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Apple sued over iTunes software interface

post #1 of 62
Thread Starter 
Apple Computer, Inc. has been slapped with a lawsuit over iTunes, AppleInsider has learned.

Contois Music Technology last week asked a Federal Court to stop the iPod maker from distributing its iTunes jukebox software and is seeking damages over an alleged patent violation by the iTunes software.

The suit, filed on June 13th in Vermont District Court, alleges that Apple's iTunes software design infringes on Contois' six-year old design patent (US Patent No. 5,864,868) entitled "Computer Control System and User Interface for Media Playing Devices."

The Essex Junction, Vt.-based Contois is seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction enjoining Apple from further distributing its iTunes software in its current form. The company also asked the Court for an unspecified amount of monetary damages resulting from Apple's "copying and willful infringement" of its design patent as well as reimbursement of legal fees associated with the lawsuit.

In the 10-page suit obtained by AppleInsider, lawyers for Contois said that David Contois conceived of and developed a computer interface for playing music on an internal or external computer-responsive music device, which he then exhibited at the 1995 COMDEX trade show and the 1996 NAMM music industry trade show.

According to the suit, persons who were at the time employed by or later became employed by Apple were present at both trade shows and viewed Contois' software. The suit charges Apple later "copied" the invention and used the design ideas in the interface for its iTunes software.

Specifically, Contois documented 19 interface aspects of the iTunes software that it claims are in direct violation of Contois' patent. These areas include iTunes' menu selection process to allow the user to select music to be played, the ability of the software to transfer music tracks to a portable music player, and search capabilities such as sorting music tracks by their genre, artist and album attributes.

Contois claims to have notified Apple in writing of its patent in September 2004 but believed that Apple became aware of the patent on its own more than 18 months earlier in January 2003.

"By reason of Apple's infringing activities, Contois has suffered, and will continue to suffer, substantial damages in an amount yet to be determined," the suit reads. "On information and belief, Apple's infringement has been and continues to be willful."

Since its launch in Jan. 2001, Apple's iTunes software has grown to serve an installed user-base of millions and is distributed free-of-charge via Apple's website as well as with each iPod digital music player the company sells. The iTunes software is also the primary access point to Apple's industry-leading iTunes Music Store, which is available in 19 countries and has served more than 450 million downloaded songs worldwide.

Lawyers for Spink & Miller, PLC, the Virginia-based firm representing Contois, were out on business and did not respond to inquiries for comment by press time.

Contois is seeking a trial by jury.

Contois Exhibit Comparing Both Software Application Interfaces
post #2 of 62
post #3 of 62
Oh, crap. I'm gonna sue Apple for using the word 'Tunes' in iTunes. I've had it in my boxers 8 years ago!

Happy Happy Tunes!
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post #4 of 62
Some of the design aspects do look awfully similar, but I hope Apple challenges it just to punch this patent full of holes. I remember doing a lot of this stuff on my Commodore 64 in the 80's. There is nothing original about displaying a song's title, author, and graphics together on the screen. And MIDI has been able to drive external music devices long before 1995.

Unfortunately, my guess is Apple will just make a payoff of a couple million to make these vultures shut up.
post #5 of 62
Jesus, you can patent just about anything, can't you?

It's completely stupid.
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post #6 of 62
I am no expert at all, but software patents like this seem inherently bogus to me. And to be fair a number of the patents Apple holds would probably fall in the same "bogus" category.

I mean, what if we had patents back when, say, the wheel was invented? There's only one way to make an object that efficiently moves a cart, buggy, car, whatever, forward.

By the same token there are only a few logical ways to display information about a song on a computer screen.

Am I wrong?
post #7 of 62
My god, look at that picture on the right - IT LOOKS JUST LIKE ITUNES!!
post #8 of 62
Quote:
Originally posted by ct77
I am no expert at all, but software patents like this seem inherently bogus to me. And to be fair a number of the patents Apple holds would probably fall in the same "bogus" category.

I mean, what if we had patents back when, say, the wheel was invented? There's only one way to make an object that efficiently moves a cart, buggy, car, whatever, forward.

By the same token there are only a few logical ways to display information about a song on a computer screen.

Am I wrong?

If you can write creatively, you could probably get a wheel patent
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post #9 of 62
The picture on the right is iTunes. On the left is what the company patented.


They are side by side to show comparison.
post #10 of 62
God bless the USA and their software patents!
post #11 of 62
Quote:
Originally posted by Robin Hood
God bless the USA and their software patents!

Don't get me wrong... I think software patents are necessary, personally. Considering how much easier it is to copy than to invent, it's the only way to guarantee that the innovators can profit from their invention.

However, simply calling "I call it, you can't have it, no backsies" to obvious applications of existing technology/information/devices seems like it should be unpatentable. Basically, I would like the USPTO to put a higher burden on "obvious to an expert in the profession."

