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Family Sues Apple for Not Making Thing It Patented

Don’t use your phone while you’re driving. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A lawsuit filed against Apple this week argues that, by not actually making a product that it patented, the company is partly responsible for an automobile accident. According to Jalopnik, James and Bethany Modisette are suing the tech company after a car crash two years ago that killed one of their daughters and injured the rest of the family. The driver of the car who hit them had been using Apple’s FaceTime video chat at the time.

The patent in question was first applied for in 2008, and describes “a lock-out mechanism to prevent operation of one or more functions of handheld computing devices by drivers when operating vehicles,” such as texting or video chatting.

The complaint cites Apple’s “failure to design, manufacture, and sell the Apple iPhone 6 Plus with the patented, safer, alternative design technology” — in other words, lack of the program’s inclusion — as a “substantial factor” in the crash.

Apple did not return requests for comment to either Jalopnik or Courthouse News. The premise of the case itself is shaky at best — suing a company for not implementing a patent that it holds is an inversion of the standard patent-troll playbook. Usually, patent trolls hold many dormant patents and sue anyone actively manufacturing something that might infringe on it. In this case, someone is suing a company for not implementing its patents. Needless to say, it’s a bold move.

Family Sues Apple for Not Making Thing It Patented