That Didn't Take Long: Spotify Sued For Patent Infringement Just Weeks After Entering US Market

from the welcome-to-america! dept

Hello Spotify. Welcome to America, where if you do anything even remotely innovative, you get sued for patent infringement. Indeed, just a couple weeks after entering the US market (finally), Spotify is being sued by PacketVideo for patent infringement. I knew the name PacketVideo sounded familiar... and then I remembered. A decade ago it was considered one of the hottest startups on the planet for trying to figure out ways to do streaming video on mobile phones (something I noted at the time I thought was not at all compelling -- which I'll admit I was totally wrong on, but that was before the invention of large screened smartphones that we have today). Of course, PacketVideo failed to live up to the early lofty expectations, and last we heard of it, the company was being acquired by DoCoMo for what appears to be a lot less money than it raised over the years.

Now, you might claim that perhaps PacketVideo has a legitimate patent claim here. After all, the company has been around for well over a decade and was an early pioneer in streaming efforts. But... the details suggest not so much. The actual patent in question, 5,636,276, is for a "Device for the distribution of music information in digital form." Sound broad? Of course, as the patent attorneys in the audience will tell you, it's not the title of the patent that matters, but the claims. So go read through the claims and try not to gag. What's described is the very generic idea of streaming music. Here's the key claim:
a central memory device which is connected to a communications network and has a databank of digitized music information and, a terminal which is connected to the central memory device via the communications network, the central memory device being equipped with a retrieval module and the said modules having the capability to interact via the communications network in order to order and transmit selectively chosen music information, wherein the selectively chosen music information is organized with a defined format for transmission in a digital music information object, the format including a core and a number of additional layers, the core including at least one object identification code, object structure information, a consumer code and an encryption table and the one or more additional layers including the actual music information, wherein the central memory device has an encryption module for encryption of the music information object before transmission using the encryption table, and wherein the terminal has a decryption module for decryption of the music information object before its reproduction using the encryption table, an interpretation module for interpretation and reproduction conditioning of the music information object as well as an authorization device having identification information for identification of the terminal and of the consumer which is retrievable by the interpretation module and by the decryption module for authorization checking.
Now here's the thing. When this patent was filed in 1995, this was not a unique idea. You could have asked any semi-competent engineer how would you build a digital music streaming service, and you would have received a similar general explanation. The problem was never in understanding the various pieces you need to put together. The difficulty at the time was getting enough bandwidth to do this reasonably... and getting any sort of licensing in an era before most label execs even knew what the internet was.

Oh, and let's get to the important part: PacketVideo had nothing to do with this patent. The company just bought it a few years back. There's nothing in this patent that was some amazing breakthrough or key innovation. Spotify is an amazing product, not because of this patent, but because of how it actually executed and built a working product.

Once again, we see patents being used as a tool to shakedown companies who were actually innovative in how they executed, with a ridiculously broad patent that contributed zippo to the actual state of the art.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    icon
    ethorad (profile), Jul 28th, 2011 @ 9:06am

    patent the internet?

    Replace the word "music" with "text" and don't you have a description of the internet and a browser?

    I'm going to do a search/replace on that patent converting music to:
    - hologram
    - 3d printer recipe
    - game
    - smell
    - animal
    - person

    I'll then have a nice income for life, even once star trek replicators and transporters come into play.

     

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

  •  
    icon
    el_segfaulto (profile), Jul 28th, 2011 @ 9:10am

    As a developer...

    There is a reason why I do not release code anymore and am reluctant to even help others out on message boards. I'm a decent developer, I've never been great on prettiness but when it comes to security fuggedaboutit. I've been threatened with patent litigation before and it is not a pleasant process. When I was in grad school I had the resources of a major U.S. university to help. Their pack of rabid lawyers outmatched the trolls', but the sad reality is that the amount of money, time, and energy expended was wayyyy more than was warranted for the little piss-ant project that I was working on.

    Now that I have a cushy government job and consult on the side, I simply can't afford to be sued for creating a JavaScript/CSS vertical dropdown menu (I kid you not, I received an email saying I was violating a patent for doing that). What happens is that all of the neat ideas that me, and others like me have are simply going to stay in our brains out of fear of having our lives ruined by a parasite suing us in East Texas.

    If you give a group of engineers a problem and each one of them comes up with a similar solution guess what...it's not that damned novel! Creators (artistic and technological) need to realize that they are not special little snowflakes and not every idea that comes out of their minds is unique and amazing.

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 9:33am

    Expire?

    Doesn't these patents expire?

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    MRK, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 9:38am

    Any FM Radio station that digitized its music library falls under this patent. In radio's case, "Encryption" is encoding and the frequency modulation.

     

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

  •  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), Jul 28th, 2011 @ 9:39am

    Patent this idea

    Patent the business method of giving away the printer and charging $8000 per gallon for the ink.

