It was only two weeks ago that the music streaming service Spotify finally landed in the United States. One week after opening the door to US users, it was reported that Spotify was off to a relatively good start with 70,000 paid subscribers.
In the third week since it landed in the US, Spotify has been greeted with the current trend in the US tech industry – a lawsuit.
TechDirt reports that a company called PacketVideo is suing Spotify for infringing on its patent. Unlike most of the patent related lawsuits going around these days, PacketVideo is (or was) not a patent troll.
PacketVideo is a US based mobile multimedia company founded in the late 90’s which was working on streaming video to mobile handsets. In 2003, the company sold its infrastructure division to Alcatel and in 2010, it was bought by Japanese telecom giant DoCoMo.
Now, here is the patent that PacketVideo is saying that Spotify is infringing on – Device for the distribution of music information in digital form. The patent was filed in 1995 and issued in 1997. It was later bought by PacketVideo.
This is what this patent claims:
A device for the distribution of music information comprising 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.
This is basically what the above claim says:
A central server on which a digital library of music is stored.
Clients can connect to the server and select the music they want to listen to.
The server sends the music file encrypted and the client decrypts and plays it.
The patent itself seems very broad and too general. What the patent is claiming seems like the so obvious today. However, remember that the patent was filed 16 years ago in 1995.
At about the time, RealNetwork and some other companies were also venturing into the field of audio and video streaming; but they were doing broadcast rather than unicast, to which this patent is applicable.
If this patent holds, it will not be only Spotify that is infringing on it. It will affect any online music store and streaming services will be affected.
paidContent reports that PacketVideo also has a corresponding European patent and has filed a lawsuit against Spotify in the Netherlands.