Two plaintiffs, Yanbin Yu and Zhongxuan Zhang, claim that the dual camera setup found in iPhone models 7+ onwards infringes upon a 2003 patent.
Apple might be the most famous and influential brand in the luxury smartphone sector, especially with its latest flagship offerings crossing the thousand dollar mark, but that hasn’t stopped the rattle of patent infringement claims against the company. Just recently, we covered the lawsuit that Qualcomm had filed against the giant for stealing its modem code (covered here). Now the company is facing more fire as two individuals have filed a claim saying that Apple has infringed a patent they have held since 2003 based on multiple cameras.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California received a claim from Yanbin Yu and Zhongxuan Zhang, claiming that the dual camera setup found in iPhone 7 Plus onwards infringes on a patent they held based on a 1999 invention. The patent wad granted to the duo in 2003.
According to reports, the patent focuses on methods to capture multiple images from multiple image sensors and lens arrays. It is focussed on a four camera setup that captures images on monochrome sensors and merges them into a single colour image. It also includes a colour dual camera setup, shooting in RGB and meeting them together along with an image memory setup to produce a final image.
This is what the patent says verbatim:
“An improved digital camera comprising: a first and a second image sensor closely positioned with respect to a common plane, said second image sensor sensitive to a full region of visible color spectrum; two lenses, each being mounted in front of one of said two image sensors; said first image sensor producing a first image and said second image sensor producing a second image; an analog-to-digital converting circuitry coupled to said first and said second image sensor and digitizing said first and said second intensity images to produce correspondingly a first digital image and a second digital image; an image memory, coupled to said analog-to-digital converting circuitry, for storing said first digital image and said second digital image; and a digital image processor, coupled to said image memory and receiving said first digital image and said second digital image, producing a resultant digital image from said first digital image enhanced with said second digital image.”
As is usual for patents, this one is also remarkably vague and ambiguous in its terms, which allows it to cover as many scenarios as possible. According to the claim, Apple was aware of the existence of the patent since as far back as 2011, but did not license it. It also accuses Apple of continuing to market the product despite their knowledge of the patent.
It is of course, up to the judicial system to verify the veracity of such claims. However, this is the second time Apple is facing a patent claim for its dual camera setup and one starts to suspect something fishy.