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DRM patent suit filed against Apple, MS, Playboy

updated 11:35 am EDT, Thu October 11, 2007

Apple DRM patent suit

A company by the name of Digital Reg of Texas is suing Apple,, Microsoft, Playboy, Audible, Sony, Macrovision, and Blockbuster on the grounds of patent infringement for DRM technology. The suit alleges that Apple has infringed and continues to infringe on a Digital Reg patent numbered 6,389,541 by making, using, providing, offering to sell, and selling (directly or through intermediaries), digital content incorporating DRM technology. The complaint reads "Apple provides such content through its iTunes Music Store and its iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store. Apple further provides controlled access and play out of digital content incorporating DRM technology through its iTunes Player. Apple also provides controlled access of digital content through its FairPlay Platform."

The plaintiff (Digital Reg of Texas) demands a trial by jury on all issues, seeking damages adequate to compensate for "the Defendants' acts of infringement together with prejudgment interest," and a permanent injunction against further alleged infringement.

The patent, which was filed on May 15th of 1998, describes a system where digital content such as text, video, and music are stored as part of a compressed and encrypted data file. Said content remains inaccessible until a user purchases or arranges for authorization of the content. The document also describes a payment center where data is transmitted and then validated. Further, once validation is received, the data is unlocked and then tied to a specific computer where it can be played or used an unlimited number of times. Apple's iTunes tracks incur these same kinds of restrictions and the company utilizes this kind of payment system, which has been in effect since Apple initially launched its iTunes digital storefront. When data is transferred to another computer, payment must again be tendered in order to use the data, according the patent owned by Digital Reg of Texas.

The invention also details an access check that occurs whenever content is accessed, noting specifically that the "object" (text, video, etc.) is freely transferrable between computers, but can only be "unlocked" with a special authorization scheme that requires external servers.

In addition to payment, the patent says that things like academic credentials, or company affiliation are suitable to authorize media.

Yesterday a report surfaced revealing a class-action lawsuit against both Apple and AT&T, seeking damages of no less than $600 million concerning the terms by which iPhone owners must abide after purchasing the handset. That suit follows a prior complaint which surfaced earlier this week naming the primary Plaintiff as Timothy Smith, a California resident. That complaint also argues that Apple's iPhone violates The Cartwright Act because it "prohibits iPhone consumers from using and purchasing a cell phone service other than through AT&T." The suit also states that unlocking a cellular phone is legal under both normal copyright law and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

by MacNN Staff




  1. manleycreative

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Now he gets around to this?

    What was the hold up? Did he just get over a case of abnesia, want to wait til he could get loads more money off of Apple or was the time ripe to try to bring Apple down now that they have made such an investment in product?

    Forget the other companies, this guy wants Apple. Who else has such a huge chunk of DRM based music?

    I'm suing Apple because years ago they stole my idea of using a fruit as the name of a company. I'm sure I've got that patent laying around here somewhere.

  1. Beechlady

    Joined: Dec 1969


    And as for the....

    "Cartwright Act", then I guess everyone should go after Verizon's exclusivity with LG and "Chocolate"! How about Samsung's "Upstage" with Sprint? Let's see, how about the "Black Jack"? God, I could name a BUNCH of these phones. Why don't "they" go after them? Cuz it's chic to go after Apple again!

    As for DRM, they're just whinning cuz it'll go by the wayside soon enough and Digital Reg wants some bucks before they go belly up.

  1. Roehlstation

    Joined: Dec 1969


    already done

    The Beatles' label "Apple Corps." already did that.

  1. nhmlco

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Good Case

    Could be a great test case for overturning business process/software process patents.

    It's completely obvious and only describes some vague mechanisms for a set of servers somewhere that do some kind of purchasing/authorization and some other servers that do the delivery of some kind of encrypted content.

    Way, way too generic.

  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969


    now you know

    why corporations have such large legal departments - to deal with c*** lawsuits like this, on top of the legitimate legal issues.

  1. Feathers

    Joined: Dec 1969


    without merit...

    This suit will fail simply because the method described in the patent specifically involves unlocking already acquired materials with a "token" purchased online. This is at variance with the ITMS where you must buy the tune (and crucially not a token to unlock a song you already have on your local machine). Not the same DRM model!

  1. jerryfrit

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Always lawsuits

    There used to be a joke in Hollywood that every time Spielberg put out a movie, he'd get sued by someone who said he/she really wrote it.

    So it has been with these technology lawsuits for a long time, and right now Apple is Spielberg.

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