    Oh, wait.

    That idea will never take off. People will complain. Why? Because only freetards would want free printers (or even low cost ones). Everyone already does complain about this business model. So it proves the point: only freetards would want free printers.

     

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

    •  
      icon
      Ninja (profile), Jul 28th, 2011 @ 10:28am

      Re: Patent this idea

      Actually, giving free printers might be a good business when you actually get your gains from insanely expensive ink. But I can see your irony ;)

       

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

      •  
        identicon
        LDM, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 1:02pm

        Re: Re: Patent this idea

        Actually, you need to charge something for the printer.

        CueCat figured out the hard way that if you give away hardware, the community will figure out how to hack it and re-purpose it. In the process they'll cut you out of the lifecycle.

         

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

    •  
      identicon
      wideEyed, Jul 29th, 2011 @ 1:33am

      Re: Patent this idea

      Yeah and guess which company had an Senior Executive who came up with the brilliant idea of keep the ink price the same but putting less ink into the same old cartridges people had been used to buying?


      Spoiler:
      !@$#(*$@HP@#$()@$()@*$()@#$

       

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

  •  
    identicon
    Gretchen Vaughn, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 10:26am

    Thanks for embedding the patent!

    Nice analysis. Thank you. I love how you embedded the patent in the article. Very cool. Wish more reporters would do that with court pleadings, etc. Shows your respect for the intelligence of your readers to make up their own minds if your analysis is spot on.

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 11:07am

    Personally if I was a business person, I'd pretty much forget about doing business in the US. Movies, for example, generate anywhere from half to 75% of the gross from "overseas" markets these days (sure the US is by far the single largest market, but the total market is greater outside the US). As for markets, India, just for example, will have roughly the entire population of the US coming into adulthood over the next 10-15 years. One can potentially make massive profits over the next few decades without even selling/distributing anything in the US, and having to deal with the mess that is US patent/copyright (not that some other countries are any better).

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    Skeptic, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 11:26am

    "Generic" claim?!?

    Dude... you copy-pasted the claim, but did you even read it? The claim includes, in addition to streaming music from a server to a client, the elements of encryption, decryption, authentication and even specifies the format of the music data, a format which must include an encryption table (essentially for DRM purposes). Does the "very generic idea of streaming music" include a specific method of applying DRM? Or is this a patent on the a "specific method of applying DRM to music streaming"?

    Here, let me break it down for you, and let me remind you that each and every element of the claim must be read on for it to constitute infringement:


    1. A device for the distribution of music information comprising:

    a central memory device which is connected to a communications network and has a databank of digitized music information and,

    a terminal which is connected to the central memory device via the communications network,

    the central memory device being equipped with a retrieval module and the said modules having the capability to interact via the communications network in order to order and transmit selectively chosen music information,

    wherein the selectively chosen music information is organized with a defined format for transmission in a digital music information object,

    the format including a core and a number of additional layers,
    the core including at least one object identification code, object structure information, a consumer code and an encryption table and the one or more additional layers including the actual music information,

    wherein the central memory device has an encryption module for encryption of the music information object before transmission using the encryption table, and

    wherein the terminal has a decryption module for decryption of the music information object before its reproduction using the encryption table,

    an interpretation module for interpretation and reproduction conditioning of the music information object as well as an authorization device having identification information for identification of the terminal and of the consumer which is retrievable by the interpretation module and by the decryption module for authorization checking.


    People, please don't just take what's said in the article at face value; read the claim yourself and decide if it's really the "very generic idea of streaming music." Now, there may be significant prior art to this patent, or it may be obvious in light of that prior art, but I would not call it broad patent on the "very generic idea of streaming music."

     

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

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 11:38am

      Re: "Generic" claim?!?

      you obviously have no idea about how the internet/computers work so I'll forgive you.

       

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

      •  
        identicon
        Skeptic, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 12:21pm

        Re: Re: "Generic" claim?!?

        Assume I do know how "the Internet machines" work. Please explain how all the disparate elements in the claim I separated out constitutes the "very generic idea of streaming music." Here's a helpful algorithm:
        1) List out the steps you would take to implement streaming music.
        2) Compare it to the list above.
        3) Spot the differences.

        Or maybe it's you who doesn't understand how patents work, yet go around declaring all patents "broad and trivial" and the patent system "broken." Sound about right?

         

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

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 12:46pm

          Re: Re: Re: "Generic" claim?!?

          They would be the same steps because all they did was explain file transfer over tcpip with big pretty obfuscating words, as someone else said it also cover a modern radio transmission.

           

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

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 1:23pm

          Re: Re: Re: "Generic" claim?!?

          I added some emphasis assuming this would run on a web browser.

