Back in May, a patent troll called Sharing Sound sued a host of companies, alleging that all of them infringed on a (ridiculously broad) patent for online music distribution.
Targets were Apple (iTunes), Microsoft (Zune), Napster, Rhapsody, Brilliant Digital Entertainment (Kazaa) and Sony / Sony Ericsson. Similar actions were filed a week earlier against Amazon, Netflix, Wal-Mart, Barnes & Noble and GameStop.
The patent being contested – U.S. Patent Number 6,247,130, titled “Distribution of musical products by a website vendor over the Internet” – would essentially prevent all these companies from using any type of online store environment which allows them to provide song previews, a shopping cart or even a music player.
Most of the companies targeted in the lawsuit (apart from BDE and Rhapsody) have already moved to settle their dispute with Sharing Sound, which as far as I know has never managed to use its patented technology to produce anything, or at least not anything interesting.
Apple has now become the latest defendant to settle the patent infringement allegations, which if enforced would have made it difficult for the company to continue running its successful iTunes store.
Judge David Folsom of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (a notoriously patent-friendly state) signed off on the settlement Wednesday, effectively clearing Apple of the allegations.
No specifics on the terms of the deal were revealed.