Company Claims To Have Patented The Concept Of An MP3 Player; Sues Everyone

from the aren't-patents-great? dept

A "company" which just so happens to be located in every patent troll's favorite city for patent lawsuits, Marshall, Texas (and which "shares" an office with its lawyer), is now claiming a patent on the very concept of an MP3 player and is suing Apple, SanDisk and Samsung for not paying up. The details behind the patent are a little sketchy. The company is named Texas MP3 Technologies, but the only place where that company's name appears in a Google search is on a patent application (not a granted patent) that was published the day before the lawsuits were filed (suggesting the company didn't waste much time in heading to court). However, the application itself is a continuation of two previous patents, one of which was issued last summer. However, that patent was issued to SigmaTel, in Austin. The earlier patent was issued in 2003, to a company called MPMan, though they all list the same inventors.

Even if you go back to the earliest date, it seems fairly ridiculous that there's a patent on the overall concept of the MP3 player -- and the fact that this patent seems to involve a series of continuation filings, a trick used by folks like Jerome Lemelson to extend the scope of old patents to cover new technologies, doesn't help this seem any more legitimate. The latest application has added a bunch of claims to the original patent, though, it's still in application stage and those claims may very well be thrown out. Overall, while we hate to use the term "patent troll," all of the initial evidence suggests this is a classic case of patent trolling. Some random inventor, who hasn't brought the product in question to market, is claiming (and continually adjusting) a very broad patent on a basic concept, and then suing all the companies who are actually successfully bringing such a product to market. This is creating incentives for innovation?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Ha Ha, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 4:03am

    Ha ha

    MP3Man of Korea are credited with making the first dedicated MP3 player, but laptops running AMP predate it and have all the same elements. Lucent have claims over Microsoft for infringing patents, Lucent are so vague about their claims, they don't list the patent number in their press release. Gotta wonder what the patent office is smoking.

     

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  2.  
    icon
    MadJo (profile), Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 4:03am

    MPman?

    You mean this MPMan?
    mpmaneurope.com

    Makes sense, they claim to be "inventors of the mp3player", and it does seem to be a patent troll.
    Yet another example of the brokeness of the patent system.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Andreas Sikkema, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 4:28am

    mpman.com points to reigncom

    And reigncom appears to be another name for iRiver. The IRiver european office is in Germany, not Belgium... ReignCom also claims to be the first company to release an mp3 player.

    I know which company I believe ;-)

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    August West, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 4:32am

    Please...

    This is stupid. Everybody knows Al Gore invented the MP3 player

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Sir. file type, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 4:33am

    The iPod doesn't even play MP3's with out some hacking, so where does the MP3 part fit in?

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Sherman T. Potter, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 4:51am

    I'm giving your hijinks the heave-hoh, post-haste!

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Ramon Casha, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 4:59am

    Patent the idea of suing for patent infringement

    Maybe someone should patent the concept of suing others for patent infringement as a business process for generating revenue, then sue everyone who tries to enforce a software patent. Heck, why not patent the concept of applying for patents and solve the problem once and for all.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Patent Examiner, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 5:00am

    I like swim!

     

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  9.  
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    hakdragon, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 5:06am

    Sir. file type, what in the hell are you talking about?

     

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  10.  
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    Yoda, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 5:13am

    Patent infringement

    Maybe I should patent the concept of being a dumbass. Then I could so almost everyone on the planet for being a dumbass and get rich quick. LOL....

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    WhomTAZ, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 5:24am

    Al Gore & Hillary

    U all know that while Monica and Bill were busy with the cigar and all that Al and Hillary were busy with the MP3 in many ways than one

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    The infamous Joe, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 5:26am

    Flap flap flap go the gums.

    Mr. Sir. file type obviously has never owned, touched, seen, or talked to anyone about ipods before this very post.

    Ipods play mp3's out of the box.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Dosquatch, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 5:32am

    Re:

    The iPod doesn't even play MP3's with out some hacking,

    I don't know who has been lying to you, buddy, but this is just plain wrong. Mine has happily played nothing but MP3's ripped from my collection since the day I bought it, and not a single ITMS purchase ever.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Trouble Maker, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 5:37am

    two cents worth

    ...this is where my pantented "People Canon" would be useful, load 'em in and POW just another body in a low orbit.