          --------------------------

          1. A device for the distribution of music information comprising:

          a central memory device (DATABASE/SERVER) which is connected to a communications network (INTERNET) and has a databank of digitized music information and (MUSIC STORAGE),

          a terminal(CLIENT) which is connected to the central memory device (SERVER) via the communications network (INTERNET),

          the central memory device being equipped with a retrieval module (DATABASE) and the said modules having the capability to interact (SERVER PROGRAM) via the (INTERNET) in order to order and transmit selectively chosen music information (CLIENT REQUESTS),

          wherein the selectively chosen music information (DATABASE QUERY RESULT) is organized with a defined format (JSON/XML, MUSIC STREAM) for transmission in a digital music information object (HTTP RESPONSE),

          the format (JSON/XML, MUSIC STREAM) including a core and a number of additional layers,
          the core including at least one object identification code (SONG/SESSION/USER ID), object structure information (RESPNSE FORMAT?), a consumer code (USER ID?) and an encryption table (PUBLIC KEY?)a nd the one or more additional layers including the actual music information,
          (CHECK ANY WEB API, THEY WILL CONTAIN ALL THIS IN SOME FORM, IN FLICKR's CASE IT WILL BE A PHOTO URL INSTEAD OF MUSIC)

          wherein the central memory device (SERVER) has an encryption module (PRIVATE KEY) for encryption of the music information object (SERVER RESPONSE) before transmission using the encryption table ("SSL/HHTPS"), and

          wherein the terminal has a decryption module (AGAIN, PUBLIC KEY) for decryption of the music information object before its reproduction using the encryption table,

          an interpretation module (MEDIA PLAYER/WEB BROWSER) for interpretation and reproduction conditioning of the music information object as well as an authorization device (WEB BROWSER/"SSL/HTTPS") having identification information for identification of the terminal (SESSION/USER ID) and of the consumer (USER ID) which is retrievable by the interpretation module (COOKIE) and by the decryption module for authorization checking.

          --------------------------

          So, the way I read it, a server has a database of music which has some server program running on top of it. This server program can get requests from the internet, and handle them to query the database send back data to the client. The client runs some software to display the chosen song, decrypt the music, and play the music. The software includes a way of identifying the client. The communication between the client is encrypted.

          This is the definition of a web service to stream media, or any kind of information. Youtube, Flicker, Twitter, Facebook, and anyone else with a public API all use exactly this method to run thier services. The patent lacks anything specific enoguh, in my opinion, to warrant novelty. The only thing I see that seems novel is the encryption table. I'm no expert in encryption, but it sounds an awful lot like pulic/private key encryption used almost every where. Some(all) of the listed API's offer secure,encrypted HTTPS connections. But still, the table may actually be novel. But who knows? They don't seem to go on about the specifics of how the table work, which might be worth patenting, even though at the end of the day, encryption is just math.

          There are a multitude of ways to implement this, and my example was only for a web browser. Not once do they mention the specificities of the invention to differentiate it from one development platform to another.

           

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

          •  
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 1:41pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: "Generic" claim?!?

            If that interpretation is correct, then the lawsuit will be thrown out. Spotify is peer-to-peer, probably with a central tracker. So there is no true client-server model like it looks with this patent. Spotify's main innovation is that it is a p2p network, allowing for fast communication and saving the company bandwith.

             

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

            •  
              identicon
              Skeptic, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 6:30pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: "Generic" claim?!?

              True, it was one of the things that really interested me about Spotify (I've done some work on P2P previously.) Unfortunately, Spotify does stream music to mobile devices in standard client/server fashion, probably because of bandwidth, connectivity and latency issues.

               

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

          •  
            identicon
            Skeptic, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 6:15pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: "Generic" claim?!?

            I added some emphasis assuming this would run on a web browser.

            Finally!! Someone who read the claims! You, sir, have no idea how rare you are on the Internet!

            Your analysis is spot on, except for a couple of places, one of which is actually the key point of the patent (DRM):

            ... the format (JSON/XML, MUSIC STREAM) including a core and a number of additional layers, ...

            I suspect they mean an MPEG-type file format (the "layers" is a hint.)

            ... and an encryption table (PUBLIC KEY?)a nd the one or more additional layers including the actual music information,

            I'm no cryptography expert either, but the "encryption table" is not just a key, but a sequence of numbers required to decrypt each word of the encrypted music information. A key would be used to generate that sequence of numbers. I guess sending the key itself would make it a very easy to break DRM scheme.

            As such, the rest of your analysis is correct, only the encryption/decryption parts change. For instance, the encryption table probably cannot be construed to be SSH/HTTPS.

            The patent lacks anything specific enoguh, in my opinion, to warrant novelty.

            It's not the specifics that constitute novelty, but the complete combination of elements in the claim.

