Apple sued over foundations to iPod + iTunes franchise

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
ZapMedia Services, Inc. has filed a lawsuit against Apple Inc., claiming to have conceived the underlying principles of the iPod + iTunes franchise a full two years before the first iPod went on sale.



The patent infringement suit, filed Wednesday in the Marshall Division of Texas friendly to patent litigation, comes 18 months after the little-known company, acting on behalf of the now defunct ZapMedia Inc., unsuccessfully began shopping for a buyer of its tiny portfolio with the help of Atlanta-based intellectual property firm Lava Group Inc.



That portfolio had long consisted of just a single patent (No. 7,020,704) titled "System and method for distributing media assets to user devices via a portal synchronized by said user devices." However, on Tuesday the United States Patent and Trademark Office awarded ZapMedia with the rights to a second, similarly titled patent (No. 7,343,414) having an increased focus on digital rights management (DRM).



Both patents describe a content distribution and media asset management system, which when taken at face value appears similar to online distributions systems like Apple's iTunes Store and rival offerings such as Vongo and MovieLink. In addition, the filings include what may be perceived as the foundations to a DRM platform.



In its suit Wednesday, ZapMedia claims that after filing for its first patent in October of 2000, it met with several major technology and media companies around the world, including Apple, describing its vision in great detail.



"Without asking ZapMedia for permission, Apple subsequently unveiled its own system," the company said. "Apple announced its iPod MP3 player with an integrated iTunes software application in October of 2001 and its iTunes store in April 2003."



After having been granted its first patent in March of 2006, ZapMedia between June 2006 the fall of 2007 again entertained dialog with Apple, offering to license that patent to the company to no avail.



Illustrations included in ZapMedia's filings.



"When someone takes our vision and our intellectual property without a license after several attempts, we have no option but to protect it through every means available to us," Robert J. Frohwein, general counsel of ZapMedia Services, said in a statement.



ZapMedia is now seeking unspecified damages.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 43
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,382member
    I thought of going to the moon before NASA too!
  • Reply 2 of 43
    I thought of the internet! So everyone pay up!





    I mean, I understand patenting things that you put into use, but if you just shot gun patent things and never go out and make they I say it is fair game.
  • Reply 3 of 43
    pdiddypdiddy Posts: 27member
    Servers sending data to devices over a network? Isn't that just the internet?
  • Reply 4 of 43
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post


    I thought of going to the moon before NASA too!



    I was about to write what would have probably turned into a long post about how silly it is to claim you had an idea first -- even though you never managed to do anything about it -- but I think you really captured my entire sentiment in that one sentence.
  • Reply 5 of 43
    minderbinderminderbinder Posts: 1,703member
    All apple has to do is produce some internal documentation showing that they had the idea before these guys filed their patent or met with them. I assume that should be easy for them to do.
  • Reply 6 of 43
    I know that the reporting of this story will have been somewhat simplified, but... unless there has been a massive over simplification, looks to me like they will skim some money from his Stevenes.
  • Reply 7 of 43
    wircwirc Posts: 302member
    In addition to claiming the idea of digital media distribution in the vaguest way possible, they did it with clip art.
  • Reply 8 of 43
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    At first glance they look to have a solid case. The patent is quite clear and I'm unable to find a patent that Apple owns that trumps this one. But we know that holding the patent isn't everything, and we also not having much of a case doesn't mean you can't get rich off someone else's successes.



    PS: In my search I did find the SoundJam patent, filed in 1996, that Apple bought and turned into iTunes. Though there is no talk of distributing the media to peripheral devices.
  • Reply 9 of 43
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by minderbinder View Post


    All apple has to do is produce some internal documentation showing that they had the idea before these guys filed their patent or met with them. I assume that should be easy for them to do.



    They had no problem producing evidence about the dates stock options were granted, so this should be a no-brainer </sarcasm>
  • Reply 10 of 43
    g3prog3pro Posts: 669member
    I hope these guys win. They deserve it especially after screwing its stockholders with backdating options.



    I hate patent trolls, and this case doesn't help.
  • Reply 11 of 43
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    ZapMedia Services, Inc. has filed a lawsuit against Apple Inc., claiming to have conceived the underlying principles of the iPod + iTunes franchise a full two years before the first iPod went on sale.



