Lawsuit claims Apple's iTunes video content violates patent

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited January 2014
A new lawsuit takes aim at Apple's delivery of movies, TV shows and other videos through iTunes, alleging that the service is in violation of a patent owned by Multi-Format Inc.



The New Jersey company is the owner of a patent granted in 2003, entitled "Multi-format audio/video production system." The company filed a lawsuit last week, alleging that the iTunes store and devices that connect to it to download videos are in violation of at least 20 claims within that patent.



"Apple has made, used, sold, offered for sale and/or imported products which enable the downloading and viewing of video programs, including, but not limited to, the personal computers, including the Power Mac G5, iPhone (including 3GS and 4G), iPad, iPod classic, iPod nano, iPod touch, Apple TV and iTunes products, throughout the United States," the complaint reads.



The patent, first filed for in 1998 is credited to inventors Kinya Washino and Barry H. Schwab. It describes the reprocessing of video to fit a certain aspect ratio or framerate to ensure that content will play on a specific device.



"An audio/video production system facilitates professional quality image manipulation and editing using an enhanced general-purpose hardware," the patent reads. "A program input may be translated into any variety of graphics or television formats, including NTSC, PAL, SECAM, and HDTV, and stored as data-compressed images, using any of several commercially available methods such as Motion JPEG, MPEG, etc."







The lawsuit claims that by allowing its customers to download and view video programs, Apple is in violation of the patent. It asserts that Multi-Format is entitled to a "reasonable royalty" in return.



The civil suit was filed in a U.S. District Court in the North District of Illinois.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 47
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Is the North District of Illinois the new black spot on the US judicial system, surpassing the Eastern District of Texas, or is this a legitimate case?
  • Reply 2 of 47
    morkymorky Posts: 179member
    One of the more obvious trolls in recent memory.
  • Reply 3 of 47
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,356member
    1998 eh? This should be a fun one to follow the various expert opinions on.
  • Reply 4 of 47
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,356member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    Is the North District of Illinois the new black spot on the US judicial system, surpassing the Eastern District of Texas, or is this a legitimate case?



    If legitimate, why have they waited until now I wonder?
  • Reply 5 of 47
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post


    1998 eh? This should be a fun one to follow the various expert opinions on.



    I don't remember much talk about HDTV back in 1998 when this patent was submitted. I remember digital cameras at the time being anything but hi res either.
  • Reply 6 of 47
    Sounds a bit week.

    They patented that the format had to change to be on a computer?
  • Reply 7 of 47
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post


    If legitimate, why have they waited until now I wonder?



    Apple does this, too. Remember Psystar. It?s a common and useful tactic to go after a single company after an egregious violation and after you?ve built a solid case.



    This company, assuming they do have a solid patent, could have been waiting for iTunes to get so big as to maximize their profit. They may also have been collecting data and verifying they actually had a solid patent that would hold up in court, if it got that far.



    That is just an example. Apple may also have no knowledge of this patent so even if they are in violation they may also be ethically innocent as the defendant.



    (Disclaimer: I make no assertion as to who is guilty or innocent, and don?t care as I don?t think these cases affect the value of my stock in any significant way. Just posting objective viewpoints as to how both parters could be in the right.)
  • Reply 8 of 47
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kerryb View Post


    I don't remember much talk about HDTV back in 1998 when this patent was submitted. I remember digital cameras at the time being anything but hi res either.



    There was high-resolution digital imaging back then, although not in the consumer space. It was high-end commercial stuff, things like digital backs for 4x5" view cameras. The backs were connected directly to computers, as there were no high-capacity flash memory cards back then.



    Likewise, HDTV was strictly the province of professional video: no consumer camcorders at the time.