            The only thing I see that seems novel is the encryption table.

            Bingo. The patent is about DRM, as mentioned in the introductory paragraphs, and that is why this piece is in there. Remove this, then it is a generic claim on streaming music.

            But still, the table may actually be novel. But who knows? They don't seem to go on about the specifics of how the table work, which might be worth patenting,

            You are right, they are vague about it, and that may be an invalidating factor. They mention "pixel-matrix cryptography", but I have no idea what it is. Unless they can prove to the court that a person of ordinary skill could read the patent and re-implement it from scratch, they have enablement issues.

            even though at the end of the day, encryption is just math.

            Yes, and practical applications of mathematics is patentable. This patent is not on the mathematics, but an application of that math to apply DRM to streaming music.

            There are a multitude of ways to implement this, and my example was only for a web browser. Not once do they mention the specificities of the invention to differentiate it from one development platform to another.

            True, but that is the purpose of patents. They provide protection to the over-arching implementation without being hindered by interchangeable details. Patents are deliberately written up as broad as prior art allows so that a competitor cannot avoid infringement trivially, by, say, using RTP/UDP/IP instead, of HTTP, or coding in Java instead of Python.

             

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

            •  
              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2011 @ 7:33am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: "Generic" claim?!?

              I'm the emphasis guy.

              I still feel that this patent is too general, since it basically lays out how anyone would stream something from a server. I think it's bullshit that in theory, packet video is the only company allowed to stream music using the method laid out here. It's pretty much the standard/naive approach to the problem. Very obvious and apparent to anyone in the field if they thought about it, even in the 90's.

              If the DRM is the main point of the patent, why not patent just that? Why have such a broad patent? I understand from the business point, you want as much to be yours. But the only novel thing here is the DRM. I know nothing of patent law, really, but if I was the issuer I would have only granted a patent on the encryption method. Even though, again, I personally don't understand how applied math can be patentable.

               

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

              •  
                identicon
                Skeptic, Jul 29th, 2011 @ 10:22am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: "Generic" claim?!?

                If the DRM is the main point of the patent, why not patent just that? Why have such a broad patent? I understand from the business point, you want as much to be yours. But the only novel thing here is the DRM. I know nothing of patent law, really, but if I was the issuer I would have only granted a patent on the encryption method.

                That's my point actually: since the main claim contains the element of applying DRM to streaming music, it is a patent on DRM on streaming music. The claims are the only part that enforce what a patent covers. It is not as broad as the title, abstract or the article would have you believe.

                They legally cannot use this to sue someone simply for streaming music. They can try, but if it ever goes to court, the Judge will smack them down hard for filing a frivolous lawsuit.

                Unfortunately, litigation is very expensive, and many companies force settlements simply with the threat of lawsuits. That is one of the biggest problems that needs to be fixed.

                Even though, again, I personally don't understand how applied math can be patentable

                It's a very nuanced problem, and IMHO, even the courts are not sure how to explain it. The thing is, patent law is meant to protect inventions with practical, useful results, and mathematics can be applied in many ways to get practical, useful results. The problems are in defining where the mathematics part ends and the practical part begins for the purposes of patenting.

                 

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

                •  
                  identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2011 @ 11:14am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: "Generic" claim?!?

                  That's my point actually: since the main claim contains the element of applying DRM to streaming music, it is a patent on DRM on streaming music. The claims are the only part that enforce what a patent covers. It is not as broad as the title, abstract or the article would have you believe

                  Then why even include streaming music in the patent application?

                  And I hope that a judge really would call this out as frivolous.

                  The DRM method though really is never decribed beyond an 'encryption table', so I wonder if Spotify is actually infringinh then.

                   

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

                  •  
                    identicon
                    Skeptic, Jul 29th, 2011 @ 6:13pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: "Generic" claim?!?

                    Then why even include streaming music in the patent application?

                    Well, if your patent is on "DRM on streaming music", your claim has to mention "streaming music" somewhere... If you try to frame a claim for "DRM on streaming music" without the "streaming music" part, you'd have a claim on "DRM", which is just a generic, broad claim on DRM!

                    For the same reason, the rest of the patent also includes language about music streaming, i.e. to provide context for the relevant details.

                    It's also possible they tried to claim the broad idea of "streaming music" but got narrowed down to the DRM aspect while getting it through the PTO.

                    The DRM method though really is never decribed beyond an 'encryption table', so I wonder if Spotify is actually infringinh then.

                    True, it's rather vague. This means that 1) unless someone with a background in cryptography can read it and go, "Oh, I know how to do that," the patent is potentially invalid; and 2) depending on how Spotify protects their streams, they very well might not be infringing.

                    Unfortunately, they must balance the cost of litigation with the damages the patent-holder is asking, and may well settle. Yeah, it's messed up.

