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Lawsuits claim Apple iTunes, Sony PSN copy vending patent

updated 04:15 pm EDT, Wed March 28, 2012

Suit claims iTunes and PSN owe inventor credit

An attempt at two high-profile lawsuits has accused Apple and Sony of violating a patent for online stores. Pretoria, South Africa citizen Ben Grobler has alleged that both the iTunes Store and PlayStation Network (now Sony Entertainment Network) are copying technology for a "Data Vending System" patent granted in the US in 2004. Their systems of selling, storing, and managing copyrighted apps and media was drawing on the technology, Grobler said in a Northern District of California court.

The two patents appear based on the assumption that the filing date was key. The patent was only granted in 2004, a year after the iTunes Store had gone live, but had been filed on January 31, 2001. Grobler's claimed invention is otherwise generic and covers basics of running an organized download store that factors in copyright verification, a feature of virtually any direct download store.

As with most such lawsuits, the new complaints make clear that money is the primary goal, as they demand "no event less than a reasonable royalty." The lawsuits use the common call of a permanent ban to try and pressure the companies into settlements.

Whether or not the lawsuits succeed isn't clear. Along with possible prior art due to the broad nature of the patent, no mention was made of Grobler having warned either company that he owned the patent before he sued. Most companies that can claim sincere ownership of patented technology often try to make a public show of negotiation with possible violators to spare a trial. Grobler waited for eight years since receiving the patent before taking action, suggesting any alleged infringement wasn't an urgent issue.

Apple and Sony normally make it a policy not to comment on ongoing lawsuits.

by MacNN Staff



  1. hayesk

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Prior art

    There have been online stores before Apple's that did copy verification. I believe I purchased shareware from somewhere once that baked my purchase into the app. I can't remember what it was though.

  1. Makosuke

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Eight Years?

    I'm not sure how this actually fits into US patent law, given how broken the system is, but if you wait 8 years to file a complaint against the highest-profile digital download store on the planet that alone should shoot down your case. Is there honestly any reason other than hope of increased shakedown to wait that long? You can hardly claim you didn't notice that the store existed.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: Eight years

    You don't have a limit on filing a claim, since they may not have known the work was in violation. And maybe he just found out that Apple had this thing called an iTunes Music Store!

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