    I'm no lawyer. Why isn't there a statute of limitations on this kind of case? The iPod and iTunes have been around for 7 years, and in development for maybe 2 years before that? Almost a decade. Why did it take these jerks so long to come out with their case? It reminds me of that dumb stunt British Telephone came up with when they announced they owned the patents to hyperlinks and were going to start charging ISPs for every web page they served. This kind of stupidity is really holding us back as a society.
  • Reply 12 of 43
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by pdiddy View Post


    Servers sending data to devices over a network? Isn't that just the internet?



    They're going to have to fight that one out with Al Gore.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    At first glance they look to have a solid case. The patent is quite clear and I'm unable to find a patent that Apple owns that trumps this one. .



    Apple doesn't need a patent to trump this one. All they need is some internal memos saying that they were discussing it before the patent was filed. Considering that the patent was filed only a year before iTunes became public, it's likely that Apple can show that they were working on it (I doubt if they went from concept to released product in a year).



    Of course, the other defense is obviousness - which is a reasonable defense to use here.
  • Reply 13 of 43
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    Another nail in the patent coffin.
  • Reply 14 of 43
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


    They're going to have to fight that one out with Al Gore.



    It's a serious of tubes!



    (http://www.boingboing.net/2006/07/02...-hilariou.html)
  • Reply 15 of 43
    wigginwiggin Posts: 2,265member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


    Apple doesn't need a patent to trump this one. All they need is some internal memos saying that they were discussing it before the patent was filed. Considering that the patent was filed only a year before iTunes became public, it's likely that Apple can show that they were working on it (I doubt if they went from concept to released product in a year).



    Of course, the other defense is obviousness - which is a reasonable defense to use here.



    And yet another defense is arguing that it wasn't even patentable. Did they patent a certain technology or technique? Did they say how they were going to do it? Is this really a patentable thing, or just a business idea?



    If I have the notion that sometime in the next 10 years we will have figured out a way to make holographic media common, I could file a patent for the "Electronic sales and dissemination of 3 dimensional images and motion pictures to a local display device." Then I send a few e-mails to a bunch of tech companies promoting my idea. Now I wait until someone has established a thriving business and file a lawsuit...
  • Reply 16 of 43
    sandorsandor Posts: 589member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ravelgrane View Post


    I'm no lawyer. Why isn't there a statute of limitations on this kind of case? The iPod and iTunes have been around for 7 years, and in development for maybe 2 years before that? Almost a decade. Why did it take these jerks so long to come out with their case? It reminds me of that dumb stunt British Telephone came up with when they announced they owned the patents to hyperlinks and were going to start charging ISPs for every web page they served. This kind of stupidity is really holding us back as a society.





    because, as the article reports, they were just granted the 2nd patent which cements the case.







    Quote:

    That portfolio had long consisted of just a single patent (No. 7,020,704) titled "System and method for distributing media assets to user devices via a portal synchronized by said user devices." However, on Tuesday the United States Patent and Trademark Office awarded ZapMedia with the rights to a second, similarly titled patent (No. 7,343,414) having an increased focus on digital rights management (DRM).



  • Reply 17 of 43
    ahmlcoahmlco Posts: 432member
    So whatever happened to the concept that you can't simply patent an idea? They may have talked to Apple, but what, in fact, did they have to license other than what appears to be a back-of-the-envelope sketch connecting a few servers and devices? Any technology? Any software? Anything at all?
  • Reply 18 of 43
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by minderbinder View Post


    All apple has to do is produce some internal documentation showing that they had the idea before these guys filed their patent or met with them. I assume that should be easy for them to do.



    Or these Zap guys would be able to quickly produce the NDA's that I'm certain they would have had everyone sign before disclosing such 'vital' information.
  • Reply 19 of 43
    jawportajawporta Posts: 140member
    SIt took them Six years to realize this?
  • Reply 20 of 43
    jpellinojpellino Posts: 652member
    Look at the complete filing. They could just as well claim against Amazon, Real, eMusic (whose original incarnation predates this and includes selling digital audio players as well as online media), you name it. In the first filing, they seem to want to patent a PC as well as a generic media player.



    It's amazing this got approved.
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