decision in favor of Matt Spaccarelli in Ventura Superior Court in Simi Vally, bringing an end to the small claims case that was filed in January which asserted that AT&T unfairly reduces unlimited data plan users’ bandwidth speeds.

The ruling could affect the roughly 17 million subscribers, or a little under half of AT&T’s smartphone customer base, who pay for a so-called unlimited data plan that was first introduced alongside the original iPhone.

The nation’s second-largest mobile carrier ended its all-you-can-eat plan in 2010, however the company allowed existing users to keep their unlimited service on the condition that the privilege would end if they ever opted to go with a tiered contract. In other words, an unlimited subscriber cannot return to the endless data plan if ever they choose one of AT&T’s tiered options.

As smartphones grew in popularity after the launch of Apple’s handset and smartphones running Google’s Android OS, data bandwidth became increasingly scarce. In an attempt to stem the swelling tide of data users, AT&T and other telecoms made the decision to throttle the download speeds of the top five percent of “heavy users.”

An inherent issue with the new throttling model is that an unlimited plan subscriber can see speed reductions if they are deemed to be within the top five percent of heavy users, regardless of the amount of data used. Tiered subscribers are never throttled.

In Spaccarelli’s case, speed was reduced after about 1.5 GB to 2 GB of data usage during a particular billing cycle, which is far less than the identically priced 3 GB tiered plan. Currently, unlimited access to AT&T’s network costs US$30 per month for grandfathered-in customers, while tiered plans run US$20, US$30 and US$50 per month for 300 MB, 3 GB and 5 GB, respectively.

According to an in-court argument by AT&T area sales manager Peter Hartlove, the carrier has the right to modify or cancel a contract if data usage is so high that it bogs down the network.

In addition, a clause in contracts signed by data users prohibits customers from joining a class action suit or jury trial, and instead must take any grievance to arbitration or a small claims court.

The agreement also claims that if a plaintiff wins an arbitration case, the minimum award from AT&T would be $10,000. Although Spaccarrelli asked for the same compensation, the small claims court judge only awarded him for US$85 for each of the remaining 10 months of his contract.

In theory, every customer who has been throttled could potentially take the Dallas-based carrier to court if they feel that the speed reduction is a violation of rights.

AT&T’s attempt to clear data congestion has been vague since its introduction in 2011, as the system is based on a sliding scale and not a set bandwidth cap. User also won’t know if they are part of the top five percent until a warning message is received, and by that point they only have a few days of regular usage before seeing a reduction of speed.

So, let the floodgates open. If you have any thoughts on this, please let us know what’s on your mind in the comments.

Apple Mini DisplayPort to HDMI cable faces legal questions from industry group

Posted by:
Date: Monday, July 11th, 2011, 04:50
Category: Accessory, Legal

applelogo_silver

Sometimes it’s the really useful stuff that gets picked on..

Per TechRadar, HDMI Org, the group that oversees HDMI specifications, has deemed Mini DisplayPort to HDMI cables outside of its standard and will not allow them to be sold.

The group explained that “the HDMI specification defines an HDMI cable as having only HDMI connectors on either end. Anything else is not a licensed use of the specification and therefore, not allowed.”

All licensed HDMI products must undergo compliance testing. Given the fact that the cable is undefined by the group, “it cannot be tested against the Specification,” thereby making it unofficial and
unlicensed.

This outcome is devastating for the numerous companies that make money from these cables, though there is one upside. Cables, or dongles, that have a DisplayPort on one end and an HDMI female receptacle on the other are licensed.

HDMI Org does, however, note that there are users who covet this type of cable system, stating that recognizes that there “may be a market need for a cable solution rather than a dongle solution. However, at this time, there is no way to produce these cable products in a licensed manner.” According to the report, hundreds of thousands of cables could be affected by a recall.

Apple reportedly developed a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter but never released it, relying instead upon third-party offerings .

First introduced in October 2008, the Mini DisplayPort connector is used by Apple in its latest Mac offerings. The standard was designed by Apple as a smaller form factor alternative to the DisplayPort standard. The Video Electronics Standard Association officially adopted the specification in 2009.

More recently, Apple and Intel have collaborated on Thunderbolt, a new high-speed I/O technology that makes use of the Mini DisplayPort connector. The first generation of Thunderbolt offers two channels of 10Gbps transfers in both directions, simultaneously, and 10 watts of power. Intel expects to scale the technology up to transfer rates of 100Gbps within a few years.

