Apple, Google and 35 other technology companies have been accused of infringing patents for spam filtering e-mail technology held by patent licensing firm InNova.
The InNova patent, which was granted to scientist, mathematician and company founder Robert Uomini 15 years ago, covers the technology that is used to distinguish between spam messages and legitimate messages in most e-mail services.
In a press release, Christopher Banys, the lawyer representing InNova, said: “More than 80 per cent of e-mail is spam, which is why companies use InNova's invention rather than forcing employees to wade through billions of useless e-mails.”
"Unfortunately, the defendants appear to be profiting from this invention without any consideration for InNova's legal patent rights," the lawyer added.
If the case goes to court, experts believe that InNova will seek a huge monetary settlement in licence fees and damages from the companies.
Other companies being sued by InNova include Dell, Yahoo and IBM.