Patent Troll Sues Spotify, SoundCloud And Deezer Over Patent On A 'Music Organizer And Entertainment Center'

from the oh-for-sure,-man dept

Another day, another story of another patent troll. This one is about MOAEC Technologies LLC, a “patent licensing” company that exists solely around four related patents for a “music organizer and entertainment center.” Last month, MOAEC sued Spotify, SoundCloud and Deezer over these patents. It’s interesting that the lawsuit came just a few weeks before Spotify’s IPO, as we’ve seen a bunch of companies sued for patent infringement right before their IPOs — but it didn’t prevent Spotify’s IPO from happening.

All three lawsuits focus on US Patent 6,232,539, which is described this way:

A music organizer and entertainment center provides a center having a microprocessor, sound card functions and high-volume data storage and retrieval units for playing back music according to a variety of predetermined categories. Music can be played back in random form or can be played back according to a particular pre-selected order. The categories are provided by service provider who delivers selected titles and/or songs to the end user. The songs are typically loaded using a custom CD-ROM provided from the service provider. The music is provided in data-compressed form and is decompressed and processed through a sound card during playback. The categories can include a variety of parameters such as title, artists, date, speed, dance characteristics, subjective energy level and music style, such as easy-listening, upbeat, etc.

Digging into the actual claims, the real focus here appears to be on the ability to select “a category” of music:

a graphical user interface display having a plurality of selectable screens, at least one of the selectable screens including a plurality of category buttons constructed and arranged so that when a predetermined of the category buttons is activated, music selections having category flags matching the predetermined category of a respective of the buttons are selected and listed on the display.

Everything else in the patent appears to just be around playing music. But it’s difficult to see how this even remotely passes the Alice test for a generic computer function. The nearly identical filings try to insist that this patent revolves around some magical invention:

The claims of the ?539 Patent do not merely recite the performance of some business practice known from the pre-Internet world along with a requirement to perform it on the Internet. Instead, the claims of the ?539 patent recite one or more inventive concepts that are rooted in computerized electronic data communications networks, and an improved method to deliver content and provide interface among different accounts and computing systems.

The claims of the ?539 patent recite an invention that is not merely the routine or conventional use of electronic devices for music playback. Instead, among other things, the invention adds new features to deliver content, integrate application interfaces and other protocols together on shared networks. The ?539 patent claims thus include improvements for, for example, storing music information in association with a set of predetermined flags, including an ownership category flag, and permitting user-customizable playback of music, based in part on the flags.

Accordingly, each claim of the ?539 patent recites a combination of elements sufficient to ensure that the claim in practice amounts to significantly more than a patent on an ineligible concept.

Of course everything described above was not limited due to the lack of ideas to be able to do any of this, but just the lack of ready general purpose computing equipment. In other words, there’s nothing unique or non-obvious is the patents. The reason we didn’t have this earlier was that the underlying technology wasn’t ready for it, which is part of what should invalidate these patents under Alice.

That is… if these companies actually fight the lawsuits. As always, it is often easier and cheaper to settle a patent lawsuit than to fight it, even if you would win. Though, settling will only attract more of these kinds of nuisance lawsuits.

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Companies: deezer, moaec technologies, soundcloud, spotify

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Comments on “Patent Troll Sues Spotify, SoundCloud And Deezer Over Patent On A 'Music Organizer And Entertainment Center'”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The problem with eliminating shell corporations is that they play such an intensely integral (if cancerous) part of the American business environment, from tax-avoidance to asset-protection to “Hollywood accounting” type practices, that no politician dares to make such a futile if not career-ending proposal to eliminate them.

Sharur (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Not that I’m disagreeing with your point, but, technically this isn’t a shell company (unless this is a mini-Prenda).

A shell company has no assets, except money. Presumably they have the non-monetary

If I could make a patent law change it would be this: if you ever sue for patent infringement and lose, the plaintiff can ask the PTO to re-examine the validity of your patent, and cancel it if they think it does not meet the requirements, specifically the “new” and “non-obvious” requirements.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Prior art

If the Patent Office someone $X to do a job and the person accepts the job at $X, then they are not underpaid. Nor are they overpaid.