Late last month, Apple released the first Thunderbolt cable and added the first third-party Thunderbolt storage solutions to its online store. The cable was revealed to be an active cable with a transceiver chip at each end and “tons of little resistors.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

State Law Kills Amazon Associates Program

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, June 30th, 2011, 08:28
Category: Announcement, Legal, News, Services

As the result of a new bill passed by Governor Jerry Brown in California, Amazon will be terminating its service contracts for all Amazon Associates members residing in California. The new bill, which requires that taxes be collected on all sales by online retailers, extends its reach to “California-based marketing affiliates” which includes the referral status from residents participating in the Amazon Associates program. All current participants should have received an email covering the details from Amazon.com in the last few days, as the termination went into effect as of June 29, 2011. Here are some excerpts from the emails that were sent out:

Unfortunately, Governor Brown has signed into law the bill that we emailed you about earlier today. As a result of this, contracts with all California residents participating in the Amazon Associates Program are terminated effective today, June 29, 2011. Those California residents will no longer receive advertising fees for sales referred to Amazon.com, Endless.com, MYHABIT.COM or SmallParts.com. Please be assured that all qualifying advertising fees earned before today will be processed and paid in full in accordance with the regular payment schedule.

We oppose this bill because it is unconstitutional and counterproductive. It is supported by big-box retailers, most of which are based outside California, that seek to harm the affiliate advertising programs of their competitors. Similar legislation in other states has led to job and income losses, and little, if any, new tax revenue. We deeply regret that we must take this action.

[...] we are continuing to work on alternative ways to help California residents monetize their websites and we will be sure to contact you when these become available.

The change does not affect any participants who reside outside of California, and those services will continue as normal. If a participant has or is planning to move to another state, they can contact Amazon to be reinstated into the program here.

Apple files suit against Sanho-owned HyperMac regarding MagSafe, iPod connector patent infringements

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010, 04:00
Category: Legal, News

applelogo_silver

If you’re going to be in the market with the 800 pound gorilla, it’s advisable not to infringe on said 800 pound gorilla’s patents.

Or at least try to be subtle about it.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has filed a lawsuit against Sanho Corporation, maker of the HyperMac line of accessories, alleging violation of patents it owns related to the MagSafe charger and cables that use the iPod 30-pin connection.

The lawsuit filed this month accuses Sanho, based out of Sunnyvale, Calif., of infringing on six MagSafe- and iPod-related patents, covering a variety of products sold under the HyperMac brand name. Among the products named in the suit are its magnetic power connectors, known as MBP-PRO and MBP-AIR, as well as a MacBook car charger, MBP-CAR.

Instead of mimicking Apple’s patented MagSafe connectors, Sanho’s products actually rely on recycled official MagSafe products made by Apple. “Our charging cables use original Apple MagSafe connectors for maximum compatibility,” the company’s website reads.

The suit also focuses on charging and data cables that rely on the 30-pin dock connector compatible with Apple’s iPod, iPhone and iPad ecosystem of devices. Named in the suit are the “HyperMac Nano,” “HyperMac Micro” and “HyperMac Mini” products.

Sanho sells a number of small, portable external batteries that can provide extra power to portable devices on the go. Using the iPod 30-pin dock connector, products like the HyperMac Micro come in a variety of colors and are compatible with Apple products like the iPhone 4 and iPad.

In the suit, filed in a U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California, Apple says it notified Sanho of its infringement via official letters on April 26th, May 19th and June 20th of 2010.

“Defendants manufacture, distribute, and/or sell products that infringe patents related to Apple’s proprietary MagSafe connectors used to connect power adapters and other products to Apple portable computers, such as the MacBook,” the suit reads. “Defendants also manufacture, distribute and/or sell products that infringe patents related to Apple’s 30-pin connectors and receptacles , used to connect cables to Apple iPod, iPhone and/or iPad products.”

“Defendants’ infringing conduct has damaged Apple and inflicted irreparable harm for which Apple seeks, among other remedies, an award of its actual damages, disgorgement of Defendants’ profits from the sale of infringing devices and injunctive relief.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple accepts Library of Congress decision on jailbreaking, still warns of possible warranty violations

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, July 27th, 2010, 05:17
Category: iPhone, Legal, News, Software

After years of debate and posturing from both sides, the verdict is in. Per Electronista, the library of Congress has legally sanctioned jailbreaking iOS-based applications under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, thereby allowing non-Apple-approved applications to be run on devices such as the iPhone. While Apple didn’t contest the legality itself, the company stated that jailbreaking would still break the warranty by going beyond what Apple can support. It also stressed that it saw the experience as hurting the experience for some by taking away the speed and reliability they may have expected.

“Apple’s goal has always been to insure that our customers have a great experience with their iPhone,” commented an Apple spokeswoman. “And we know that jailbreaking can severely degrade the experience.”

The representative wouldn’t directly confront the question of whether Apple would try to sue anyone who would sell jailbreaking tools, but she emphasized Apple’s history and that it hadn’t done so before.

