Tuesday, June 21, 2005

eMusic gear says to iTunes, "I sue"

As reported by Macrumors:

AppleInsider reports that Contois Music Technology, run by David Contois, filed suit Monday against Apple for patent infringement based on the iTunes interface. David Contois and family run eMusicGear.

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 which it claims are in direct violation of its patent. These areas include iTunes' menu selection process for allowing 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.

From Patent #5,864,868:

January 26, 1999 (filed February 13, 1996)
David C. Contois

Computer control system and user interface for media playing devices

A computer system and method for controlling a media playing device. The system provides a user interface for allowing a user access to media pieces stored in a media database. The interface is also for controlling a media playing device, like a player piano or movie playing video device, that is coupled to the computer to play the accessed or selected piece of media. In one embodiment there is a computer interface that allows a user to display only music that relates to a selected category, like jazz or classical music. Another embodiment allows the user to direct the media playing device to automatically play selected music pieces that are related to a selected music category. Another embodiment allows a user to direct the media playing device to automatically play selected music pieces that are related to the selected music composer or artist.

According to this blog, the suit was filed Monday June 13.


I understand that it may take a while for an attorney to fully research and conduct investigation into a patent infringement, but this is yet another reason that our patent and copyright system MUST be overhauled. There should be some sort of statute of limitations - a company shouldn't be allowed to see if something is going to be profittable before they decide to sue. If the patent was broken - it was broken well over a year ago! Contois knows Apple has deep pockets - this is the real motivation for this suit. I would imagine the eMusicgear biz is hurting badly and Contois saw this as "get rich quick (or within a year) scheme".

This suit will be added to the Jackwhispers Your Rights, The Law, & Litigation Section



Johnathan said...

Does (Yahoo) MusicMatch have a license for this patent? Because I think MM's own player has provided these (or very similar functions) before iTunes ever existed and had more of these functions earlier in its product life than iTunes. (Especially with respect to things like "play music related to a specific artist" or even genre.)

FYT said...

Good point - I think this will bode well for Apple.

The claim specifically in this suit is though that Apple was shown the specific interface that was patented and then said to have copied it very closely AND that they hired many of the programmers who worked on Contois software.