                     

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

            •  
              identicon
              Bondfire, Jul 29th, 2011 @ 12:15pm

              Re: "Generic" claim?!?

              "Patents are deliberately written up as broad as prior art allows ..."

              And the result is what we have here. A marketing requirements document has been converted into patent speak. Where is the actual invention?

              "This patent is not on the mathematics, but an application of that math to apply DRM to streaming music."

              In other words my (music) bits are more important and special than your (data) bits ??? DRM on ERMapper terrain data files is not covered but DRM on music is?

              Where is the actual invention?

               

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

              •  
                identicon
                Skeptic, Jul 29th, 2011 @ 6:32pm

                Re: Re: "Generic" claim?!?

                And the result is what we have here.

                I agree that it is a part of the problem, but not all of it. There has to be some breadth to prevent trivial bypassing, but where do you draw the lines? Ideally, it has to be drawn by humans, and so the answer is, "in court... if this gets litigated". Unfortunately, litigation is so expensive and slow that this is not a scalable approach.

                A marketing requirements document has been converted into patent speak. Where is the actual invention?
                Well, the actual invention is in the claims, and the claims have to be a lot more specific than marketing requirements document... but yeah, it can still end up being pretty broad.

                In other words my (music) bits are more important and special than your (data) bits ???
                Kind of... Your language made me think of this: look up this essay called "What color are your bits?" It's a very rough analogy but gives an idea of how the law looks at data as opposed to us geeks.

                DRM on ERMapper terrain data files is not covered but DRM on music is?
                This one is simple. Yep: If "ERMapper terrain data" or any GIS files are not mentioned in the claim, it's not covered. Claims are pretty specifically interpreted that way.

                 

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

            •  
              icon
              sm5por (profile), Jul 30th, 2011 @ 3:50pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: "Generic" claim?!?

              The patent is about DRM, as mentioned in the introductory paragraphs, and that is why this piece is in there.

              Eh, which "introductory paragraphs" are you referring to here? The only places in the patent document itself where I find DRM mentioned are in the titles of a number of subsequent patents referring this one from 1995, but nowhere in the original claims. While it's certainly the case that the "encryption table" was intended as a component in some DRM scheme (the "consumer code" hints in this direction), I don't see the patent being limited to that particular application. Thus it's not a patent on streaming music with DRM, but a patent on streaming music with encryption.

              Now, I agree with your assertion that this patent may not be quite as broad as the article suggests, but it's still fairly broad. I actually think it's good that the claims don't mention DRM, because I view that not as a technical concept, but as a legal construct that really can't be "implemented" due to fundamental aspects of information theory (which say you can't control how any information is dealt with once you have sent it to an untrusted recipient). All encryption does is to prevent third parties from eavesdropping on the stream and enjoying its contents, and it won't even do that if the decryption key is distributed in an unsafe manner or can be obtained by other means.

              While I'm far from an expert on cryptography, I think I understand it a little better than I understand U.S. patent law, but I don't consider an "encryption table" a meaningful explanation of the algorithm used. If that part of the claim is considered significant, then essential information seems to be missing here (or perhaps it's elsewhere in the documentation; I haven't read all of it).

              But if actually any kind of encryption would satisfy this claim, then it's quite broad, and it has nothing to do with DRM. As for whether it covers SSL/HTTPS streams, I suppose that may depend on whether the client ("consumer") is authenticated, and not merely the server.

               

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

              •  
                identicon
                Skeptic, Aug 4th, 2011 @ 12:10am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: "Generic" claim?!?

                Eh, which "introductory paragraphs" are you referring to here?

                It doesn't call it "DRM" (maybe the term didn't exist then?) but this is what the Introduction says (emphasis mine):

                It is thus an object of the present invention to create a device and an information object of the type mentioned initially which allow the present-day options of digital information and computer technology to be utilized and, at the same time, on the one hand simplify the distribution for the consumer with improved service and, on the other hand, ensures effective protection of the copyrights.

                I agree that the "encryption table" element is not very descriptive, and it might be an invalidating factor. They explain it very briefly in the spec. What it comes down to is what a cryptographer will make of it. From my limited understanding, only certain cryptographic methods use encryption tables as an implementation detail.

                 

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

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 11:41am

      Re: "Generic" claim?!?

      Sounds like a pretty generic way to stream music to me.

       

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

    •  
      icon
      duffmeister (profile), Jul 28th, 2011 @ 1:39pm

      Re: "Generic" claim?!?

      Is any of that "novel" or non-obvious? Sounds like a simple explanation of streaming used by many different providers and systems to me. There is no specific machine mentioned, there is no part of that I couldn't do with many different assorted devices and methods and have that be a completely accurate description of. So I fail to see how it is not generic.

