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Apple, AT&T Hit with Music Recognition Patent Suit

Several companies including Apple, AT&T, Napster and Gracenote have found themselves on the receiving end of a patent infringement lawsuit launched by Tune Hunter. The suit alleges that the named companies have all infringed on Tune Hunter patents that describe using an electronic device to listen to and then identify songs -- much like the Shazam application on the iPhone and other smartphones.

The Inquirer reported that the patent in question, titled Music Identification System, described "a method for marking the time and the name of the radio station in portable device such as a key holder, watch, cellular phone, beeper or the like which will allow the user to learn via internet or regular telephone the name of the song, artist and/or music company by matching the stored data with broadcast archive."

Tune Hunter claimed that the companies named in its lawsuit have been involved in violating its patent by either developing applications without first gaining permission to use the steps identified in the patent, or by helping to distribute the applications.

The company filed its suit in US District Court in Marshall, Texas, which is well known for favoring plaintiffs in patent infringement cases. Tune Hunter is asking the court to compel the companies it named to stop infringing on its patent, and also wants damages and compensation for legal expenses.


8 comments from the community.

You can post your own below.

Tim said:

I have to wonder if tune hunter has any code, or do they just have a patent.


Tiger said:

Tim, good point. Because if they have a patent for a technology they don’t actually use, promote, or license, how can that be considered defending and protecting?

Are patents just a Ponzi scheme?


nealg said:

From my limited googling of Tune Hunter, it doesn’t even appear that they have a web site. Hard to believe that a legitimate digital company wouldn’t have a website that could be found with a rudimentary google search.

Also from my limited understading of Shazam, I thought it uses a different song recognition algorithm than what has been described in the news as part of Tune Hunter’s patent.

I am not a lawyer but this would seem to be, from my limited understanding of the system, a way to try to extort money by just coming up with an idea and getting a patent for it and waiting to see if anyone with deep pockets makes a product that comes close to the original patent.

It would seem that the patent system has not been able to adjust to the digital world fast enough. It will probably take some new laws/court rulings to try to weave your way through all of this. With the way things are working now, it would seem like a wonderful way to stifle innovation, not protect intellectual property.



b9bot said:

Nealg I agree, the patent laws are more like laws for extortion and fake lawsuits. Patents should only be valid if the company holding it has a real product that is affected by the other company. The patent system needs an overhaul.
There also should be a one year period for a patent holder to react to another company that they feel is in violation of there patent. To many wait 10 years and then suddenly want an injunction and royalties after the fact.


dlstarr7 said:

I will apply for a patent for a method for the ability for a portable device such as a key holder, watch, cellular phone, beeper, laptop or the like which will allow the user to access any kind of information of any sort which they request or do not request.

I will be a billionaire soon! Haha!


geoduck said:

IANAL so I’m a bit unclear as to why Apple is included. They don’t make a product that does this. There is an App sold on the AppStore that does but it’s not an Apple product. Would Apple’s approval of this App make them liable? Would AT&T be because they sell the iPhone that could run this app? Was Shazam listed in the suit? It would make more sense. This is just a rather confusing suit.


azarkon said:

The interesting legal kerfluffle here is that the supreme court decided that you cannot patent computer code—it falls into the same category of mathematical formulae. That logic probably made more sense in the early days of computing than it does now, but it is orthodoxy that is unlikely to be changed.  Since all shazam does is make software, it is inherently immune from a patent-infringement case.  Since the iPhone is like a computer in that the purpose of the hardware is to run general-purpose software, I don’t think that there is truly any leg for Tune Hunter to stand on.  Additionally, in a recent patent case, the Supreme Court voided a patent where the only additional modification to the device (a piece of industrial equipment) was the addition of a computer to control timing.  In the past where gadgets were intimately linked software and hardware, patents didn’t have to look deeply at whether functionality was due to hardware (patentable) or software (not), however with the iPhone, this is no longer true and the computer software paradigm will have to be applied.  In short, I don’t think that the iPhone can violate anyone’s patent where the relevant functionality is added by a third party app.


furbies said:


How can the Patent System worldwide allow this situation to continue?

If someone wants to patent software logic, then they should have to write an app, and have it on the market, before any patents are issued. And even then, if another developer comes up with different logic/code then they too should be able to patent their code as well.

Then the market can decide which app does a better job.

Bottom line: No application code ? No Patent!


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