Apple sued over iTunes software interface

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited January 2014
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
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 61
    lupalupa Posts: 202member
  • Reply 2 of 61
    gene cleangene clean Posts: 3,481member
    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!
  • Reply 3 of 61
    boogabooga Posts: 1,077member
    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.
  • Reply 4 of 61
    Jesus, you can patent just about anything, can't you?



    It's completely stupid.
  • Reply 5 of 61
    ct77ct77 Posts: 49member
    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?
  • Reply 6 of 61
    My god, look at that picture on the right - IT LOOKS JUST LIKE ITUNES!!
  • Reply 7 of 61
    a_greera_greer Posts: 4,594member
    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
  • Reply 8 of 61
    The picture on the right is iTunes. On the left is what the company patented.





    They are side by side to show comparison.
  • Reply 9 of 61
    robin hoodrobin hood Posts: 513member
    God bless the USA and their software patents!
  • Reply 10 of 61
    boogabooga Posts: 1,077member
    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.
  • Reply 11 of 61
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    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
  • Reply 12 of 61
    bergzbergz Posts: 1,045member
    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
  • Reply 13 of 61
    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!













  • Reply 14 of 61
    geekdreamsgeekdreams Posts: 280member
    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. \
  • Reply 15 of 61
    allinoneallinone Posts: 279member
    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
  • Reply 16 of 61
    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???
  • Reply 17 of 61
    nathan22tnathan22t Posts: 317member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by daddy-mojo

    I thought it came from Audion by Panic....anyone, anyone???





    It was Soundjam
  • Reply 18 of 61
    fahlmanfahlman Posts: 694member
    Casadey & Greene's SoundJam.



    Edit: Type faster and confirm spelling and facts after posting so as to not get beat to the puch.
  • Reply 19 of 61
    deapeajaydeapeajay Posts: 909member
    I thought it was SoundJam. I know I used to use SoundJam all the time until iTunes came out.



    dito fahlman!
  • Reply 20 of 61
    asterizkasterizk Posts: 11member
    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.
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