A lesser-known Israeli firm Corephotonics has sued iPhone giant Apple over what it claimed was an infringement of its patents on dual camera technology that it said was widely used in the iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 8 Plus models.
Corephotonics claims that Apple was approached for a partnership over its four patents related to dual camera technology. Initially, Apple had praised the technology, but refused to obtain a license, and brushed aside the patent claims of Corephotonics, AppleInsider reported.
Corephotonics in its lawsuit filed in a federal court in northern California where Apple is headquartered, accused that both the iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 8 Plus models copied its patented telephoto lens design, optical zoom method, a method for intelligently fusing images from the wide-angle and telephoto lenses which improve image quality. No Judge has been assigned to the case as of now. However, the latest "super-premium" iPhone X model that features the dual-camera system was not included in the lawsuit as of now.
Apple was in the forefront to acquire camera technology startups and in 2015, the acquisition of another Israeli company Linx Imaging paved the way for its new camera technology. How far does the technology in the iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 8 Plus models amount to violation of patents held by Corephotonics remains the major focus now.
Corephotonics claims that its patented dual-aperture camera technology uses advanced lens design and sophisticated computational optics. "The advanced lens design is used to create a miniature telephoto lens that can fit within the confines of a modern, thin smartphone but still provides the superior image quality and light sensitivity demanded by smartphone consumers," stated Corephotonics in its lawsuit claiming Apple's violation of its rights over the '032 and '712 patents.
Moreover, Corephotonics said its dual-aperture camera technology uses two fixed-focal-length lenses, a wide angle lens similar to a single-aperture camera, and a telephoto lens. In a single-aperture camera, all zoom functionality is provided with digital zoom. "With digital zooming... a processor in the camera crops the image and interpolates between the pixels of the captured image to create a magnified but lower resolution image." ('291 patent at 1:44-48.)
But in a traditional optical zoom, it is accomplished by using a variable focal length lens array. In Corephotonics' dual-aperture camera, "the second camera with telephoto lens provides much higher optical resolution than the wide angle camera. Images from both of these cameras can be fused together using computational algorithms to create a continuous zoom that is a combination of digital and optical zoom," stated the company.
Corephotonics also has patents over the related computational optics used in the dual-aperture camera ('291 and '152), which it has stated in the lawsuit.
Corephotonics displayed its dual-camera technologies at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in 2016 for the first time and it was a major attraction at the world event. Founded in 2012 by Tel Aviv University Professor David Mendlovic, it is one among the Israeli firms specializing in camera technologies.
In fact, for Apple the patent lawsuit could not have come later. The decade-old patent row with Samsung ended just few days ago with the court giving its verdict in favor of Apple.
Before the iPhone maker could relax, the latest patent violation slapped by the Israeli firm, which has investments from all the major phone makers around the world barring Apple, is aimed at dual-camera technologies. It remains to be seen how far Apple puts forward its defense citing the acquisition of LinX whose technologies are widely used in its latest iPhone models.