A company owned by Sony and Philips is suing Apple, alleging it's infringed numerous patents covering digital rights management technology.
In the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Intertrust alleges that Apple has been infringing 15 of its patents for years.
The patents relate to DRM and security in computer systems and carry names such as "Systems And Methods For Secure Transaction Management And Electronic Rights Protection," and "Systems And Methods Using Cryptography To Protect Secure Computing Environments."
Digital rights management runs through many parts of modern computers and mobile devices, so it's perhaps not a surprise that Intertrust's accusations against Apple are broad and include the iPhone, iPad, iPod, iTunes and Apple's desktop and laptop computers.
"Apple uses Intertrust's patented technologies at virtually every level of its consumer electronics enterprise," Intertrust said in its lawsuit.
Intertrust says it has licensed the patented technologies to many of Apple's competitors, including Microsoft, Samsung, Nokia, Motorola, HTC, LG, Sony, Panasonic, Philips, Adobe and Sharp. The Microsoft license came after a 2004 settlement, which resulted in Microsoft paying the company a one-off licensing fee of US$440 million for the technology.
Intertrust said it repeatedly tried to license its patents to Apple.
"In designing its iOS and OS X operating systems and devices, and its iTunes platform, Apple could have licensed Intertrust's technology," the complaint said. But despite knowing about the patents, Intertrust alleges, Apple chose to infringe them instead.
Intertrust was formed in 1990 and both Philips and Sony acquired stakes of 49.5 percent in 2003.
Apple and Intertrust did not respond to requests for comment.
Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org