       

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

      •  
        identicon
        Skeptic, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 6:25pm

        Re: Re: "Generic" claim?!?

        I have no idea if it is "novel or non-obvious", and I said that in my post, simply because I have no idea what the prior art was like in 1993. However, the claim is about a method of DRM for streaming music. It is not about the "generic idea of music streaming" at all.

        It is "generic" in that it isn't tied to a specific device or machine, but that is allowed in patent law. It's supposed to protect the inventive aspects without letting competitors trivially bypass infringement by simply, say, porting it to a different language or different CPU architecture.

         

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

    •  
      identicon
      TiredOfThisPatentBs, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 3:16pm

      Re: "Generic" claim?!?

      Read it and that still what it is: A "very generic idea of streaming music." And it got patented. Its stupid beyond believe.

       

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

    •  
      identicon
      Anthony, Jul 29th, 2011 @ 5:15am

      Re: "Generic" claim?!?

      Combining non-novel elements does not make an invention novel. It must add something above and beyond that. Nor does binding non-novel systems to a hardware environment make a patent novel.

      Keep in mind that in order for a patent to be infringed, each claim must be infringed (otherwise the work does not embody the invention).

       

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

  •  
    identicon
    Cameron Degelia, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 11:48am

    What about other streaming services?

    What about Napster, Rhapsody, or other music streaming services? Am I missing something?

     

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

    •  
      identicon
      Skeptic, Jul 29th, 2011 @ 6:36pm

      Re: What about other streaming services?

      They probably don't apply DRM in a way to infringe this patent.

      On the other hand, and more cynically: Spotify being a foreign company and these being local, PacketVideo may view it as the weakest of the bunch and an ideal "starting point."

       

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

  •  
    identicon
    Ed Norton, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 11:51am

    Well then!

    Welcome to the USA! More lawyers per capita than any other nation!

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    vedran, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 12:06pm

    move

    isn't wise just move to Europe

     

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

    •  
      icon
      PaulT (profile), Jul 29th, 2011 @ 1:25am

      Re: move

      They're a European company, and I believe they were profitable before the US expansion. If you guys shut them down in the US, they'll just concentrate of the rest of the world American companies are ignoring.

       

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

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 1:20pm

    "Now here's the thing. When this patent was filed in 1995, this was not a unique idea. You could have asked any semi-competent engineer how would you build a digital music streaming service, and you would have received a similar general explanation."

    What engineers were thinking in 1995 is totally irrelevant. On the first page of the patent it shows that it has Foreign Application Priority to a patent filed in Germany in April of 1994. For someone else to have gotten this patent in the US they would have to prove they had the idea a year before the foreign priority date which brings us to April 1993. (35 USC 102(b) http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/documents/appxl_35_U_S_C_102.htm )

    Now here is the thing. It is unfortunate Spotify is being sued, but but maybe you should learn a little bit more about patents before you go off on them.

     

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

    •  
      icon
      duffmeister (profile), Jul 28th, 2011 @ 1:43pm

      Re:

      So it was non-obvious 2 years prior in 1993? I am sure it was not new or original then. I believe I played a game in 1991 that did exactly what this patent describes when it allowed me to select which music track to accompany the game......
      I need to try and find my copy and send it to spotify as prior art.

       

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

    •  
      icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 28th, 2011 @ 11:36pm

      Re:

      Now here is the thing. It is unfortunate Spotify is being sued, but but maybe you should learn a little bit more about patents before you go off on them

      So I got the date wrong... and that means I don't understand patents?

      Uh... right...

       

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

  •  
    identicon
    Aaron, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 2:13pm

    Process Patents Suck

    One more piece of proof that process patents need to go. If you have a way of doing something non-physical that is just a "process" for getting it done.. GET A COPYRIGHT. This is why our patent system is so screwed.

     

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

  •  
    icon
    aikiwolfie (profile), Jul 28th, 2011 @ 3:02pm

    If this case demonstrates anything it's that the US market is no longer a viable place to do business. It seems you can't design, manufacture, market, buy or sell anything in the USA any longer without someone trying to sue you for some patent or copyright infringement.

    In fact I'll probably be sued for this post.

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    Blixten, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 3:33pm

    Great radio show about the problem

     

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

  •  
    icon
    Joe Perry (profile), Jul 28th, 2011 @ 4:27pm

    tldr; I don't like Spotify

    I know this isn't really on topic but I don't like Spotify and I don't know why people love it.

    first of all, it's not insanely expensive, but it's too expensive for me considering I wouldn't even have the time to listen to half that music, and I'm just as happy listening to fewer songs that I only have to pay for once, not monthly, especially since some of the bands I like didn't have all their music on Spotify, just a single album. also, their "unlimited" service package doesn't include using it on your phone, you have to pay extra to use the app on your mobile phone.

    second, the ads on it are terrible. I've used Pandora for a while and now I pay for it so there are no ads (mostly to support a service I like) but the ads never bothered me, they were short and moderately infrequent. on Spotify I got ads after 4 songs, then another 4 and I couldn't not listen to them. the ad was a clip from a song by the band LMFAO, whom I find unpleasing to the ears, and when I muted my computer so I wouldn't have to bleed from my ears the ad paused, with no was of resuming it manually. I literally had to listen to it at an audible volume for the ad to continue playing it.