    I also have a patent pending on the concept of sueing someone for conceptonal thought.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 5:40am

    LOUD NOISES!!!!!

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Ryan, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 5:46am

    a solution

    the best way to fix the patent problem is to let it go at it's current pace.

    Let every appliation become approved. Let every lawsuit succeed, then let us live in system we created. It couldn't be done... things would have to change.

     

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  17.  
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    Overcast, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 6:00am

    What a bunch of idiots.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    what???????, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 6:14am

    Re:

    Sir. file type, you must not own an iPod.. If you did you probably wouldn't make a statement like that. I've had 3, and i've never had any problem playing mp3's on any of them. Perhaps you're ripping the discs and protecting the tracks? I know that the iTunes won't load protected tracks into your library...

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Wizard Prang, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 6:35am

    Wrong

    The iPod doesn't even play MP3's with out some hacking

    Absolute rubbish. Stick to what you know, please.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    TheDock22, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 6:46am

    Silly

    I think there should be a patent rule that if you don't file your infringement lawsuit within 3 years of a product actually being sold in the market then you've lost your window of opportunity. It's silly that the courts would even entertain this lawsuit.

    Also, people please read all the comments. There are now 4 comments on the board saying Ipods play MP3's. We all know this, so if you are not going to have an original thought then keep it to yourself.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 6:48am

    Could it be that Sir was being sarcastic, and you all failed to realize this? I read it as sarcasm. IPod is basically synonymis with IPOd, anyone that owns one should without a doubt now that it is 'the' MP3 player.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    geneYus, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 6:51am

    iPOD ... Learn about it.

    What are you guys smoking? The iPod plays a proprietary audio format of .m4a and .m4p. You can import .mp3's into your iTunes library, but by the time it is on your iPod it has been converted to Apples format. So technically an iPod never really plays .mp3's.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    safusa, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 7:04am

    History MP3

    Here is a link to some history.
    http://inventors.about.com/od/mstartinventions/a/MPThree.htm

    Quote from page
    MP3 Players
    In the early 1990s, Frauenhofer developed the first, however, unsuccessful MP3 player. In 1997, developer Tomislav Uzelac of Advanced Multimedia Products invented the AMP MP3 Playback Engine, the first successful MP3 player. Two university students, Justin Frankel and Dmitry Boldyrev ported AMP to Windows and created Winamp. In 1998, Winamp became a free MP3 music player boosting the success of MP3. No licensing fees are required to use an MP3 player.

    end quote.

    This sure sounds like prior art to me, don't see how anyone could get one issued to them

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    The infamous Joe, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 7:06am

    Re: iPOD ... Learn about it.

    As off-topic as this is becoming, the ipod easily plays mp3s, in mp3 format. *Itunes* can be set to change mp3's to apple's prorietary format, if you'd like (it gets better compression, but can only be played on ipods afaik), but the ipod doesn't change the format of your music-- I use WinAmp for my ipod needs, which certainly doesn't change my mp3's into m4a or anything.

    If you'd like to test this, plug up your ipod, set your file browser to Show Hidden Files and Folders, go to the now visible Ipod control folder on your ipod, then into any of the F## folders and check out all your mp3's. In mp3 format.

    Which happens to be the easiest way to transfer your music from an ipod to another computer, because although itunes renames all your music filenames to some gibberish (to me) number, it keeps the tags intact. (and will even sort them for you, if you tell it to!)

    Now, what is this about me learning about an Ipod? :-P

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    chosen, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 7:08am

    Re: iPOD ... Learn about it.

    I don't know what iPod you have played but if you pull ALL your media off your iPod (which I have had to do because I use the music on my iPod as a sort of backup) They are never (let me stress this again) NEVER converted unless they are .wma.

    And that conversion is done before the music is even listed in your playlist.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    chosen, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 7:09am

    Re: Re: iPOD ... Learn about it.

