Apple TV at the center of Apple's latest lawsuit

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited January 2014
A wireless set-top-box maker is suing Apple, claiming the company hired away a trio of employees privy to patented technology that would later turn up as part of Apple TV.



The 6-page complaint was filed in an Illinois court on Tuesday by locally-based EZ4Media, Inc., an actual maker of wireless digital media players for the living room; not a patent troll. The company says it decided to file the suit only after "extensive discussions" with Apple failed to result in an amicable out of court resolution.



Specifically, EZ4Media claims that Apple TV, AirPort Express, and Macintosh personal computers infringe upon patents 7,130,616, 7,142,934, 7,142,935, and 7,167,765, which were issued between October 31, 2006 and January 23, 2007. Each of the patents were obtained by EZ4Media from Universal Electronics, Inc. this past March.



According to the suit, Apple hired three key members of Universal's technical staff -- Nick Kalyjian, Bruce Edwards and Wendy Goh -- to work in its consumer entertainment division during the development of Apple TV.



"Each of these employees had access to [Universal's] confidential and proprietary information and left [Universal] for Apple within 30 days of each other in the second quarter of 2005," the complaint says. "Apple TV was commercially introduced in September 2006."



At the time Apple TV was commercially introduced, it's alleged that Universal owned the rights to each of the four pending patent applications. The company reportedly served Apple with written notice of the four patents between May 8, 2007 and August 7, 2007, the latter of which was one week after it was granted patent number 7,167,765.



Three of the filings relate to a device, system and method for streaming digital media (such as movies, music and pictures) from a server to a playback device like a television. As such, EZ4Media claims Apple is treading on these patents through the sale of Apple TV, AirPort Express and its Mac computer line.



The fourth patent, 7,130,616, pertains to a method for automatically transferring audiovisual content from the Internet to a computer that then wirelessly funnels the media to a television for playback. EZ4Media alleges that Apple TV infringes on technology covered by this patent.



"The infringement by Apple has injured, and will continue to injure, EZ4Media unless and until such infringement is enjoined by the Court," the complaint says. "Despite the above communications and subsequent communications with EZ4Media following its acquisition of the [...] Patents, Apple has continued its infringement of the patents without legitimate basis and in an objectively reckless manner."



EZ4Media is seeking a injunction permanently prohibiting Apple from further acts of infringement in addition to a "damages adequate to compensate it for the infringement that has occurred, but in no event less than a reasonable royalty."



Apple isn't EZ4Media's first target by a long shot. The set-top-box maker has filed two earlier suits over the same patents. The first names Logitech, Netgear, and D-Link, while the second targets Samsung, Pioneer, Yamaha, D&M Holdings, and Denon.



The charges against Samsung have since been dismissed after the two companies promptly reached an undisclosed out-of-court settlement.
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Comments

  • Reply 2 of 33
    kasperkasper Posts: 941member, administrator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post


    No ...they are a patent troll.



    In June, EZ4Media filed two other patent-infringement lawsuits, the first against Logitech, Netgear, and D-Link, and the second against Samsung, Pioneer, Yamaha, D&M Holdings, and Denon. Samsung was dropped from the second lawsuit when it settled for an undisclosed sum.



    They're suing any an everyone they can.



    We clearly stated this as well. Did you read our article? EZ4Media made note of it in their suit...
  • Reply 3 of 33
    Why should they be worried? The AppleTV has been a failure from the start, even Steve Jobs said it was only a hobby. Apple isn't making any money off AppleTV. I have never heard of EZMedia. If they have such patents, where is their product? Why sue someone else for something they never created, expect for filing a patent. Also, the AirPort Express (and wireless technology) was released before their patents were ever filed.
  • Reply 4 of 33
    I have 3 Apple TVs (Kitchen, Living Room, and Basement) and enjoy each one of them. I for one do not think it a failure.
  • Reply 5 of 33
    kasperkasper Posts: 941member, administrator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hillstones View Post


    Why should they be worried? The AppleTV has been a failure from the start, even Steve Jobs said it was only a hobby. Apple isn't making any money off AppleTV. I have never heard of EZMedia. If they have such patents, where is their product? Why sue someone else for something they never created, expect for filing a patent. Also, the AirPort Express (and wireless technology) was released before their patents were ever filed.



    I think the Apple TV has a lot of potential going forward (years) as both a gaming machine tied to the iPhone/App Store and as an on-demand device for TV and True HD movies.



    K
  • Reply 6 of 33
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,740member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hillstones View Post


    I have never heard of EZMedia. If they have such patents, where is their product?



    Clearly, you made no attempt to find their website. Or, if you did, you really suck at using Google.



    They have products. See here.



    I think the generally accepted definition of patent troll is a company that owns patents but has never attempted to use those patents themselves. They just wait to see if others attempt it, and if those others do and are succesful, the troll jumps in and attempts to make money out of others' success.



    What he have here is different. A company that developed a product, along the way applying for and being granted patents. They believe that Apple infringe on those patents and on the face of it I would suggest that EZ4Media have every right to pursue this.



    Whether or not anyone should be being granted patents on streaming products is another question. This looks like yet another example of a company being granted patents for the application of engineering principles leveraging long-established technologies, as opposed to genuine innovation.
  • Reply 7 of 33
    kreshkresh Posts: 379member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post


    Clearly, you made no attempt to find their website. Or, if you did, you really suck at using Google.



