SimmonsCooper sinks teeth into Apple claiming iChat patent infringement

Ann Knef Nov. 16, 2007, 12:18am

Paul Lesko

A local law firm that amassed a fortune in Madison County asbestos litigation is now courting intellectual property claimants.

This week SimmonsCooper filed suit against Apple, Inc. on behalf of Digital Background Corp. (DBC) which claims the Mac OS X Leopard operating system featuring "iChat" infringes on the "'306" patent.

The patent, "Real-Time Method of Digitally Altering a Video Data Stream to Remove Portions of the Original Image and Substitute Elements to Create a New Image," was issued in 1998 and invented by Michael D. Steffano, according to a suit filed Nov. 14 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

Lead attorney Paul Lesko, a former Thompson Coburn partner, joined Simmons Cooper in November 2005 as the firm's first IP lawyer, according to an article in IP Law & Business. Lesko is joined in the action by SimmonsCooper associates Stephen C. Smith and Katharine A. Wark.

The complaint against Apple states that iChat is a component of Leopard, Mac's newest operating system, involving a "backdrop" feature which takes a picture of the background, replaces it with a photo or video using memory and computer system to modify and then display the new image.

Digital Background Corp., based in Newport Beach, Calif., seeks to recall and destroy or have delivered all products Apple sells that infringe on its '306 patent. It also seeks patent infringement damages, as well as treble damages "for willful infringement," among other things.

In an article entitled, "TV Ads Lures Inventors," the IP Law & Business reports that ubiquitous TV lawyer James Sokolove refers 90 percent of patent leads he generates to SimmonsCooper.

The article states that Sokolove, based in Boston, is airing a nationwide advertisement on cable channel Bloomberg Television that blares, "Are you an inventor? Has your patent been infringed?"

According to another article in the National Law Journal, Sokolove has made a cameo appearance in "The Sopranos." In one episode, a Sokolove commercial was audible in the background as lead character Tony Soprano was watching television.

Sokolove has also appeared on "Scrubs," in character being introduced to a patient who might need legal help after being in an accident.

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