    Correction, the music is placed on your iPod in the format it is while in iTunes.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    TheDock22, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 7:19am

    ITunes?

    I dunno, I don't think ITunes converts your mp3 songs to play on the iPod. I have a car stereo with a USB input, but it only play MP3 songs. I put mp3 songs on my 2nd gen. Shuffle all the time using iTunes and they play in my car just fine.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Michael, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 7:55am

    This is NOT an example of a broken patent system. This is an example of human nature at it's worst, to be sure, but the patent system is perfectly capable of defeating such trolls using simple powers it already has (prior art, for example).

    Of course, whether they actually use those powers intelligently is another issue. And the patent system *IS* horribly broken ;) But this case isn't a shining example of why.... it's just people trying to cheat the system, which is a universal and entirely expected theme even were the system to be nearly perfect.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 8:33am

    Re:

    I don't know what you're talking about. iPods play MP3s just fine. No Hacking required.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Rolf Shervey, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 8:40am

    Re: umm, the iPod dosen't play MP3s without hackin

    ummm. sorry, that is completely false. Check your facts.

    iPod plays all MP3 formats and incarnations (CBR, VBR- any freq, any bitrate up to 320- complete Fraunhofer IIS license and codecs in iPod+iTunes) except MP3PRO. (esoteric)

    Fraunhofer owns the patent to MP3 codec, as they invented the code itself. But they don't make consumer devices. (players)

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Joe Smith, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 8:41am

    "This is an example of human nature at it's worst, to be sure, but the patent system is perfectly capable of defeating such trolls using simple powers it already has (prior art, for example)."

    Except that the patent system has already let this particular mess go to trial and result in a $1.5 Billion judgement.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Geoff, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 8:43am

    Ipod

    In keeping with the relevance of this entire post. My dog doesn't have fleas.

    Aren't we talking about some moron in Texas who claims to own the patent on MP3's? To the best of my own research Fraunhofer Gesellschaft owns the patent on the process that creates an MP3. I love these American process trolls.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Bystander, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 9:20am

    From looking at the prior art report on a previous patent application

    http://base.google.com/base/a/1222981/D17213308585651471655

    it would appear that Toler Schaffer is (or was) Sigmatel's patent attorney.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    yeah..., Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 10:39am

    seriously?

    if your ipod converted all your music to .m4a while syncing with your computer, it'd take a HELL of a lot longer to put music on your ipod.

    notice how it would convert .wma to .m4a's, too, if that's how it worked...but obviously it doesn't work that way because it just plain skips the .wma files in your library (or it might ask you to convert them to .m4a? i guess i'll have to check that)

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Brad, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 10:48am

    Re: Al Gore & Hillary

    And while you were watching Fox News, "W" and his cronies lied to start a war that they then mismanaged into a civil war. Pull your head out of your Limbaugh and think for yourself.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Mischa, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 12:38pm

    Re: Ipod

    No, he claims to hold the patent on MP3 Players.

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    to Brad, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 1:44pm

    Re: Al Gore & Blah

    mismanaged into a civil war?

    Thats hilarious... Its been a one-sided civil war for 15 years before we took over. People like you are why I am sometimes ashamed to have served overseas. The lack of respect, the lack of comprehension, and the lack of patriotism.

    You wouldn't have a country if it wasnt for taking chances. Even if you are not a citizen of the United States, your country still took chances to get to what it is today. War is a part of life. Only people who have never seen another country are niave enough to believe in world peace. That is a concept... a dream.

    I have wasted enough time responding to your pathicisms. Vote for your democrats who will have us pull out and thousands of lives will be lost... and my best friends life will have been lost for no reason. I refuse to repeat Korea and Vietnam... we pull out, thousands more die. I want my bud's life to be remember as helping free a people from their leader, and free them from hundreds of years of being ruled.

    USA TV shows you only negatives... but the first time you walk down the street and see the faces of those who are thankful for you freeing them and their family... you don't care how the war started. You just want to make sure you damn well finish it.

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Matt, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 3:14pm

    Re: Re: Al Gore & Blah

    LOL are you joking?? You're ranting about wars and the military in a discussion on MP3 players and patent law??