If they were truly underpaid, one would expect to the see the turnover rate amongst patent examiners to be higher than similar jobs. The data does not show that.

They are not underpaid.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Prior art

“Underpaid patent office” != “underpaid patent officers”.

The suggestion is that the patent office itself does not have enough money to pay enough people to process patents thoroughly enough (that ones which should be rejected always do get rejected, and ones which shouldn’t don’t) while still doing so quickly enough to avoid having an oversized backlog.

tp (profile) says:

Re: Patent Reform

Not the quality of the patents, or the number of rejected patents – just the number approved. So yeah, more bad patents.

Well, if they reject the patent, then the company has no incentive to create the actual technology and many of the innovations are not being developed to a full product.
The granting of the patent happens before the tech is available, so patent office has no idea how widely popular the tech is going to be.

The actual patent trolling is appearing alot later. At that point, when decades have passed from the granting of the patent, the failure has already happened (long ago).


Re: Re: Patent Reform

then the company has no incentive to create the actual technology

They aren’t creating shit.

They are claiming ownership of stuff that 20 other people are already doing. They are trying to SABOTAGE those that are actually doing something useful. They are thieves.

They are the troll metaphor implies: trying to extract payment for something they do not own.

Christenson says:

Re: Re: Patent Reform

I have been involved in three patents as “inventor”. In each case, the patent and the business were basically independent — the patent had nothing to do with whether the product was in commerce or not. The invention happened anyway, and the patent had little to do with success or failure of the product or business.

Anonymous Coward says:

I didn't realize Spotify was selling a music playing computer.

The very first of the claims are definitely not how music services function. Soundcloud, et. al. have no real need of a sound card. The patent covers a PC-ish device to be a music player.

The current providers have zero need of a sound card. 1998 this might have seemed like innovation to the unaware but post Alice it’s a freakin joke.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I didn't realize Spotify was selling a music playing computer.

But the patent specifically states “sound CARD” — you know, that thing you’d have shoved in your computer’s ISA or PCI slot. On-CPU or on-MB sound processing might accomplish a similar task in many respects, but it’s not the same thing as a sound card. And we all know how any lawyer will raise an issue about minor details and exact wording.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I didn't realize Spotify was selling a music playing computer.

Actually, it specifically states “sound card functions”, i.e., the functions provided by a sound card.

Those functions are still present even if what provides them is integrated hardware rather than an add-in board.

The real question is whether the fact that the company being sued does not control the hardware which includes such a device is enough to insulate them from liability, when considered vs. the fact that their software system cannot meaningfully do anything useful without such a device being present at some point in the pipeline.

I’d probably be inclined to decide that it is, but I can see how others (especially the less technically savvy and/or rigidly legalistically minded) might decide otherwise.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I didn't realize Spotify was selling a music playing computer.

In a 1997 ruling, a judge disagreed with Cyrix’s contention that its MediaGX’s integrated audio adapter was functionally equivalent to a dedicated sound card — in particular, the Sound Blaster card manufactured by Creative Technology.

royleith (profile) says:


Version 1 of Winamp was released in 1997. Patent Priority date: 1998-06-17.

Winamp, Spotify, iTunes, iPods, Windows Media Player and all media players have the music organisation and selection features of the patent. What none of them use is a Custom CD-ROM, a sound card that decompresses the music files or catagorisation provided by the service provider.

The categorisation is embedded in the metadata of the mp3 or wav music file according to the industry-wide CDDB/FreeDB system linked to the musicCD ID.

CDDB was invented by Ti Kan around late 1993 as a local database that was delivered with his popular xmcd music player application.

So, key elements of the patent are not practised by any product or service, The combination of music selection, playing and categorisation were obvious to a person of “ordinary skill” in the relevant field of music players as shown by Ti Kan.

This troll might just be worth challenging in court.


Re: xmcd/Winamp/CDDB!

Even all of that isn’t necessarily that inventive.

The applications only apply the same categories that were already present in your old record store.

They are like a virtual record store.

Even the mechanics can all be expressed in terms of prior art that doesn’t involve music. Data services going back to the mid 70s could be used to model this stuff.

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