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Just As Spotify Settles Into The U.S. Lifestyle It Gets Sued For Patent Infringement

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We expected it would happen eventually because here in the U.S. it happens to everyone… but two weeks? Can’t we just give them a little time to settle in, rearrange their accents and lose a bit of Euro-sophistication before we jump on Spotify’s back? Within fourteen days of arriving stateside, PacketVideo has filed a patent infringement suit against Europe’s prized music service. For what, you ask? Streaming music.

Alright, I admit it’s a bit more complex than that, especially when parsing through all the legal jargon. But the real core of the complaint is basically a description of streaming music, which in 1995 when the patent was filed, was more difficult than it was revolutionary. The problem was having enough bandwidth and striking licensing agreements with record labels. Spotify obviously doesn’t have the same hurdles, but its music streaming service falls under the incredibly broad category of a “device for the distribution of music information in digital form,” the title of the patent.

Here’s the key claim:

“a central memory device which is connected to a communications network and has a databank of digitized music information and, a terminal which is connected to the central memory device via the communications network, the central memory device being equipped with a retrieval module and the said modules having the capability to interact via the communications network in order to order and transmit selectively chosen music information, wherein the selectively chosen music information is organized with a defined format for transmission in a digital music information object, the format including a core and a number of additional layers, the core including at least one object identification code, object structure information, a consumer code and an encryption table and the one or more additional layers including the actual music information, wherein the central memory device has an encryption module for encryption of the music information object before transmission using the encryption table, and wherein the terminal has a decryption module for decryption of the music information object before its reproduction using the encryption table, an interpretation module for interpretation and reproduction conditioning of the music information object as well as an authorization device having identification information for identification of the terminal and of the consumer which is retrievable by the interpretation module and by the decryption module for authorization checking.”

Does any of that sound familiar? Well, in truth probably not because no one in the world actually talks or writes like that except patent peeps, but you should recognize the overall concept as a way to stream music to a device over a communications network, a.k.a. Spotify.

Yes, PacketVideo did launch more than a decade ago, making it one of the first companies to attempt to stream video on a mobile phone. That’s all well and good, but PacketVideo didn’t even file the patent in the first place. They just bought it a couple years ago. Granted, the reason you buy a patent is to collect licensing fees from those who wander too near to it, but the ground that this patent covers extends to the entire music streaming industry.

From the way that PacketVideo was waiting in the brush for Spotify to arrive, it’s clear that the company has an eye out for patent infringement. Look out, Pandora! (Unless you’re already paying up, of course.)