Apple loses playlist patent suit, must pay $8M

Federal jury in Eastern Texas rules against Apple in a case accusing the iPod maker of infringing on patents for downloadable playlists.

A federal jury in Eastern Texas, the same district where Lodsys has filed all of its patent suits, has ruled against Apple in a case accusing the iPod maker of infringing on patents for downloadable playlists.

Bloomberg first reported Friday on the verdict requiring Apple to award $8 million in damages to the patent holder, Personal Audio, a nonpracticing entity--meaning it licenses patents but doesn't actually have any other business. The jury found Apple liable for infringing on the patents and upheld their validity, Bloomberg reported, citing Personal Audio's lawyer, Ron Schutz.

Personal Audio, a patent licensing company with an office Beaumont, Texas, filed the case in 2009 seeking $84 million in damages. The U.S. patents in question are No. 6,199,076, "Audio program player including a dynamic program selection controller" and No. 7,509,178, "Audio program distribution and playback system," according to intellectual-property tracking blog FOSS Patents. Other defendants initially included in the case were Sirius XM Radio, Coby Electronics, and Archos, but they all settled in May and July of 2010.

FOSS Patents' Florian Mueller shed further light on the ruling by noting that at a mere $8 million in damages, Apple "only has a limited incentive to appeal the decision." But the company could appeal in hopes of negotiating a discounted settlement.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment about a potential appeal.

Mueller likened the case to one targeting iOS developers filed by Lodsys , also a nonpracticing entity that chooses to work with a court known to be more sympathetic to those in its business. In May, Lodsys sent letters to Apple iOS and Android developers notifying them that their mobile apps were infringing on four patents. Lodsys sought a percentage of each application developer's revenue, even threatening to go back to collect income that had already been earned. Apple responded that its licensing agreement with Lodsys covers its developers, a claim that Lodsys has rejected.

Of course, for Apple, the patent war goes both ways. Of recent note, Apple is seeking to keep four of Samsung's newest mobile devices from being made or sold within the U.S, in a patent battle between the two tech giants. And Apple has entered into a consortium of companies buying 6,000 patents and patent applications from the bankrupt Canadian telecom equipment maker Nortel.

About the author

Michelle Meyers, associate editor, has been writing and editing CNET News stories since 2005. But she's still working to shed some of her old newspaper ways, first honed when copy was actually cut and pasted. When she's not fixing typos and tightening sentences, she's working with reporters on story ideas, tracking media happenings, or freshening up CNET News' home page.

 

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