Company Gets Patent On Digital Downloads; Sues Everyone

from the great dept

There's been quite a trend lately of companies who had otherwise completely failed in the marketplace to suddenly reinvent themselves as "patent licensing firms" and then go and sue everyone who actually was able to successfully innovate in the market. The latest entrant is Intertainer, a company that was fairly well known for a few bubble years, but was unable to find a real market for their online video distribution system. They blamed the movie industry for colluding against them (a lawsuit on that issue never went very far, nor did the antitrust investigation it helped trigger), but are taking it out on the tech industry. The company, which has long since been out of business, is back from the dead suing Google, Apple and Napster, claiming they all violate a patent the company holds on digital downloads. Go ahead and read through the patent and help us all understand what is new or non-obvious in the patent. The patent was filed (provisionally) in March of 2001, by which point it's hard to believe that the idea of distributing content electronically wasn't well known. I worked for a company in 1998 and 1999 that did many of the things described in the patent, and we were far from cutting edge at the time. The best comment in the article, though, goes to Eric Goldman, an expert in high tech law, who notes: "I have the same problem with this patent as so many of the patents of the dot-com boom days: I don't know what it means." Intertainer missed the market. It happens. It's a part of business. It would be nice if they could now leave those who succeeded alone to continue innovating, rather than wasting everyone's time and money on a pointless lawsuit over a silly patent.

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  1. identicon
    patent-monkey, 3 Jan 2007 @ 4:03pm

    Alright, this was already in the market - iTunes

    From the patent's claim:
    1. A system for managing and marketing digital media content supplied by a plurality of media content suppliers to a plurality of consumers, the system comprising: a processor operable to combine media assets supplied by the media content suppliers and metadata to create a media content offering for use by the consumers said processor having a private service interface adapted to permit the media content suppliers to directly access the system to administer the media content offering; a database for storing the media content offering; a file repository for storing media content associated with the media content offering; and a server adapted to distribute media content stored in said file repository.

    Clearly, Wikipedia states that iTunes launched in January, 2001 and is an in-market example of the idea of a media content provider hosting content and metadata from a number of suppliers for a number of consumers. A validity contest with the PTO during the litigation case should be very interesting.

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