Monday’s Library ruling doesn’t require that Apple or other companies must allow third-party apps in their code but also prevents these firms from legally challenging any jailbreak developed for the purposes of running an app or for unlocking access to other customers. It’s unclear whether the new exemptions would allow commercial development of jailbreaking apps; such software would be designed for a profit, but it it would still be used for individual purposes in most cases.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Suburban Philadelphia School District Denies Accusation of Spying on Students with MacBook Cameras

Posted by:
Date: Friday, February 19th, 2010, 05:18
Category: Legal, MacBook, News

143393-09macbook386_original

A suburban Philadelphia school district has denied it spied on students by remotely activating the cameras on their school-issued MacBook notebooks.

Per Macworld UK, in a statement released late on Thursday, Christopher McGinley, the superintendent of Lower Merion School District of Ardmore, Pa., admitted that the MacBooks’ cameras could be turned on without the user’s knowledge, but said that the functionality was part of a security feature.

“Laptops are a frequent target for theft in schools and off-school property,” said McGinley. “The security feature was installed to help locate a laptop in the event it was reported lost, missing or stolen so that the laptop could be returned to the student.” When switched on, the feature was limited to taking snapshots of whomever was using the notebook and capturing the computer’s current screen.

Laptop cameras have only been activated for that purpose, McGinley continued. “The District has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever,” he said.

This Tuesday, a high school student and his parents sued the district, claiming that the student’s MacBook had been used to spy on him in his home. According to the lawsuit, Michael and Holly Robbins of Penn Valley, Pa., said they first found out about the alleged spying last November after their son Blake was accused by a Harriton High School official of “improper behavior in his home” and shown a photograph taken by his laptop.

Doug Young, a spokesman for the school district, declined to answer questions as to whether Blake Robbins’ computer camera had been activated, and if so, under what circumstances. “I can’t speak to the lawsuit,” Young said.

The lawsuit speaks for itself, said Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “This is utterly shocking, and a blatant violation of [the students'] constitutional rights,” Bankston said Thursday, citing the Fourth Amendment after reviewing the Robbins’ complaint. “The school district would have no more right to [use the laptop's webcam] than to install secret listening devices in the textbooks that they issued students.”

Bankston suggested that students should tape over the lens of their laptops’ cameras when not in use.

McGinley confirmed that the district had disabled the camera activation feature on Thursday, and would not switch it back on without the written consent of students and families. The Robbins’ lawsuit alleged that the district had not told students or their families of the activation feature when it handed out the MacBooks. All 2,300 students at the district’s two high schools have been given notebooks.

The district intends to contest the lawsuit, said Young.

Mark Haltzman of the law firm Lamm Rubenstone, and the Robbins’ attorney, did not return a call for comment on Thursday.

The Robbins family has asked for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, and requested that the case be granted class-action status so other students in the district can join the suit.

Apple Wins Key Legal Ruling Against Clone Maker Psystar

Posted by:
Date: Monday, November 16th, 2009, 04:03
Category: Legal

The lesson for the day: If you didn’t develop or actually license an operating system, you can’t sell computers with that operating system on it. Late last week, clone Mac maker Psystar discovered this in a court decision in the company’s ongoing legal battle with Apple. According to AppleInsider, judge William Alsup ruled this week in a summary judgment that Psystar infringed on copyrights owned by Apple in order to place Mac OS X on unauthorized computers built and sold by the Florida corporation. In addition, Psystar was found to be in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by circumventing Apple’s protection barrier that prevents installation of its operating system on third-party hardware.

“Psystar infringed Apple’s exclusive right to create derivative works of Mac OS X,” the ruling reads. “Specifically, it made three modifications: (1) replacing the Mac OS X bootloader with a different bootloader to enable an unauthorized copy of Mac OS X to run on Psystar’s computers; (2) disabling and removing Apple kernel extension files; and (3) adding non-Apple kernel extensions.”

Alsup also denied Psystar’s own motion for summary judgment, in which the company attempted to prove that Apple engaged in copyright misuse. The judge ruled that Apple’s End User License Agreement only attempts to control use of Apple’s own software, which is within its rights.

The summary judgment isn’t the final blow and a number of issues remain to be resolved. Apple has alleged that Psystar has also engaged in breach of contract, trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and unfair competition, among other activities.

Another hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 14, and trial between the two companies is due to start in January of 2010.

The decision came after both companies requested summary judgments, which turned into a positive for Apple and a significant defeat for Psystar.

The decision marks the latest of many setbacks for Psystar as it has attempted to defend itself from Apple’s suit. In September, a member of the Psystar defense team withdrew himself from the case. And in July, the Florida-based corporation brought on a new legal team after it emerged from bankruptcy.

The company, which sells machines with Snow Leopard, Apple’s latest operating system, preinstalled began to license its virtualization technology to third-party hardware vendors as of October. The Psystar OEM Licensing Program intends to allow Intel machines made by companies other than Apple to run Mac OS X 10.6.

