Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Need Another Reason To Dislike Ringtones? They're Patented

from the patent-hoarding dept

In case you were wondering, it turns out that ringtones are patented. Yes, for some reason, patent organizations in Europe, the US and Israel all found the idea of playing music on a phone instead of rings to be a patentable idea. If there were some complex technology involved in making a phone play music instead of a ring, perhaps this would make some sense, but it's really just a device playing a song. How is that patentable? Of course, for those of you who think ringtones are annoying, you could hope that this guy would stop them from being used. Instead, as you would probably expect, he's using the patents to force companies like Siemens (wait, didn't Siemens pay Benq to take their handset business away?) to pay him truckloads of cash. Update: As pointed out in the comments, the specifics of the patent make it a little bit more focused than any ringtone. It covers recording your own ringtone or customizing your own ringtone on the phone -- which doesn't seem much better anyway. It still involves an idea that doesn't seem patentable. Why is recording your own ringtone on a phone a patentable process? It's no different than recording it on another device.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    fuzzmanmatt, Aug 30th, 2005 @ 1:55am


    Wow... stuff like this is just plain dumb. I like the idea of owning intellectual property, but I agree, what the hell? I can play music on my iPod through speakers whenever I have an alert, so does that mean I have to pay extra now? This is like suing fast food restaurants all over again!

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

  2. identicon
    scythe, Aug 30th, 2005 @ 6:13am

    Re: Hooray!

    intellectual property is the cornerstone of patents. I think property law is absolutely ridiculous for invention. Just recently Microsoft got rewarded a patent for a click wheel, something Apple has had on their iPod for several years now. Now to continue selling it, they'll have to give a percentage of profits to Microsoft for licensing, for an idea they came up with probably about the same time.

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

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2005 @ 9:40am



    Unfortunately, you mis-quoted the article. The article you referenced doesn't say that "ringtones" are your whole post is untrue.

    What the article does say is that Luzzatto appears to have a patent on "recording and storing new tunes on cellular devices, and then playing them as ringtones", which is much more narrower/specific claim then your incorrect over-generalization.

    Maybe your confusion of what you interpret a patent covers vs. what the patent actually covers is why you think there are a lot of obvious patents out there.

    You have to understand that just because a patent has the word "ringtone" in it, doesn't mean that the patent covers everything related to "ringtones". That would be way too broad and obvious of a concept/idea, and thus unpatentable.

    I couldn't find the related patent using Luzzatto as the search keyword at, so I don't know the actual specifics of his patent. But in this case, it appears that he patented a system that allows you to record sounds (maybe using the built-in mic of the cellphone), then convert that sound into a format that can be used as a ringtone on the phone itself.

    The actual claims in this patent probably mention a cellphone as an integral part of his invention/claim. Meaning, if someone wants to record a sound on their desktop PC and convert it to a ringtone and copy it to their phone as a ringtone, then that will NOT infringe on this patent. This is because in order to infringe on a patent, you have to utilize *EVERY* aspect of the wording in the main independent claim(s) of the patent. So, using my example, since the recording of the sound was done on a PC and not on a cellphone, it won't infringe on a patent that has a claim that says the recording is done on a cellphone. It really should be a very simple concept for you to grasp.

    I would suggest that before you make any more ignorant statements about patents which are simply untrue, please read the actual wording of the patent's claims in question to see what the patent actual covers. I think you will be surprised to see that most patents have a much narrower scope of protection then you think.

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

  4. identicon
    Anonymous of Course, Aug 30th, 2005 @ 10:33am

    Re: Ringtones

    Sounds like a disgruntled patent attorney.
    Seems like a patent that would not pass the obviousness test. I always liked those old rotary dial phones in the 60's spy movies that had special ringtones. "Hello Vladimir, it's good to talk to you."

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

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2005 @ 2:45pm

    Looks like US 6,449,359

    which has a date around 1997 and one around 1999 listed. The first phone I saw with programmable ringtones was around 2000.

    18. A cellular telephone with improved calling procedures, provided with a ring loudspeaker and an earphone loudspeaker and located in an environment, comprising:

    a boosted loudspeaker, sufficiently powered so as to produce sounds that can be heard in said environment of said cellular telephone;

    switch means for connecting a source of power successively to said boosted loudspeaker, said ring loudspeaker and said earphone loudspeaker;

    means for controlling operation of said switch means;

    memory means;

    means for registering at least one customized message in said memory means;

    means for accessing said memory means when a call signal is sent or received, in order to retrieve said at least one customized message; and

    means for sounding said at least one customized message through said boosted loudspeaker.

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

  6. identicon
    Exodus-Sx, Aug 30th, 2005 @ 6:25pm

    More fun patents

    Here's a better patent! Creative was just issued a patent on the "user interface" on mp3 players. lmfao! how do you patent that?

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

  7. identicon
    Pete Austin, Aug 31st, 2005 @ 10:57am

    Re: Ringtones

    Re: "The article you referenced doesn't say that "ringtones" are patented".

    Oh yes? It says the litigant claimed this. Why would Siemens and Ericsson pay up if he was wrong and the patent was invalid?

    "Luzzatto claimed in his lawsuit that he was the onwer of a registered patent in Israel, the United States, and Europe for recording and storing new tunes on cellular devices, and then playing them as ringtones." Sources believe Luzzatto earned millions of shekels from the recent lawsuit

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

  8. identicon
    Pete Austin, Aug 31st, 2005 @ 11:29am

    Re: Ringtones (Anonymous Coward)

    Re: "I couldn't find the related patent using Luzzatto as the search keyword at"
    Fortunately I'm not a patent attourney and can sometimes find things. I think this is the patent, but I can't be sure as the actual wording is not simple.
    Patents for Luzzatto, Marco, creating customized messages for telephones

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

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 31st, 2005 @ 1:27pm

    Re: Ringtones

    It certainly does NOT say that "ringtones" are patented...It says that the process of "recording and storing new tunes on cellular devices, and then playing them as ringtones" is patented. Which, is a much more-specific claim then saying "ringtones" in general are patented.

    In very basic terms (and a little guessing because I can't find the relevant patent), it appears that if a cellphone offers the ability to record a sound, then assign it as a ringtone, then only that *exact* function is patented by this patent. So, if a cellphone doesn't have this ability, then it's not infringing on the patent, even if that cellphone uses ringtones.

    But, it appears that Siemens and Ericsson apparently offer this ability on some of their cellphones, and that is why they have to pay a license fee.

    So, for all the other cellphones out there that have/use ringtones, but don't let you record a new one from the phone itself, then there is no license needed. Thus, "ringtones" in general, is not patented by this patent.

    If you can't grasp this difference, then you will never understand patents.

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

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 1st, 2005 @ 4:50am

    "ringtones are patented"


    As someone who is suppose to be a professional blogger (or whatever you call yourself), don't you think that you have the responsibility (or at least a goal) to post accurate info?

    I now know of two other websites that based their whole post on your irresponsible and false statement of "Ringtones are patented".

    Your statement is the equivalent of claiming that "the car is patented", when really, the patent was just for an alternator.

    Why do you claim "corporate intelligence", when you so blatantly post stuff you have absolutely no knowledge of?

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

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