Apple Inc. (AAPL) Passbook is Target of New Patent Lawsuit

Apple Inc.Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), while it has been on the hunt in patent defenses against the likes of Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG), Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Motorola Mobility, it has now been hit with a new lawsuit claiming patent infringement surrounding its new iOS 6 Passbook app. A company called Ameranth has stepped up and claimed that not only has Apple Inc. (AAPL) infringed on four of its patents, but it knowingly did so and is seeking triple the damages it claims to have suffered by the infringement.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has gotten involved in patent battles, and if it dishes it out, it likely will have to take it. How much patience will investors in Apple stock – like billionaire fund manager Julian Robertson of Tiger Management – have with all of these legal gymnastics?

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) cited prior art in a couple of iPhone patents, which Ameranth claimed in its brief, confirming its claims that Apple was well aware of the patents before infringing. Ameranth claims its four patents mentioned in the lawsuit have to do with synchronizing data among wired, wireless and Web-based platforms for electronic menus and reservations for businesses like restaurants.

Ameranth said in its brief that because Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) Passbook allows users to save copies of coupons, loyalty cards, reservations and boarding passes, that makes the app consistent with the use of patents that Ameranth possesses. “One of the Ameranth patents-in-suit, U.S. Patent No. 6,384,850 — the first patent issued in this Ameranth patent family — was cited as a prior art reference in two Apple iPhone patents issued to named inventors Bas Ording and Steven P. Jobs,” Ameranth wrote in its brief. “Also, three of the patents in this Ameranth patent family have been asserted in several patent enforcement actions against Apple business partners.”

Will this affect Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)? Does Ameranth has a case? How might this affect Apple’s ability to compete directly with Google Wallet and other digital payment options? Should we care?