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Apple settles with patent holder on iTunes

With Microsoft and Apple crossed off its list, E-Data sues Amazon, Ticketmaster and others.

Apple Computer has become the latest in a line of companies licensing patents from the relatively obscure E-Data, a company that claims to hold property rights on the process of selling music online.

E-Data said Wednesday that it had reached a European agreement with Apple that gave the company worldwide rights for its iTunes Music Store. It has now launched a new round of patent infringement suits against 14 companies including Amazon.com and The New York Times.

Previously, E-Data sued and settled with Microsoft, as well as a handful of other companies, largely under European patent rules.

"This settlement with Apple marks another important milestone, as we aggressively pursue companies that are infringing upon our intellectual property," said E-Data Chairman Bert Brodsky. "We have identified additional companies that are infringing upon our intellectual property, both in the U.S. and abroad, and will seek the necessary legal actions to ensure that our rights are enforced worldwide."

E-Data has been one of the most successful of a generation of companies that has emerged claiming patent rights to what many view as basic Internet business or technology procedures, such as e-commerce, streaming media and Web browser elements.

The company's patents, granted in 1985, cover the transmission of information to a remote point-of-sale location, where the information is then transferred to a material object. The company says that includes the sale of digital music online which can then be burned to a CD or transferred to a hard drive device like an iPod.

E-Data has established the scope of its patents through years of litigation, and has recently gained momentum through agreements with Microsoft, HMV, the newly Loudeye-owned On-Demand Distribution in Europe, and others. None of the financial terms of the agreements, including this week's Apple settlement, have been made public.

An Apple representative had no immediate comment on the settlement.

E-Data said its new round of patent-infringement suits were filed in a Texas federal court and targeted Cinemark USA, the Regal Entertainment Group, Thomson, International Data Group, Amazon, Movietickets.com, Ticketmaster, Marcus Theaters, Fandango, Franklin Electronic Publishers, The New York Times, Hallmark Cards, American Greetings and NewsBank.