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    KD107, Feb 24th, 2007 @ 12:58am

    You guys are nuts

    Get real guys, this is not some kind of nutty inventor from texas all of a sudden realizing that he invented the MP3 player. This is the original Moon-Hwang patent, the inventors and founders of MPMan. Its a system patent that will be difficult to defeat.

    It was purchased by Sigmatel last year and they sold it to this Texas law firm. Sigmatel didn't get any cash from it, what they got was a royalty exemption for any manufacturer who uses Sigmatel chips. Sandisk is switching to their chips now and will be able to sell royalty-free in the future. If Apple switches to Sigmatel they will have a fully paid license, too.

    Disclaimer: I own a small amount of Sigmatel stock. Depending on how this trial proceeds, I may buy more...

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    circuitbreaker, Feb 24th, 2007 @ 1:44am

    device, not software

    This guy is suing over the idea of an mp3 player as a device, not mp3-playing software.

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 24th, 2007 @ 1:48am

    Re: file type

    "The iPod doesn't even play MP3's with out some hacking, so where does the MP3 part fit in?"

    Yes it does. I do it all the time.

     

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  42.  
    identicon
    Abi, Feb 24th, 2007 @ 12:49pm

    l0zErS

    So if I patent "Visually representing information for Communication and entertainment purposes" and then sue every Piece of software, Monitor manufacturers, all of the hollywood and every other film studio.

    This is insane. Roughly put, Patent rule states "It shouldnt be obvious".

    DUH!
    More over I dont see iPod being marketed as "MP3 Player" But as a jukebox.

     

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  43.  
    identicon
    Andy, Feb 25th, 2007 @ 2:12am

    I just invented a "Portable blu-ray media playing device"

    Seriously. Mobile mp3 player is not an invention, it is something that became feasible with time and technology.

    The walkman was an invention. Then came the cd player mp3 player etc.... It's just evolution of an idea.

     

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  44.  
    identicon
    Fritz Reinders, Feb 25th, 2007 @ 11:18pm

    Prior art :)

    Microsoft did just that years ago. They claimed that they invented the Windows GUI concept.

    Prior art that was researched by Microsoft prior to suing Apple was Xerox Smalltalk & Amiga Corp. (purchased and brought to market by Commodore Business Machines)

    Of course Smalltalk and Amiga OS didn't matter since it was Microsoft who invented the GUI after Xerox developed the concept in the 70's and Apple & Commodore had machines in the marketplace :P

    Same old story ... different product

     

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  45.  
    identicon
    Danno, Feb 26th, 2007 @ 2:08am

    Re: iPOD ... Learn about it.

    geneYus, you're kidding me, right? An iPod plays .mp3s without having to convert them at all. All you have to do to ensure that iTunes doesn't convert your music into .m4a or .m4p is go into "Preferences" and select ".mp3", otherwise, as you stated, the default is AAC etc... But come on, geneYus, it's not rocket science.

     

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  46.  
    identicon
    Ervin, Feb 27th, 2007 @ 6:08am

    Re: Re: Al Gore & Blah

    Not only is your whining OFF TOPIC (at best you're just another troll) but speaking as a veteran myself your off topic sniveling makes me ashamed to have pulled three developments.

     

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  47.  
    identicon
    tony ddt, Feb 27th, 2007 @ 11:26am

    Re: The iPod plays MP3's with no problem

    I don't know where you got your info, the mp3's play just fine on an iPod, it's obvious you don't own one & don't know what the f&^k you are talking about...

     

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  48.  
    identicon
    Goatbreath, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 6:56am

    Re: mpman.com points to reigncom

    No no no, Howard Stern invented the mp3 player. Hoo hoo Robin.

     

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  49.  
    identicon
    screwtexasmp3, Mar 2nd, 2007 @ 5:25am

    It would be sweet if

    It would be frickin hilarious if TexasMP3 wins a billion dollars, gets all happy, celebrates, then gets sued by Lucent-Alcatel, and loses everything they won and then some. That would serve those Fers right.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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