    It takes several years for a lot of this technology to trickle down to the consumer marketplace.
  • Reply 9 of 47
    The only way to end patent trolling is to set a deadline and a cap on how much money the suing company can make. For example, if the claim is legit but there is no actual product produced, a year deadline for a claim and $50 should be made as payment. This way, the trolls would have no way to thrive squatting for absolutely no effort of their part. Trolling affects consumers, not just companies. It also sets a bad precedent.
  • Reply 10 of 47
    Had myself the ol Matrox Rainbow Runner back then. Now a mobile phone takes hours and hours of HD, downloads via USB, and tapes are pretty much dead. And we have, for all intents and purposes, "Internet TV" now. And I am typing this on a glass screen.



    Ah, you young whippersnappers... (says this 32 year old lol)
  • Reply 11 of 47
    We have no information at this time that indicates these are patent trolls. As ever, let 'em work it out in the courts. Even with the finest legal staff in the world Apple will never be completely safeguarded from creating products that infringe on someone's patents.
  • Reply 12 of 47
    I have no knowledge on the patent world but the part quoted in the article is quite generic. Wouldn't it have already been done by video capture cards, and video converter cards etc which essentially do, since the 90s, what that quoted part says...?
  • Reply 13 of 47
    The plaintiffs have to demonstrate loss as a result of the alleged patent violation. Discovery will determine if there was any actionable patent violation and what impact was felt as opposed to that claimed.



    Discovery is the lead factor in the process and arguably the most important. Fortunately the billable hours are by the discovery team (legal assistants) not by the lawyers themselves.
  • Reply 14 of 47
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by cvaldes1831 View Post


    There was high-resolution digital imaging back then, although not in the consumer space. It was high-end commercial stuff, things like digital backs for 4x5" view cameras. The backs were connected directly to computers, as there were no high-capacity flash memory cards back then.



    Likewise, HDTV was strictly the province of professional video: no consumer camcorders at the time.



    It takes several years for a lot of this technology to trickle down to the consumer marketplace.



    In 1998 formats like Panasonic D5 had decks but still at that time everything was NTSC 525 scanlines by 29.97 frames per second. Digital recording was practically none existent, still lots of analog equipment out there recording to tape or film to be late digitized for post production and then back to film when finished.

    Sure there was "digital recording" but to tape. No external or internal hard drives, still even in digital realm the aspect ratio was 4:3 cause there was not enough 16:9 displays anywhere in the world.

    That company looks to me one that was ahead of its time by the time they got granted the patent. Then my question is why you are able to be granted a patent when the technology that is need to do that is none existent. Is like I get granted a patent for device to support live on a space ship or base station in outer space... At this time I don't have the technology to prove that it works, could prove the concept somehow but it is not by real testing of it.

    Sad.. but patent trolls will keep coming cause patent office failed at the time they granted rights to stuff that is to general and is more of a concept than reality.
  • Reply 15 of 47
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post


    We have no information at this time that indicates these are patent trolls. ...



    Don't we?



    This is a very generalised patent on video downloading. If upheld it would seem to cover everyone who does video distribution on a network. It seems to me that if they aren't trolls, they should have both taken other players to court in the intervening 12-13 years, and also talked to Apple years ago.



    One doesn't *have* to defend a patent to make it valid, and it doesn't *have* to be specific to be valid but both of those help a great deal and will affect the case. I would assume that Apple knew of this patent and believed it to be too general to stand up in court.
  • Reply 16 of 47
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post


    We have no information at this time that indicates these are patent trolls. As ever, let 'em work it out in the courts. Even with the finest legal staff in the world Apple will never be completely safeguarded from creating products that infringe on someone's patents.