    I only got to the second ad figured maybe it wouldn't be so frequent, or there was some fluke on the last ad, or the other ads wouldn't be so offensive to my ears. but at the second ad being the same as the first, after the same number of songs, I closed the Spotify program and decided never to use it again. maybe I had a misleading first time use of the service, but first impressions are important, and they not only failed to impress, they offended.

     

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

    •  
      icon
      PaulT (profile), Jul 29th, 2011 @ 1:40am

      Re: tldr; I don't like Spotify

      "I know this isn't really on topic but I don't like Spotify and I don't know why people love it."

      People have different tastes. End of story.

      "it's too expensive for me"

      Don't pay for it then. Use the free version of subscribe to a different service. Your choice.

      "second, the ads on it are terrible"

      Never heard them, but again nobody's forcing you to use it.

      "I've used Pandora for a while and now I pay for it so there are no ads"

      You have the same choice with Spotify. Also, it's worth remembering that Spotify's reputation comes mainly from Europe, where we're not allowed to use Pandora.

       

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

  •  
    identicon
    ohhhhhhhhh, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 8:44pm

    @20 that is very general

    YOU realize a game that uses any form a drm and transmits sound to you if one piece of the game is handed ot you via a network is also patented by this...

    YOU REALIZE thats most of the ea , bioware /crap going.

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 10:44pm

    "...object structure information, a consumer code and an encryption table and the one or more additional layers including the actual music information..."

    On the plus side, the phrase "the actual music information" lacks antecedent basis in the claim. This claim is ambiguous and should be invalidated under 35 USC 112. That's not to say it will be, that will be up to a judge.

    http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/documents/2100_2173_05_e.htm

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    Just say no to software patents, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 11:23pm

    Well, if you go and take the next step of actually reading the patent, you'll see that they never really define their terms with respect to encryption, decryption, and the "encryption table".

    In fact, there are a few different pieces here which are open for attack. One is the "layered music object" is exactly what ID3 does for an MP3 file: provide a combination of music and other information packaged in a separable way. Another is that the patent calls for the "central memory device" to have an "encryption module" that encrypts the music object. Now if I were designing a music streaming system (which I actually did, albeit long after this patent was filed), I would store the music object already encrypted, so the central memory device would not have an encryption module. Likewise I would not include an encryption table in the music object, but rather store an object identifier, which I would then use to communicate with a separate license server in order to retrieve a key for decrypting the music using a pre-agreed algorithm.

    I'm not a lawyer, but I think a lot of this case will come down to exactly how Spotify has implemented DRM and who is already licensing this patent. If Apple and Rhapsody and Pandora have already licensed it, then most like Spotify will too.

     

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

  •  
    icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), Jul 28th, 2011 @ 11:29pm

    Hah! One For Me

    Mike,

    I'm going to call a win for me in the Mobile TV column. I always knew people would want to watch it, but not pay $15/mo for it.

    Here's where you and I were in 2004:

    http://www.techdirt.com/blog/wireless/articles/20041122/160109.shtml

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 11:58pm

    Pfft, it it was my company, id just pull out of america till they get their act in gear.
    Plenty of other markets where you dont get this kind of racket going on.

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    Mats Svensson, Jul 29th, 2011 @ 6:26am

    Zappa "invented " it just as much 1983

    So does it predate this:

    http://www.zappa.com/whatsnew/news/FZ-Proposal/

    Well...does it??

     

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

  •  
    icon
    charliebrown (profile), Jul 29th, 2011 @ 6:46am

    Radio Patents

    If you would like to see patents working (or, rather, NOT working!) read up on the invention of radio

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invention_of_radio

     

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

  •  
    icon
    charliebrown (profile), Jul 29th, 2011 @ 6:48am

    Radio Patents

    If you would like to see patents working (or, rather, NOT working!) read up on the invention of radio

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invention_of_radio

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    David, Jul 29th, 2011 @ 7:21am

    Patents

    America is sinking into a technological 3rd world. Given that only America and Japan (plus a handful of small nations) actually recognise software patents, why bother with the costs of working in the USA. Europe, Russia, China, Africa and India DWARF the US economy and that's where most businesses are concentrating. Bye Bye America - you had your century and you blew it.

