March 7, 2005 12:08 PM PST

Firm seeks piece of Apple pie via iPod claim

A Hong-Kong based company wants 12 percent of all profits from iTunes and iPod sales, claiming it holds the patents to the DRM technology that governs the use of downloads through Apple Computer's online music service.

According to a post on the Pat-rights company Web site, the patent governs the verification of a single user before permitting the user to download tracks.

iTunes' "computer registration involves a process of identity verification in which a user is required to key into the computer the correct Apple ID and password he used to purchase the song....This is certainly a patentable technology. If iTunes does not patent it, there must be a very good reason for them not to do so--someone else has patented this," the post says.

Though Apple declined to comment, the company has been in negotiations with Pat-rights for some time, according to Joseph J. Zito, the patent lawyer representing Pat-rights.

"We expect to be successful in licensing negotiations with Apple. They're a good company that understands intellectual-property rights, and we think they'll be reasonable," he said. "My client was first in touch with Apple during the months of December and January, so Apple has been aware of the issue for a couple of months."

Zito declined to comment on whether the patent is a working implementation or purely a design. "That's going to be an important issue in this case, as it is in all such cases. This case will hinge on a lot of things, so I'd rather not comment on what our plan is," he said.

Zito said that the patent may be applicable to a variety of DRM schemes but said he isn't aware of any plans to take action against other companies.

Currently, Pat-rights is gunning for 12 percent of Apple iPod and iTunes profits, but if the matter comes to court, the payoff could be equally lucrative for the patent holder. If Apple is found to have willfully infringed the patent, damages could be tripled.

If the issue is not settled by March 21, Pat-rights intends to file suit.

Apple is currently involved in another patent battle, with Advanced Audio Devices, which claims iTunes violates its patent, filed in 2003, on a "music jukebox which is configured for storing a music library therein."

David Berlind, of ZDNet, reported from Cambridge, Mass. Jo Best, of Silicon.com, reported from London.

16 comments

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Stupid patents
It's pretty sad to see what companies have to (or can) get patents for. Pat-right's patent ("Protection of software again against unauthorized use") looks like a simple user verification system (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.pat-rights.com/InternetUserIdentityVerification.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.pat-rights.com/InternetUserIdentityVerification.html</a>) that's used by a thousands (if not millions) sites out there. If someone doesn't dispute this patent, on basis of prior art, I'd be dumbfounded.
Posted by Rusdude (170 comments )
Reply Link Flag
After the Big and Lucrative
I agree, but Pat-right, if they are smart, are not going to go after those thousands or millions of companies using their patented idea. They will only go after the big, lucrative companies that are really worth their time and legal fees.

iTunes is in Trouble... <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://allwaysmusic.modblog.com/" target="_newWindow">http://allwaysmusic.modblog.com/</a>

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Posted by (59 comments )
Link Flag
Nothing new in this "patent"
Border control officer verifies passenger's identity using passport issued by other country.
Merchant verifying customer's id using credit card issued by someone else. Or using driver's license issued by someone else.
Computer verifying user's credentials by refering data to server handling users database.

It's amazing that the process of refering to a third party to verify identity can be granted a patent just because the word "said" is used so many time that the patent examiner just cannot understand what's written!
Posted by hadaso (468 comments )
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Ditto
It's by far not the most complex patent, but I'd think that if Apple can't get rid of them for chump change, they'll join a few other companies that are being hassled and sue (or counter-sue).

This just might end being like a GIF patent that's just largely ignored.
Posted by Rusdude (170 comments )
Link Flag
I'm going to patent typing
I think I'm going to go ahead and patent my idea for entering data into a computer system via spring loaded sensory devices arranged in a pattern similar to a typewriter. That will make me rich, right?

While this patent does have to do with the exchange of money after the authentication, it was submitted in 1998. There has got to be prior art out the wazoo for this.

Oh, and this patent has to do with downloading *software* after you pay. I would argue even if this patent is valid, the iTunes Music Store doesn't download software, it downloads content. The music file by itself cannot run as an executable. That means to me it isn't software at all.
Posted by pkscout (81 comments )
Link Flag
F-nG RIDICULOUS
Any judge with half a brain would toss this out. Its ridiculous.
You cannot patent something that is common, PLAIN AND
SIMPLE. But then again, who's laws are they basing this suit on?

These kind of suits, that truly have no merit, make me utterly
sick.
Posted by Thomas, David (1947 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Reply
It's a US patent(#6,665,797). So U.S law applies, but the only way to be sure one really has a valid patent is to test in court.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
Link Flag
the mac heads come clean...
nobody complained about the University of California suing Microsoft for over half a billion dollars. They had a concept patent ("a plug-in is something that allows the browser to open an external application"). how f***ing vague is that, and how common indeed. Still they won, yet no one complained 'cause Microsoft is evil. Bullsh*t!!!

What really should be done is fixing the patent office. Patenting broad and vague concepts that the patenting people/company haven't even put into a pragmatic use, shouldn't be legal. I'm ok with patents but nothing like this.

"this patent describes a 'thing' that has two or four or any given number of 'wheels' and can move by means of 'something'". uh huh.
Posted by mortis9 (370 comments )
Link Flag
Pat-Rights = More Pond Scum
I took a look at their website, and it is pathetic. It's interesting how the cockroaches come out of the woodwork whenever someone makes money.
Posted by (274 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Already found an out...
The patent states:

1) The Central Program.

According to the first embodiment, there is provided a central program which being an executable program and can be caused to be executed a) by user by entering its filename in DOS environment, b) by a running program. FIG. 1 is a block diagram of the central program, details are provided as follows:


Anyone else notice the wording... DOS environment? Since Apple doesn't use DOS, this can not apply :)

This is meant as humorous, not really being serious. But you may want to read it yourself:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?u=/netahtml/srchnum.htm&#38;Sect1=PTO1&#38;Sect2=HITOFF&#38;p=1&#38;r=1&#38;l=50&#38;f=G&#38;d=PALL&#38;s1=6665797.WKU.&#38;OS=PN/6665797&#38;RS=PN/6665797" target="_newWindow">http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?u=/netahtml/srchnum.htm&#38;Sect1=PTO1&#38;Sect2=HITOFF&#38;p=1&#38;r=1&#38;l=50&#38;f=G&#38;d=PALL&#38;s1=6665797.WKU.&#38;OS=PN/6665797&#38;RS=PN/6665797</a>
Posted by vanox (49 comments )
Reply Link Flag
that's amazing...
you read they entire patent filing and came up with that? are you a moron? don't you think if that were the case, they wouldn't have been in negotiations for two months? i read the patent, and those that was in there somewhere at the bottom, it means nothing. apple needs to get on the ball, find prior art, and move on to the next lawsuit (i'm sure someones eager to sue or vice-versa)
Posted by mortis9 (370 comments )
Link Flag
 

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