In addition, I don't like "lurker patents" which sit unnoticed for years, wait until an industry has built up, then build an entire business around litigation for all the infringers. Another aspect of US patent law that encourages this is the 3x reward penalty for "knowingly" violating patents that cause companies to avoid investigating patents in the first place. But basically, I like the trademark approach, where if a patent has not been enforced in X years, it's gone.
post #12 of 62
Ummm... ITunes' columns are a NESTED HIERARCHY like the NeXT column view in OS X.

Source > Genre > Artist > Album > Song.

I don't see how category-composer-artist-song is the same thing. Somtimes that makes a hierarchy, but not always.

Still, I like how they resized the iTunes art area to make it LOOK more similar
post #13 of 62
Still can't view appleinsider images in Camino. Is it me or do you not support Camino? Not the first time this has been mentioned.

Safari , of course, works dandy.

--B
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post #14 of 62
Quote:
Originally posted by AppleJustWorks
The picture on the right is iTunes. On the left is what the company patented.


They are side by side to show comparison.

Of course!






post #15 of 62
Quote:
Originally posted by bergz
Still can't view appleinsider images in Camino. Is it me or do you not support Camino? Not the first time this has been mentioned.

Safari , of course, works dandy.

--B

Can't see them with Firefox, either. \
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post #16 of 62
Quote:
Originally posted by Booga
Some of the design aspects do look awfully similar, but I hope Apple challenges it just to punch this patent full of holes. I remember doing a lot of this stuff on my Commodore 64 in the 80's. There is nothing original about displaying a song's title, author, and graphics together on the screen. And MIDI has been able to drive external music devices long before 1995.

Unfortunately, my guess is Apple will just make a payoff of a couple million to make these vultures shut up.


I agree I think there is plenty of prior art on this.

My guess is that Apple's lawyers will not settle on this. Apple is all about it's intellectual property these days. They defend their own IP against infringers and I expect they will defend themselves when they are are accused of infringing.

Also, wasn't iTunes code base licensed from another MP3 player? I forget which one.

AllInOne
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post #17 of 62
Quote:
Originally posted by AllInOne
I agree I think there is plenty of prior art on this.

My guess is that Apple's lawyers will not settle on this. Apple is all about it's intellectual property these days. They defend their own IP against infringers and I expect they will defend themselves when they are are accused of infringing.

Also, wasn't iTunes code base licensed from another MP3 player? I forget which one.

AllInOne

I thought it came from Audion by Panic....anyone, anyone???
post #18 of 62
Quote:
Originally posted by daddy-mojo
I thought it came from Audion by Panic....anyone, anyone???


It was Soundjam
post #19 of 62
Casadey & Greene's SoundJam.

Edit: Type faster and confirm spelling and facts after posting so as to not get beat to the puch.
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post #20 of 62
I thought it was SoundJam. I know I used to use SoundJam all the time until iTunes came out.

dito fahlman!
post #21 of 62
Quote:
Originally posted by fahlman
Casadey & Greene's SoundJam.

Edit: Type faster and confirm spelling and facts after posting so as to not get beat to the puch.

Yep, it was SoundJam. History of iTunes.
post #22 of 62
Quote:
Originally posted by nathan22t
It was Soundjam

yah, thats it! I used to use it as well back in the day, and it had a audio in feature that was fun to play with. so if itunes is based off of soundjam, and this suit against seems "mis-placed" granted soundjam is no more.
post #23 of 62
Nobodies heard of Contois product. What damages has he incurred and still incurs to this day.

Bogus lawsuit #5,000,000,000,000,000

Apple should have their day in court and flick this flea off.
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post #24 of 62
Since Apple now has lot's of cash in the Bank, isn't it strange how everybody and their brother wants some of it. I wonder what the next case will be? The lesson here is, never tell anyone how much your worth.
post #25 of 62
This is total BS. Apple gets sued for this and Apple gets sued for that! I bets its actually Apple who came up with the idea and now PC lovers are trying to sue them for something that Apple created just becuase they're Jealous that their PCs aren't as cool as Macs. (Sorry I'm a little parinoid right now)

just becuase your company is going out of business doesn't mean that you have to sue someone to make money and get popularity.
post #26 of 62
Considering that Contois stole the rewind, play, fast forward and stop button logos in the way they are placed and shaped, I hope Sony sues the fsck out of them!
post #27 of 62
Quote:
Originally posted by w_parietti22
just becuase your company is going out of business doesn't mean that you have to sue someone to make money and get popularity.