    Uhm... The post clearly said "never heard of", not "can't find". If you are going to bash someone please don't look like an idiot while you attempt it!
  • Reply 8 of 33
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,740member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kresh View Post


    Uhm... The post clearly said "never heard of", not "can't find".



    No dude. Read his post again. He said "where is their product? Why sue someone else for something they never created, expect [sic] for filing a patent".



    Clearly, he assumed that because he'd never heard of them, they couldn't possibly have a product. Pretty dumb assumption to make when it's really not hard to google "EZ4media".



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kresh View Post


    If you are going to bash someone please don't look like an idiot while you attempt it!



    Oh the irony!
  • Reply 9 of 33
    Why should Microsoft innovate when they can just steal it? Oh, wait...
  • Reply 10 of 33


    Anyone? That's just a half dozen companies. There wouldn't be a settlement by a giant if the suit didn't have merit. Patents MUST be defended if the infringement comes even close, or they lose the ability to do so in the future.
  • Reply 11 of 33
    The AppleTV is just a computer that connects to other computers wirelessly. It's monitor happens to be a TV (but doesn't have to) and it's controller is a remote instead of a keyboard. Can everyone that creates a computer that can connect to other computers wirelessly and can use a TV as its display device be sued using these patents?



    The only thing that even remotely makes the AppleTV different from a standard computer is that it typically only runs one application.



    I'm just not sure why someone would be granted a patent for a computer in 2006...
  • Reply 12 of 33
    They should sue them for the Mac Mini too since it's pretty much identical to the AppleTV, accept it's better because it will also play DVD's.
  • Reply 13 of 33
    Just looking for publicity by my guess. Wasn't the Airport Express released well before the patent application suggesting much of this functionality? Was it Roku before them?
  • Reply 14 of 33
    Wow, this forum reads like a kindergarden class.
  • Reply 15 of 33
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,740member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by aaarrrgggh View Post


    Just looking for publicity by my guess.



    Looks more like they're trying to defend patents that were granted to them that they are now exploiting in their own product. Seems fair enough to me. Would you accuse Apple of just looking for publicity if it set out to defend its patents?



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by aaarrrgggh View Post


    Wasn't the Airport Express released well before the patent application suggesting much of this functionality? Was it Roku before them?



    It's not EZ4media's fault that they were granted these patents. Yes, it beggars belief that they managed it given the massive amount of prior art. Seems par for the course nowadays in the US - looks like the patent office simply grants every damn application and leaves it up to court cases to find out if the patent's valid or not.
  • Reply 16 of 33
    wigginwiggin Posts: 2,265member
    The patents appear to apply, but there is always the question of broadness and timing.



    Computer clients have been accessing files on report servers practically since the dawn of computers. Their patents to go great lengths describing the increasing availability of home networking technology. Apple computers were perhaps the first that made home networks and sharing of files between computers easy. So is listening to an audio file or viewing a video fundamentally different than opening a text document? If the patent is only covering the concept without introducing new techniques or technology to achieve it, then I'd think the patent it too broad.



    As for timing, 2 of the 4 patents were applied for after the Airport Express was released in 2004, and all of them were issued after that. And before Airport Express there may have been other devices performing the same function (Roku and TiVo are the first that come to mind, but I don't know when they were introduced). There are even stereo receivers that can send audio to different rooms of you house which have been available for some time. Is that fundamentally different (just analog vs digital data)?
  • Reply 17 of 33
    Your momma looks like mine...I'm gonna sue you!!!



    If you've got a great product, then sell it. Quit acting like someone is stealing your idea and make millions. Good heavens, look at all the wannabes stealing the iPhone features...every decent smartphone now has a "touchscreen".



    The reason nobody acts like they've heard of these guys is because..no one's heard of these guys!!



    /
  • Reply 18 of 33
    jfanningjfanning Posts: 3,394member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by pairof9s View Post


    If you've got a great product, then sell it. Quit acting like someone is stealing your idea and make millions. Good heavens, look at all the wannabes stealing the iPhone features...every decent smartphone now has a "touchscreen".



    Yeah, even ones that came out before the iPhone had touchscreens, they were clearly copying Apple.
  • Reply 19 of 33
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by pairof9s View Post


    Quit acting like someone is stealing your idea and make millions. Good heavens, look at all the wannabes stealing the iPhone features...every decent smartphone now has a "touchscreen".



    The reason nobody acts like they've heard of these guys is because..no one's heard of these guys!!



    Dude touch screens have been around WAY before Apple could even get a hold of their company again. You might wanna put down your Macbook, turn off your Apple TV, and pause your iPod so that you could actually get a clue as to what's been going on! I guess all of those touch screen phones that have been around since at least 2005 were copies.



    BTW there are millions of companies you will NEVER hear of! There are a couple in your iPhone im sure you never even thought existed!(That's right Apple doesn't make the entire phone kiddo!!
  • Reply 20 of 33
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by 8CoreWhore View Post


    There wouldn't be a settlement by a giant if the suit didn't have merit.



    Other than the settlement is cheaper than fighting, I can't see a reason either.



    But seriously, EZ4Media have patented something that was has been implemented for years before by others. It just wasn't that easy to do previously is the only difference.
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