AT&T Files Suit Over Verizon “Map” Ads

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, November 4th, 2009, 04:46
Category: iPhone 3GS, Legal

attlogo

Ad campaigns will always be snarky, but there are some areas you don’t want crossed. Per AppleInsider, AT&T has filed suit over Verizon’s “There’s a Map for That” advertising campaign, claiming Verizon is misrepresenting AT&T’s coverage areas.

The suit seeks a temporary restraining order and a injunction to stop Verizon from “disseminating misleading coverage maps” of AT&T’s areas of cellular and data coverage. AT&T is also seeking damages in the suit.

The “Map” advertisement displays two competing 3G coverage maps, in which the Verizon coverage area is clearly more widespread than AT&T’s coverage area. The suit contains an AT&T commissioned survey of the ads which found that 53% of those asked interpreted the non-colored areas of the maps to be total gaps in coverage.

AT&T cites that the company had previously contacted Verizon directly on Oct. 7, requesting that the ads be withdrawn or modified, according to the suit. Verizon responded by dropping the words “out of touch” from the ads and included the phrase “Voice & data services available outside 3G coverage areas” in small print at the end of the advertisements.

The complaint lists two TV spots currently airing, dubbed “College” and “Bench,” as well as a print advertisement that has run in various publications.

“The map attributed to AT&T shows large swaths of white or blank space, as if these are areas in which AT&T has no coverage whatsoever,” the suit reads. “By depicting AT&T’s non-”3G” coverage as white or blank space in the map used in Verizon’s print advertisement, consumers are being misled into believing that AT&T’s customers have no coverage whatsoever and thus cannot use their wireless devices when they are outside of AT&T’s depicted coverage area.”

The complaint was filed Tuesday in an Atlanta, Ga., federal court, and requests a temporary restraining order against Verizon to prevent the ads from continuing to air. The suit notes that the ads are airing during the “most vigorous and important marketing season for the wireless industry.”

AT&T claims that the ads in their current form convey the message that AT&T has no coverage in the areas that are blank on the 3G maps that are shown. AT&T contends that the 2.5G (EDGE) network is available in a much wider area, so to imply that there is no coverage is misleading.

According to Reuters, Verizon has responded, saying that the suit is without merit and the advertisements are intended to show 3G coverage only: “The ads in question clearly state that voice and data services are available outside 3G areas.

Apple Revises iTunes Store Terms and Conditions

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, June 18th, 2009, 18:20
Category: Legal, News

applelogo_silver

If you’re fond of reading the small print, this is for you.

Per Macworld UK, Apple has updated the iTunes terms and conditions with the release of yesterday’s iPhone OS 3.0 Software Update.

The changes reflect the ability to download movies, TV shows, music videos, and audiobooks from the iTunes Store on your iPhone or iPod touch. Downloads over 10MB require a Wi-Fi connection and downloading a full-length film on your iPhone could prove problematic if Wi-Fi connection is lost as Apple notes:

“Interrupted Delivery to iPod or iPhone. If delivery of a Product you purchased or rented (as applicable) using Wi-Fi on an iPod or iPhone is interrupted, your transaction will be included in your download queue. You may resume the delivery to your Apple-authorized device by selecting “Check for Purchases” from the Store menu in the iTunes application on your computer, or the download section on your iPod touch or iPhone.”

Click here for the full terms and conditions, although it basically sets the new parameters for shopping for larger content on the go and the sticking points to this.

Apple, Dell, HP Notebook Owners Consolidating Class-Action Suit Against Nvidia

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, May 12th, 2009, 07:11
Category: Legal

nvidialogo.jpg
Respective owners of Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard notebooks have combined their lawsuits against graphics chip maker Nvidia in an attempt to create a stronger class action suit to force the company to replace flawed processors.
If successful, the case could involve millions of notebooks in question.
According to Macworld UK, the five plaintiffs, including a Louisiana resident who purchased an Apple MacBook Pro a year ago, filed an amended complaint last week in a San Francisco federal court which accused Nvidia of violating consumer-protection laws.
Nvidia had admitted to the problem in July of 2008 when the company stated that some older chipsets that had shipped in “significant quantities” of notebooks were flawed. In a subsequent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company argued that its chip suppliers, the laptop makers and even consumers were to blame.
Nvidia later told the SEC that it would take a US$196 million charge to pay for replacing the graphics processors.
Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard in turn told their users that some of the notebooks contained faulty Nvidia chipsets. Apple later stated that the company had been misled, citing that “Nvidia assured Apple that Mac computers with these graphics processors were not affected,” Apple said in a support document posted last October.
“However, after an Apple-led investigation, Apple has determined that some MacBook Pro computers … may be affected.”
Click the jump for the full story…