But this is a popular way to make money these days. Look at SCO.
post #28 of 62
Did Contois ever ship this product?
post #29 of 62
"the ability of the software to transfer music tracks to a portable music player, and search capabilities such as sorting music tracks by their genre, artist and album attributes."

doesn't that sound like every music application out there? I don't see any of these claims to alter in different music apps. And wtf is up with "the ability of the software to transfer music tracks to a portable music player" how else do you get music on a portable player. am i missing something? or is this another attempt by apple-haters to get apples $$ and public views
post #30 of 62
Quote:
Originally posted by i-am-an-elf
"the ability of the software to transfer music tracks to a portable music player, and search capabilities such as sorting music tracks by their genre, artist and album attributes."

doesn't that sound like every music application out there? I don't see any of these claims to alter in different music apps. And wtf is up with "the ability of the software to transfer music tracks to a portable music player" how else do you get music on a portable player. am i missing something? or is this another attempt by apple-haters to get apples $$ and public views

Sounds like it will only advertise Apple and the iPod more.
post #31 of 62
This is bogus. As far as I am concerned a software patent should fall into the category of "Use it or loose it." 10 years? You have got to be kidding me. How long have they been living under a rock?
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post #32 of 62
Quote:
Originally posted by i-am-an-elf
[B[And wtf is up with "the ability of the software to transfer music tracks to a portable music player" how else do you get music on a portable player. am i missing something? [/B]

Mind-control
post #33 of 62
Do these patents only exist as drawings on a piece of paper or were there actually working prototypes that did all these things? I am all for allowing patents which actually describe new processes or techniques; but drawings and a "this is what it's supposed to do when it's actually made" should not be enough to have them granted. there should always be a working prototype submitted with the application.
post #34 of 62
Quote:
Originally posted by Gene Clean
Oh, crap. I'm gonna sue Apple for using the word 'Tunes' in iTunes. I've had it in my boxers 8 years ago!

Happy Happy Tunes!

no, sue them for having an application capable of listening to music. jesus did that years ago.
post #35 of 62
Also, transferring files to an externally mounted volume (iPod) is nothing new, so how that patent was even granted is beyond me.
post #36 of 62
I'm no expert by far, and patent law has always caused me to walk away shaking my head. Yet, I'll share my 2 cents as I've come to understand patent law. The likely reason this patent was granted is that the patent office is fairly lenient when it come to granting patents. Patents really aren't worth anything until they have been tested in court. Patents are written as broad as possilble and granted. IF you disagree you take it to court and fight your case stating prior art etc. Lawyers in the room please enlighten us if I'm wrong.
post #37 of 62
Quote:
Originally posted by a_greer
If you can write creatively, you could probably get a wheel patent

Are you referring to my intellectual property, "device and method utilizing geometric shape to minimize traction for transportation purposes"? If so, please stop lest I sic the bloodsucke^Wlawyers on you.

In any case I have a trademark pending on "wheel" so if you were talking about something else, pick another word.
post #38 of 62
Quote:
Originally posted by Jared
Sounds like it will only advertise Apple and the iPod more.

I agree. If the patent had more merit I might be worried, but based on the images I'd say Apple is fine. Waste of time to fend it off though.

In comparison, what do people think of Apple's iTunes patents, including the 3-state burn button that irises open when you prepare to burn a CD?
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post #39 of 62
Quote:
Originally posted by AppleInsider
The suit, filed on June 13th in Vermont District Court, alleges that Apple's iTunes software design infringes on Contois' six-year old design patent (US Patent No. 5,864,868) entitled "Computer Control System and User Interface for Media Playing Devices."

What the hell kind of a name is CCSaUIfMPD? Man, that will catch on real quick.

Quote:
Originally posted by AppleInsider
According to the suit, persons who were at the time employed by ... or later became employed by Apple ... were present at both trade shows and viewed Contois' software. The suit charges Apple later "copied" the invention and used the design ideas in the interface for its iTunes software.

James goes to NAMM in 1996 while going to college. Six years later, James is hired by Apple for software development. Three years later, James gets a letter from a man named Contois: "F**K U JAMES!!!1 F**K U & UR APPLL!¡! SSHUV iPUNES ^ UR AS*!¡!11 I'M SUEING HAHAHLOLOL!!!!!!11"

Quote:
Originally posted by AppleInsider
Specifically, Contois documented 19 interface aspects of the iTunes software that it claims are in direct violation of Contois' patent...

I can think of 19 ways how an eMachines PC resembles Contois's rotten, sweaty, moldy-roast-beef vagina; should I sue Gateway?

Quote:
Originally posted by AppleInsider
[B]Contois claims to have notified Apple in writing of its patent in September 2004 but believed that Apple became aware of the patent on its own more than 18 months earlier in January 2003. Since its launch in Jan. 2001, Apple's iTunes software...

So ... it took him 3 years to figure out that Apple copied his software? Boy, Cuntois is sure on the forefront of technology, and he sure keeps up with current events. I like how he believed that Apple became aware of the patent on its own more than 18 months earlier in January 2003, even though iTunes had its launch in Jan. 2001.
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post #40 of 62
Sounds like he's almost trying to claim a patent on the use of ID3 tag sorting. That's going to be a tough one.
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