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Apple, AT&T named in music recognition lawsuit

updated 03:45 pm EDT, Thu May 14, 2009

Apple in Shazam lawsuit

Apple and AT&T are two of several companies being targeted in a new patent infringement lawsuit, court documents show. The case was initiated by Tune Hunter, a company which owns a patent titled Music identification system, granted in September of 2005. The patent describes "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 [sic] or regular telephone the name of the song, artist and/or music company by matching the stored data with broadcast archive."

While not making reference to specific products in its filing, it is believed that Tune Hunter may be targeting services like Shazam, which let users hold a phone up to a radio or some other audio source in order to identify a song. A Shazam app is available not only for the Apple iPhone but other smartphones, like BlackBerries and the T-Mobile G1. The defendants in the lawsuit are accused of "making, using, selling and/or offering to sell, and/or causing others to identification systems and/or devices that are covered by one or more claims."

Other companies listed as culpable include Samsung, Napster, Motorola, Gracenote, LG, Pantech and Cellco Partnership, the last under its Verizon Wireless brand. Companies directly involved in producing song recognition apps are conspicuously absent; Tune Hunter is nevertheless asking the court for damages, a halt to infringing actions, and compensation for legal costs. "At least one or more" of the defendants are said to have been notified about the patent before the lawsuit was launched.

by MacNN Staff



  1. elroth

    Joined: Dec 1969


    oh brother

    You've got to be kidding me. This patent better show the exact algorithm used to identify the song, and the way that it checks the beat, the rhythm, the melody, the pitch, etc. If the other apps use different algorithms, then it's not patent infringement.

    If they got a patent just for the "idea" of music recognition software, and the company never had a method or a product that works, then that's ridiculous.

  1. Athens

    Joined: Dec 1969


    oh brother is right

    On top of that its not AT&T or Apple or any of the other companies listed in the law suit. The iphone and other devices are not made for this purpose. They didn't make the software that tags songs either. A 3rd party developer did. They wont go after the 3rd party developer because there is no money in it. They want the big boys to pay. THE US PATENT SYSTEM IS BROKEN!

  1. luckyday

    Joined: Dec 1969



    You see why Apple's multitouch patent is c***?

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: oh brother

    But they can't find out whether it is infringing without suing, which brings on discovery which brings on 'how its done'.

    But I'm not sure how the lawsuit has merit, as I thought the iPhone app did its business by analyzing the song, not by specifying what, where, and when the song was played, and getting the information from a play list (which no one will have for a while, as they're just playing the song now).

  1. Zanziboy

    Joined: Dec 1969


    No legal precedent

    This suit is ridiculous and has no legal basis. No third party operating in good faith can be held accountable for verifying whether a supplier has legal rights to a patent. If Microsoft violates my patent in Windows Media Player, I cannot Dell. There is no precedent allowing such action.

    Instead, this is an attempt for this company (and the law firm) to get press attention and heighten the value of settlement. This will increase the profile of the law firm in handling such cases and improve the its revenues in a bad economic climate.

  1. malax

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Article is confused

    Obviously they aren't suing Shazam because Shazam isn't infringing on this patent. I believe their are devices that note the time and radio station to determine the song, as this patent covers. That's a reasonably clever thing to patent. Too bad they are suing all the wrong companies.

  1. malax

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Here's the deal

    Ok, here's the product they are complaining about, and yes it appears that Apple was directly involved in developing and supporting this.

    And Microsoft got into the game too:

    But again, nothing to do with Shazam.

  1. jdonahoe

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Not the same

    Any digital signal can contain the information needed without "perusing the net". My 2004 Toyota's radio will show me the title and performer/band of all songs as they play on certain stations.

  1. macnixer

    Joined: Dec 1969


    @ malax

    the HD Radio is not a apple product. All that the iPod does is carry the file over written into it by HD Radio and iTunes reads the file. Now, the data is generated by HD Radio and since it uses digital methods to relay the frequency, it can also send the tag over automatically - much like a tv program where the synopsis of a program is sent over the wire / air. There is no innovation here. The data munching that Shazam does is completely different and I do not see Tune Hunt provide the info in the same / similar algo used by Shazam.

    Actually what Tune Hunt is claiming as a patent is already an idea available in daily use as is exemplified by the Television channels and all the HD Radios.

    This person certainly got the patent because the patent guys do not know between the a** of an a** or the zebra. They all look the same to them. Here is a patent troll / squatter who just wants to make some money.

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