Tech giant Apple takes tiny Andrea Electronics to court over patent

Apple Inc., with a trillion-dollar market capitalization, is turning to a federal appeals court in its years-long patent fight with Andrea Electronics Corp., one of Long Island's smallest public companies.

Bohemia, N.Y.-based Andrea has sought since 2016 to enforce infringement claims against Apple on No. 6,363,345. The patent covers a digital algorithm that makes communications in noisy environments more intelligible by canceling out extraneous sounds.

In July the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, in a formal review of Andrea's patent, ruled that some—but not all—elements remain valid.

On Sept. 18 Apple filed a case with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, seeking to strike down the remainder of the patent.

Andrea, a technology company, reached a license agreement on the same patent in August 2017 with Samsung Electronics Co. and halted litigation against the South Korean electronics maker.

While Apple continues its effort to invalidate the patent, Andrea is seeking to schedule a civil trial before a jury in U.S. District Court in Central Islip to assess any damages it is due. Andrea initially filed a patent infringement case in that court in September 2016, but it was stayed while the patent's validity was reviewed.

"We're asking the to move ahead," said Steven Pedersen, an intellectual property attorney representing Andrea. "Further delay is contrary to the whole judicial system."

Gerald Bodner, a Melville intellectual property attorney, said that some patent litigants try to use their financial resources to overpower their legal foes.

"You can make it so expensive for the other side where you just bury them in costs," he said.

But, he said, Apple is "doing what any litigant would do" in trying to have Andrea's patent invalidated. Apple "could be susceptible to a lot of damages."

Calls and emails seeking comment from Apple went unanswered.

On Friday, Apple won an unrelated patent case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which threw out a $234 million damages award to the licensing arm of the University of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation sued Apple in 2014, arguing that computer chips in some iPhones infringed on its patent designed to improve performance.

Andrea, founded in 1934, was an early manufacturer of radios and televisions and made intercoms for Gemini space capsules in the 1960s. The company, with 2017 patent revenue of $6 million and total revenue of $6.9 million, produces microphones, software used in speech recognition and a voice-recorder app for Apple iPhones and iPads. The company's stock market value, as calculated by Bloomberg, was about $4 million on Tuesday.

In August Apple became the first U.S. company to reach a stock market capitalization of $1 trillion. In the quarter ended June 30, the tech giant posted sales of $53.3 billion.

©2018 Newsday
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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