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.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2018 @ 10:53am

    "Another day another shell company" to protect against adverse rulings.

    One way to fix the patent and tax situations is to simply forbid shell companies. But with the amount of money floating around Washington that's as likely as a politician not lying every time he flaps his gums.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2018 @ 3:11pm

      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.

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

    • icon
      Sharur (profile), 6 Apr 2018 @ 10:04am

      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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2018 @ 11:03am

    "Patent Troll"! out_of_the_blue's gonna be all over this!

    out_of_the_blue just hates Patent Trolls

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

  • identicon
    Christenson, 5 Apr 2018 @ 11:16am

    Typo Monster bites Mike Masnick

    "In other words, there's nothing unique or non-obvious is the patents."

    I think he meant "*IN* the (or these) patents"

    Not that I haven't done similarly silly things myself!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2018 @ 11:39am

    Can Spotify not challenge the applicability to their system by pointing out that they do not use a single computer, but several buildings full of computers.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2018 @ 11:44am

    Prior art

    Many radio stations had this - including the genre stuff -- before the patent was applied for.

    How do these patents get granted?

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

    • identicon
      kallethen, 5 Apr 2018 @ 11:48am

      Re: Prior art

      Underpaid patent office with a backlog the size of China.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2018 @ 12:12pm

        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.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2018 @ 3:20pm

          Re: Re: Re: Prior art

          That's...not how it works.

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

          • identicon
            JEDIDIAH, 6 Apr 2018 @ 8:15am

            Re: Prior art

            Sure it is. If you don't pay people well, they leave. That's how it all works. You are always free to find a better deal.

            It sounds like the real problem is lack of warm bodies rather than how much they are paid.

            Entirely different problem.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2018 @ 4:14pm

          Re: Re: Re: Prior art

          Probably more a case of if you pay peanut you get to employ monkeys.

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

        • identicon
          kallethen, 5 Apr 2018 @ 7:48pm

          Re: Re: Re: Prior art

          Okay, perhaps I didn't use the right term. "Under-budgeted" may be better? With a side of "under-staffed".

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

        • icon
          The Wanderer (profile), 6 Apr 2018 @ 7:29am

          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.

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

  • icon
    NeghVar (profile), 5 Apr 2018 @ 12:49pm

    lack of training

    Part of it is due to lack of training and vocabulary. Even when some ridiculously broad or vague patent is reviewed, it is sometimes filled with so much jargon that the person reading it has no clue what they are reading about.

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

  • icon
    Gary (profile), 5 Apr 2018 @ 12:52pm

    Patent Reform

    One of the "reforms" in recent history at the patent office was to give overwhelming priority to the volume of patents granted. Not the quality of the patents, or the number of rejected patents - just the number approved. So yeah, more bad patents.

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

    • identicon
      tp, 5 Apr 2018 @ 1:17pm

      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).

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2018 @ 5:44pm

        Re: Re: Patent Reform

        I was wondering when you'd be rushing to the defense of these poor, poor patent trolls...

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

      • identicon
        JEDIDIAH, 6 Apr 2018 @ 8:17am

        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.

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

      • identicon
        Christenson, 6 Apr 2018 @ 9:54pm

        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.

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

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 5 Apr 2018 @ 1:31pm

    WTF

    inventive concepts

    Is this not an oxymoron or what?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2018 @ 1:51pm

    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.

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

    • icon
      David (profile), 5 Apr 2018 @ 1:55pm

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

      I apologize for not being signed in. That was me.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Apr 2018 @ 5:15am

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

      Exactly how do you think we hear the music being played? There is a built-in soundcard in all our devices - i.e., a special processor for translating bits to appropriate audible sounds.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 6 Apr 2018 @ 9:17am

        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.

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

        • icon
          The Wanderer (profile), 6 Apr 2018 @ 9:44am

          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.

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

  • icon
    David (profile), 5 Apr 2018 @ 1:58pm

    With VB code.

    The previous patent as a microfiche attachment showing the code in Visual Basic. Ooh. High tech at its dying edge.

    https://patents.google.com/patent/US5969283A/en

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2018 @ 3:25pm

    OTI

    This patent was applied for in 1999, which makes perfect sense, because around that same time, numerous computer "jukebox" applications were released that performed most if not all of the functions described in the patent.

    This patent troll basically just added "over the internet."

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

  • icon
    royleith (profile), 5 Apr 2018 @ 11:16pm

    xmcd/Winamp/CDDB!

    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.

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

    • identicon
      JEDIDIAH, 6 Apr 2018 @ 8:20am

      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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Apr 2018 @ 5:30am

    so.. they patented a playlist just by adding a computer to that list?

    wtf?! USPTO really fell for this? *facepalm*

    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
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.