updated 09:20 am EST, Mon February 26, 2007
MP3 player patent lawsuit
Apple, Samsung, and Sandisk are being sued over a patent covering 'an MPEG portable sound reproducing system', according to a new report. Texas MP3 Technologies has filed a patent suit in Marshall, Texas alleging that the three companies infringe on its patent, but appears to have chosen that particular venue because of its plaintiff-friendly history: "The eastern Texas city is fast becoming one of the leading locations of patent infringement lawsuits in the U.S. thanks to speedy trials and juries that more often than not find in favor of the plaintiff," the report said. The complaint specifically cites US patent 7,065,417, which was awarded in June 2006 to multimedia chip-maker SigmaTel and sold the US rights to the patent a little over a month ago. Apple's media player products have used both SigmaTel and Samsung multimedia decoding processors.
Apple's second-generation iPod shuffle is said to use a Samsung decoding processor for its multimedia functions, rather than the expected SigmaTel chip which Apple has used within its first-generation iPod shuffle since its introduction in January of 2005. SigmaTel is hoping to win bigger contracts from Apple in the second half of 2007, despite at least one analyst's doubts about whether the company can even hold existing business.
The media player patent in question covers "an MPEG portable sound reproducing system and a method for reproducing sound data compressed using the MPEG method," according to IDG News Service. It is unclear whether the Dallas, Texas-based company acquired the rights directly from SigmaTel or purchased the rights from a third-party intermediary, but the company said the basic patent covers most player devies.
"Because these are such basic patents to digital music, we believe it will be difficult to design around these patents and have a commercially viable player," SigmaTel said in a statement when it announced the sale of the patent.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of last week's record $1.5 billion MP3 patent verdict against Microsoft, which could also potentially affect other companies, such as Apple, which uses similar MP3 decoding technologies in its iTunes software.