    Really..I can not find any products they have created in the last 12 years. Of course they also appear to gave patented the generic process of changing video formats on a computer. No evidence? They are in fact the definition of trolls..
  • Reply 17 of 47
    If Apple is a target, why not Google or Netflix and others. As far as I know Apple does not use iTunes to define which version is downloaded and the process is not on the fly as this seams to implicate. Apple just offers Sd and HD content. You get one or the other or both This seams that it would cover Quicktime more as it can output video in several different formats for delivery with the Javascript code selecting which is delivered based on the browser info. Seams to me that they are targeting the wrong product simply because that product is making money for Apple, where QuickTime does not so much.
  • Reply 18 of 47
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by BTBlomberg View Post


    If Apple is a target, why not Google or Netflix and others. As far as I know Apple does not use iTunes to define which version is downloaded and the process is not on the fly as this seams to implicate. Apple just offers Sd and HD content. You get one or the other or both This seams that it would cover Quicktime more as it can output video in several different formats for delivery with the Javascript code selecting which is delivered based on the browser info. Seams to me that they are targeting the wrong product simply because that product is making money for Apple, where QuickTime does not so much.



    But QuickTime existed prior to this patent and would be a much tougher sell...
  • Reply 19 of 47
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nvidia2008 View Post


    I have no knowledge on the patent world but the part quoted in the article is quite generic. ...



    Well, that's probably the biggest problem with a lot of patents over the last 25 years: they're totally generic "ideas" (as opposed to actual inventions) that should never have been granted patents in the first place. I don't think the PTO has any idea what it's doing with these technology patents, nor any idea really how to evaluate them.



    The solution isn't entirely simple. The PTO will never have the expertise to appropriately evaluate these things. It wouldn't be fair to small inventors to require a product be brought to market, or to limit damage awards. But, the system has clearly spun out of control and now serves the exact opposite purpose that it is intended to serve.



    EDIT: One possibility to solve the problem of software patents would be to go back to the idea that the inventor submit a copy of his invention -- i.e., a reference implementation that defines the invention, rather than vague wording that simply describes an idea. This way, there's no doubt about what the invention is, no ambiguity over exactly what is covered. The way things work now, it's as if Eli Whitney were granted a patent for the idea of, "a machine that separates the cotton fibers from the seeds," rather than for his specific implementation of a cotton gin for which a patent was actually granted. Requiring a reference implementation, defining the invention, for software patents would not be an onerous requirement, and most of these generic patents that plague industry would either never have been granted, or would have a solid, unambiguous footing, rather than the current, "let's see just how much we can get away with with this one," basis of a lot of these suits.
  • Reply 20 of 47
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by plokoonpma View Post


    In 1998 formats like Panasonic D5 had decks but still at that time everything was NTSC 525 scanlines by 29.97 frames per second. Digital recording was practically none existent, still lots of analog equipment out there recording to tape or film to be late digitized for post production and then back to film when finished.

    Sure there was "digital recording" but to tape. No external or internal hard drives, still even in digital realm the aspect ratio was 4:3 cause there was not enough 16:9 displays anywhere in the world.

    That company looks to me one that was ahead of its time by the time they got granted the patent. Then my question is why you are able to be granted a patent when the technology that is need to do that is none existent. Is like I get granted a patent for device to support live on a space ship or base station in outer space... At this time I don't have the technology to prove that it works, could prove the concept somehow but it is not by real testing of it.

    Sad.. but patent trolls will keep coming cause patent office failed at the time they granted rights to stuff that is to general and is more of a concept than reality.



    I think you're missing the entire point of patents, which is to protect the IDEA of something that does not yet exist. For if it did already exist - someone would already own the patent it. This is why its called INVENTION. The technologies this patent relies upon may not have been functioning in the marketplace at the time but the concepts it was built upon existed. Of course then again everyone is failing.



    The Japanese had 1125 line analog HD broadcasting in a 5:3 aspect ratio in 1969. The French had a 768i system that was black and white from 1949 to 1985, Russians had an 1125 system developed though never deployed for military purposes in 1958.



    In the United States, in 1981 the Japanese system was demonstrated to Ronald Reagan and it declared it a matter of national interest to introduce HDTV to the USA. In 1983 the US began the process of developing what became our HDTV standards, which the FCC adopted in 1996.





    This means when this patent was filed in 1998 the standards for all of these formats already existed. A little research never heart anyone. (Yes, I used Wikipedia, so there may be some errors but doubtful anything earth shatteringly wrong)..
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