Little-known California-based Minerva Industries has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against both Apple and satellite phone company Atlantic RT hours after being granted United States Patent No. 7,321,783 entitled “Mobile Entertainment and Communication Device.”

From Apple Insider:

The 6-page formal complaint alleges that representatives from Minerva informed Apple of their pending application with United States Patent and Trademark Office covering iPhone concepts back in November, but that Apple “waited until approximately one week before the patent was to issue before sending prior art” in an attempt to trump the filing with one of its own.

After subsequently examining both claims, however, the patent office definitively ruled in Minerva’s favor, determining the claims within its application were patentable over Apple’s prior art and all other art that had been submitted to the office.

“On information and belief, Apple monitored the progress of [Minerva’s Application during the continued reexamination, and became aware on or about November 20, 2007 that the Patent Office rejected its contention that the Apple Prior Art rendered the claims of [Minerva’s] Application invalid and had issued a notice of allowance,” Minerva’s attorneys at Russ August & Kabat wrote in the suit.

The claim states that Atlantic is also liable of infringing on the patent by “making, using, offering to sell, or selling mobile entertainment and communication devices covered by one or more of the claims of the Patent.”

Minerva Industries filed additional suits of a similar nature against Research In Motion and Cricket Communications, as well as AT&T Mobility, LG, Palm, Motorola, Nokia, Alltel, Dobson Cellular, Hello, HP, MetroPCS Wireless, Sprint Spectrum, Nextel, T-Mobile USA, Tracfone Wireless, Cellco Partnership, Virgin Mobile, HTC, Kyocera Wireless, Pantech Wireless, Sanyo, Sony Ericsson, and Samsung.

If you read the claims as they are identified in the patent, it seems as if no one can make a device of this type at all without going through Minerva. However, like many lawsuits, this might just go away — depending on how much the enjoined parties are willing to pay. What will be even more interesting is the impact and on whom.

Should Apple be allowed to continue to sell the iPhone, or should they cease and desist?

Additional information:

Minerva Industries vs. Apple Inc. et al (original filing)

Apple faces new lawsuit over iPhone concept (Mac Insider)