June 21, 2005 11:19 AM PDT

Apple sued over iTunes interface

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A Vermont company has sued Apple Computer, alleging that the interface for iTunes infringes on its patent.

Contois Music & Technology filed suit last week in U.S. District Court in Vermont, alleging that Apple's actions are "irreparably" damaging Contois. The company seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction, as well as unspecified damages, according to the lawsuit. Contois is also charging that Apple's patent infringement is willful, and is asking the court to take this into account in calculating damages by tripling the amount it would otherwise award.

Apple sued over iTunes An Apple representative declined to comment. A lawyer for Contois did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

In its suit, Contois said that it gave Apple written notice regarding its patent in September 2004 and also alleges that Apple was aware of the patent at least as early as Jan. 30, 2003.

Specifically, the lawsuit said that Contois owner David Contois showed off his idea for a computer interface for music-playing software at the November 1995 Comdex event and at a music trade show in 1996. The suit charges that people who either then or later became Apple employees attended the event and saw Contois' exhibit.

The lawsuit was reported earlier on Tuesday by Mac enthusiast site AppleInsider.

Apple has faced other legal actions related to its music efforts. Virgin has complained to European regulators that Apple's refusal to license its FairPlay digital-rights management technology is unfair. Apple has also settled patent claims with E-Data over the Apple Music Store. Also, Apple Corps., the Beatles' record label, has sued the Mac maker, claiming that it went beyond its permitted use of the Apple trademark in entering the music business.

25 comments

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Paging Jackie Chiles...
Remember the Seinfeld episode where Kramer sues the coffee company?

"As a settlement, we're prepared to offer you a free PowerMac G5 and..."

"I'LL TAKE IT!!!"

That's how laughable this lawsuit is. The patent is so generic and "prior art" so plentiful (Hello?? MusicMatch??) that I think the comapny is hoping for whatever settlement payoff they can get.
Posted by M C (598 comments )
Reply Link Flag
But that's impossible!
Apple never steals, they only innovate! Everyone knows that only the EVIL Microsoft (translation: "mikro$$$$$Oft") can't innovate so this is totally impossible!!

What a tangled web we weave.
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
Link Flag
Apple sued Microsoft over Windows interface
But, at that time, it wasn't patentable or copyrightable.

I wonder if these days with the changes in these types of laws IP,
copyright, patentablility, that if the OS interface suit betweeen
Apple and MS were tried today, the outcome might be different.

It's ironic that Apple is now being sued for an application interface
(not the OS interface).
Posted by technewsjunkie (1265 comments )
Reply Link Flag
...and won
Microsoft paid Apple millions in an out-of-court settlement.

Are you saying that today they might have wanted to take it to court, thinking it would be thrown out?
Posted by M C (598 comments )
Link Flag
What a Crock
The iTunes interface is basically a row-column layout which uses HTML and XML. The row-column layout is basic to screen interfaces, even going back to the pre-GUI days (anyone remember green bar paper reports?).

And XML wasn't real until 1998 (I know, I was there), so this Controis is full of sheet.
Posted by (274 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Excel?
Yeah, iTunes isn't any better than mashing together Sonique, Windows Media Player and Excel.

I say "Show me the product or shut up."

No more of these bogus patents by people who don't plan to use them but just sit in wait for someone else to come up with the same idea and then they pounce and sue.
Posted by TV James (680 comments )
Link Flag
Exactly
This patent will not hold up in court due to prior art, so he's going
to lose both the court case (and be required to pay both his own
and Apple's legal fees), and his (admittedly unenforceable) patent.
Posted by bbatsell (57 comments )
Link Flag
Not Again...
Suing Apple is another "get rich quick" scheme? Give me a break here :)
Posted by 201293546946733175101343322673 (722 comments )
Reply Link Flag
everybody wants a piece of the Apple pie
sorry about the pun, but really it seems like everybody wants something to do with Apple. i can't say i blame them. when you set the standards in style and usability, people look to you for direction. you're gonna have people get jelous.
Posted by Dibbs (158 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I second that!
Yeah it's so obvious looking at the news since the last two years.

The Tiger vs. Tiger case is the most blatant one.
Posted by (31 comments )
Link Flag
Exactly.
You know, I treat those people who sue big companies for a living as flies. When flies smell ****, they all gather together and all want a piece of it :)
Posted by 201293546946733175101343322673 (722 comments )
Link Flag
What's really disturbing about this...
is that the patent was granted in the first place. Maybe I'll apply for
a patent for the play/pause etc. buttons and sue everyone.
Apparently there's a pretty good chance that my application would
be successful.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Remember the Selden Patent
Henry Ford contintued to built his model T without paying
royalties to the Selden family. All they had was a drawing of a
car propelled by a gasoline model. Ford won the suit because
Selden did not have a working model. Is there a parallel here?
Posted by rmarontar (2 comments )
Link Flag
Ambiguous!
"The suit charges that people who either then or later became Apple employees attended the event and saw Contois' exhibit."

Excuse me, Mr. Contois, who exactly were these "future" Apple employees? Do you have their names? Can you recognize them when you see them walk out of Apple headquarters?

Yeah, they said, "Hey, I've seen a great idea and I'm going to work for Apple, to sell the idea to them 10 years from now". If this is their argument, I really don't think it will hold up in court. Like someone else said, this is nothing more than a "get rich quick" scheme. The courts should throw this case out faster than the garbage.
Posted by Sentinel (199 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Got my patent going
I've already submitted a patent for self propelled horiztonal movement.

My patent states that an individual in a vertical position to any surface can use one foot and place it in front of the other foot. Then you repeat the process with the opposite foot, thus propelling the individual forward in a horizontal line across any surface.

I think I'll have to sue everyone now.
Posted by vanox (49 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So what!!!!!!!!!!!
I am not defending Apple too much but what took these guys so
long to say this. itunes and the itunes music store have been up
and running for what 2 years. Where have these guys been. Must be
looking for a handout. Better yet, I should look around to see if
there is something I got that Apple infringed on. I could use some
extra money.
Posted by sdicenso (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The patent seems pretty unenforceable...
You should read the actual patent claims... even taking into account the date when it was written, the process seems overtly OBVIOUS. Basically, the patent asserts its claim around the idea that when two pieces of information about a song are displayed (say, Artist and Album) on a computer screen, selecting a song exposed by that information results in the music being played.

If the patent is found to be enforceable, the iTunes application (and EVERY SINGLE OTHER MEDIA PLAYER I can think of) are in violation. I can't imagine that there won't be prior artwork discovered, or that the patent would stand up to the "non-obvious" requirement, but if it does, Mr. Contois stands to make quite a tidy sum.
Posted by JimCarlton (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Never underestimate the stupidity of the courts
The recent patent lawsuit against microsft because cetain office apps talked to each other was sucessful. Even though there is decades of 'prior art' in communication between programs.
Posted by Bill Dautrive (1179 comments )
Link Flag
 

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