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    skz, Jul 30th, 2011 @ 1:10am

    fck yankees!

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    saulgoode, Jul 31st, 2011 @ 6:30am

    The Music Connection connection

    Every aspect but one of this '276 patent was already implemented and in practical, public usage in 1989. At that time Quantum Link's online service introduced "The Music Connection", wherein music files encoded in the SIDplayer format were stored centrally on the Q-Link (Stratus) server and delivered upon request to the client's computer, where the file could then be immediately unencoded and rendered through that computer's sound system (i.e., "streamed").

    The SIDplayer format consisted of a three row by two column "encoding table" which specified the length of the musical data (in bytes) of the three available musical voices. The musical data for each of the three voices followed immediately the "encoding table", and at the end of the musical data was a final field (i.e., "layer") comprised of textual information about the music encoded in Commodore's PETscii character format.

    The only distinction between the service provided by Q-Link's "The Music Connection" and the technology described by the '276 patent is that the musical data was "encoded", not "encrypted". The distinguishing characteristic between "encoding" and "encrypting" being whether or not the information required for decoding/decryption is publicly available. That is to say, if I encode some data and only provide certain people the appropriate information needed to unencode then it can be claimed that I have "encrypted" that data. However, if I perform that same encoding and then share with everyone the means by which the data can be recovered, then I have not technically "encrypted" the data, but merely "encoded" it.

    Had Quantum Link chosen not to use the publicly known encoding specified by SIDplayer's published .mus file format but instead kept the encoding methodology to themselves, then their encoding would have properly been able to claim that the data was "encrypted" and their "Music Connection" service would have implemented *every* aspect of the technology described the first claim of the '276 patent -- and done so half a decade before that patent was applied for.

    So what the examiners at the USPTO are basically saying is that "keeping information secret" is a patentable concept in and of itself -- not "how" the information is kept secret, merely that it is. I.e., if someone invents a new kind engine and tells everyone how to use it, five years later someone can be granted a patent for that same engine, but with the added "technological improvement" of NOT telling people how to use it.

    Whether information is encoded or encrypted is determined merely by the decision of who is to receive the decoding information, this decision is by no means "technology" -- let alone patentable technology -- and the '276 patent should never have granted because the actual technology it described had already seen widespread public usage and was reported in nationally published magazines such as COMPUTE!.

    Note: many BBSes of that basic timeframe also offered similar music services and may have predated Q-Link's offering.

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    patent litigation, Aug 1st, 2011 @ 7:44pm

    bare bones

    It is also annoying that it has become increasingly common for patent trolls and other patent enforcers to get away with filing such "bare-bones" complaints. In addition, Spotify should probably file immediately for reexamination of PacketVideo's patent.

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    RichardM Stallman, Aug 6th, 2011 @ 4:58am

    Reject spotify

    Note which feature of Spotify's service this patent covers! Exactly
    the one that makes the service an injustice: the Digital Restrictions
    Management (DRM). Users ought to reject Spotify because of this.

    Spotify's aim is to convince people that they don't need to have their
    own copies of music -- that they can do their listening under the
    total control of a company. And the company has control through DRM.

    This is not to excuse software patents. They are not limited to
    malicious features like this one; they can cover any software idea
    whatsoever. They endanger free programs and proprietary programs; they
    endanger programs that try to serve the user as well as programs that
    try to abuse the user. That is why I've campaigned against software
    patents for 20 years. But don't say that Spotify, a service predicated
    on controlling users through DRM, is an "amazing product"!

    Readers can join our campaign against DRM at DefectiveByDesign.org.

     

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

    •  
      icon
      PaulT (profile), Aug 7th, 2011 @ 5:05am

      Re: Reject spotify

      Wow... while I normally agree with removing DRM, you're really barking up the wrong tree here.

      Whatever you think of Spotify, it's a RENTAL service. You don't own any of the music, and that's made abundantly clear. One of the natural trade-offs of this is that you're not allowed to copy the music. Which is OK because you don't own it. The main reason why DRM is so odious is because it restricts access to the things you own. You don't own the music you access with Spotify, but you can access more than most people would ever be able to buy.

      Your efforts are appreciated, and DBD was, I believe, very helpful in getting DRM removed from bought music via iTunes, etc. But, there are more important battles to be fought than DRM on music you haven't bought. Direct your efforts against DRM on movies, ebooks or games, on regional restrictions, on region codes and DRM on DVDs and Blu-Rays. When DRM on rented music is the most important thing you have to fight, the world will be a far better place...

       

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

  •  
    identicon
    Intellectual Property Management, Apr 3rd, 2012 @ 2:45pm

    Spotify

    This patent, while valid does not seem to really apply to what spotify is offering. I understand why patents are important, but it seems like packetvideo just wants a piece of the pie that spotify has earned.

     

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This